Viewing entries tagged
Election 2008

OK, Obama Needs To Have A Press Conference On All Things Black

cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics This past week, Obama has faced increasing pressure and media coverage around his stances on "black issues." Recall the following: Obama is going to be asked to comment (as a black man) on every issue possibly related to black folks, and he'll be asked to address (as a black man) all possible stances of black people across the country. He can't avoid it, so I say embrace it. Obama needs to have one marathon press conference in which the conflict-driven media personalities who play journalists on TV can get their ignorance and fears addressed out in the open. Obama needs to have a "Press Conference On All Things Black" What tough questions would the potential first black president of the United States be forced to address? Oh there are so many legitimate concerns out there. Here's a partial list.
  • What do you have to say to the white Senator whose job you took thanks to affirmative action and reverse racism?
  • Do you know what a re-up is?
  • Many black people believe whites are blue-eyed devils. I'll take your silence as agreement.
  • Please complete the following popular music lyrics: "the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire. we don't need no water, let the ______ ______"
  • Have you ever looked at a white woman?
  • The year is 1983. Prince or Michael Jackson?
  • Was justice served in the R. Kelly verdict?
  • Have you ever urinated on a teenage girl and video taped it?
  • Where is the tape, Senator?
  • Senator? The tape.
  • Several prominent African-American leaders are on the record opposing Lunchables. Do you support that position?
  • Can you please share the exact date on which you'll initiate the program of White Slavery? I think the American People deserve to know.
  • Hip Hop artist Nas recently referred to your former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as a "great f--king coon." How strongly do you agree with this statement?
  • When was the last time you had sex with Lil Kim?
  • Self-described community activist and liberation scholar Baba Chaka Jawanza Afrika has called for the elimination of the white race and the appointment of a black caliphate to govern Earth. Will you return his $7.43 campaign donation and reject and denounce him in person?
  • Jovaunte Stephens of Atlanta, GA is scheduled for a probation hearing tomorrow. He insists he didn't do shit wrong. Did he?
  • How come black people can't swim?
  • Considering your biracial background, is it safe to assume you have an above average length penis for a white man, but a below average length penis for a black man?
  • Where is Tupac? Seriously.
What other newsworthy questions do you think Obama should be forced to answer?

Video: Google Pop/Politics Panel w/ Me, Winstead, Obama Girl Guy, etc.

Friday I was so annoyed that I couldn't get my Tivo to record our Google Pop Culture and Politics panel as it was aired by C-SPAN. I completely forgot that this event took place at Google, and thus, is on YouTube. I'm an idiot. Anyway, here's the 45 minute video of our panel. They cut the opening Onion News Network video I showed right after my intro, but you can see it here. I haven't replayed the entire thing, so they may have also cut the second Onion video I showed, which is friggin hilarious. Highlights:
  • My hot shirt. Seriously, you know you love that shirt. Jill Sander baby! Bought it myself
  • Christopher Hitchens. Look at his beverage. That ain't ginger ale
  • Lizz Winstead. My hero. Twas an honor to tag team with her against our cable news-defending moderator
  • After the panel, the Google folks got short one-on-one interviews with all of us. Here's mine.
And now, the panel...
For some reason, Google disabled comments on the YouTube video, so feel free to heap praise and scathing criticism here.

Michelle Malkin - Teflon For Racism?

cross-posted to jack and jill politics Liza Sabater over at Culture Kitchen breaks down another problem with the Obama Baby Mama Drama unfolding at Faux News: Michelle Malkin. (background on the baby mama drama) Liza gets at who's really behind Malkin and why it's more effective to have a brown person hating on other brown people
Yet what's most important about all this mess is the other Michelle. La Malkin. Why do you think Fox News has on their payroll a dark-skinned Filipina who is not only their quite giddy and willing cover for the racist rants you pass as news, but also something of a news maker herself? Michelle Malkin seems to be racist Pygmalion who has been molded by her husband, Jesse Malkin. Two years ago four bloggers documented what many people were wondering at the time about the increasingly prolific Malkin : That and most probably Michelle Malkin the syndicated journalist and columnist and are not Michelle Malkin but the woman, her husband, Jesse Malkin and maybe indeed a small team of interns and researchers. That nowadays she has people guest blogging at is a complete turnaround from the early days. Michelle Malkin in 2006 had just given birth and was slugging across the country interviews and book readings all the while writing a syndicated column, making TV appearances and peppering her blog with about 6 posts a day. Every day. Including Sundays. And she would do this and boast about how she didn't have nannies, how she didn't have interns or assistants working for her. She was the super brown woman, spokeswoman for anti-immigrants and white supremacists at large. It's why finding out who really is Michelle Malkin the author became so important. Was this a xenophobic genius or is she a front for a larger right-wing juggernaut?
It's an historical pattern, this getting brown people to tear down other brown folks. There's no shock value in brown folks demanding rights for immigrants or fair wages or justice of any kind. As much as people dis the professional black spokespeople for jumping on victimhood, there's a lot more money in denying racism and actually blaming the victims of systemic racism for their own oppression. I wrote and performed about this years ago in my piece, "I'll Be A Black Conservative For $240,000"
[Black conservatives] are in very short supply, but they're a must-have accessory for every ass backwards policy. Need to undo affirmative action? Find a black Supreme Court judge. Wanna bomb poor people? How bout a black National Security Advisor. Need to pimp one of the greatest underfunded federal policies since 40 acres and a mule? Armstrong Williams is your dawg!
Full video here:
Update from Comment From Left Field. a great reminder that while the Baby Mama lower third was up, Malkin was saying attacks on Michelle are ok so long as they are substantive. Fox is so triflin.

Today I'm Speaking At Google DC On Politics & Pop Culture

Update: the panel video is now on YouTube This afternoon, I'm speaking on a panel at Google in DC, repping the Onion. The full lineup and schedule are below. 2008: The First 21st Century Campaign Date: June 11, 2008 Location: Google DC Time: 2:30 pm ET - 7:00 pm ET Overview: Gathering to highlight new tools on the campaign trail and winning strategies that leverage this technology. Event MC: Jim Barnes Schedule 2:40 pm - 3:45 pm :: Covering the 21st Century Moderator: Judy Woodruff Participants: Mark Halperin Katherine Ham James Kotecki Phil Singer Kevin Madden 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm :: Running the First 21st Century Campaign Moderator: Ron Brownstein Participants: Joe Rospars Peter Daou Mindy Finn Mark Soohoo Joe Trippi 5:30 - 6:30 pm :: Pop culture Politics Moderator: Tammy Haddad Participants: Baratunde Thurston, The Onion Ben Relles, Obama Girl Zoe Stagg, CitizenSugar Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair Lizz Winstead- Creator of the Daily Show

My Op Ed In The Independent Of London On Obama And Black America

cross-posted to Jack and Jill Politics Wednesday morning I got a call from the UK asking if I would write an editorial about the significance of Barack Obama's nomination in Black America. I find it hard to resist that crisp British accent and made room to compose my thoughts. The piece has been published in print and online under the title Baratunde Thurston: I used to be cynical about my country. No longer... Not quite the headline I'd have chosen, but pretty accurate. In the piece,  I share a story for the first time from my experience with the Obama campaign in Dallas and write about the power and limits of symbolism. Here's an excerpt
Despite our sacrifices – fighting in wars and paying taxes – we are constantly reminded we're not full members of the club. Yet, Barack Obama made me feel American. He has, and this is really quite annoying, made me care enough to get more involved. His early opposition to the war, the grass-roots nature of his campaign, and his habit of speaking in grammatically correct sentences have all helped. His very composition from white Kansan and black African parents tells a story that is authentically American. Beyond him, however, the reaction of the American people best demonstrates Obama's impact. For black America, the defining moment occurred on 3 January, when Obama won in overwhelmingly white Iowa. It was a sign that things in this country were changing. Although Obama is the nominee, the path ahead won't be easy. People still ask, "Is America ready for a black president?" That's the wrong question. America has never been "ready" to extend its ideals to all of its citizens without being pushed. Was America "ready" for emancipation or women's suffrage or Simon Cowell? No, but we've got them now and in two of those three cases, we are much better for it.
Check out the full editorial at their fancy British website!


cross-posted to JJP 1. McCain's speech. Wiggity wack!!! From Left to Right, all agree he was horrible. OMG dude is actually UNinspiring. Like, I actually feel dumber and less empowered after his monotonous droning. Thank God the networks cut away. I was about ready to unregister to vote. And did anyone catch Harold Ford on MSNBC praising this speech? That brother is so off. I feel bad for him. He wishes he were Obama, but he's not. He's trying to take ownership of Obama and his message, but it didn't work for me. Two signs that Obama is successfully setting the agenda... a) McCain can't even get his own campaign slogan? McCain has had 72 years to come up with his own campaign slogan, and the best he can do is "A Leader We Can Believe In?" The best he can do is to plagiarize Obama's joint? Weak. b) He said "change" over 30 times and is desperate to distance himself from Bush, especially on Iraq, but that won't fly homey. McCain was one of the biggest cheerleaders for this illegal war. Check out some background. Also, I just about died laughing when every single network interrupted his speech to announce that Obama was the nominee. That was a powerful metaphor representing the season in which this country exists right now. John McCain's time is up. Our time is now. Later dude. 2. Clinton's Speech. (part 1, part 2) Update: bush just congratulated obama on his victory. if bush, who has a serious problem acknowledging reality, can do it, why can't hillary? My immediate reaction was "Hillary managed to ruin my mood with that speech. What an utter disappointment. I really don't want her as VP. Can't wait for obama to bring me back." Hillary really disappointed. She continued to fuel the flames of illegitimacy with her repeated claims of "18 million votes," and I got increasingly disturbed as she continued to rally her troops in a non-too-veiled bullying move. She mentioned party unity a lot, but she set quite a defiant tone. She made lots of references to particular people's stories, and when she gave a shout out to the soldier on his third tour of duty, I had to shout, "because you sent him to war!" Couldn't help it. She has a remarkable ability to bother me, and on a night of celebration, she burst my bubble a bit. After having more time to think about it, I think this was her last stand. She held her speech in an underground bunker with no cell or tv/radio signals. It was Hillaryland, and it was the last time she'd have for a moment like this with her supporters. She established a character for herself as a "fighter," so she has to look like she's still "fighting." She also needs to raise a lot of "money" so this was basically a big advertisement for her debt collection agency, aka For someone who pretty much assumed she'd be the nominee, this has got to sting. She didn't surprise me, but I was disappointed, as I have repeatedly been by her campaign, in her reckless decision-making. But it doesn't matter. Because. 3. Obama's Speech Shout out to the wife and kids and to grandma. Nice Praises to the entire field of democratic candidates. Classy. Recognition that running against Hillary was an honor and made him stronger. We can all agree on this last point. She was the fire to his metal, and while her many bad decisions caused a lot of unnecessary pain, Obama undeniably grew from them and has become a much stronger nominee. Then he just bats down John McCain. It was so damn smooth yall. "We recognize his service to this country and his many accomplishments, even though he refuses to acknowledge mine." Damn Gina! I loved his comeback on McCain about making trips to Iraq.
John McCain has spent a lot of time talking about trips to Iraq in the last few weeks, but maybe if he spent some time taking trips to the cities and towns that have been hardest hit by this economy – cities in Michigan, and Ohio, and right here in Minnesota – he’d understand the kind of change that people are looking for.
The most important to me were the following statements:
What you won’t hear from this campaign or this party is the kind of politics that uses religion as a wedge, and patriotism as a bludgeon – that sees our opponents not as competitors to challenge, but enemies to demonize. Because we may call ourselves Democrats and Republicans, but we are Americans first. We are always Americans first.
This is what let me see that Obama is running things now. He's taken clear control of this nomination, this campaign and "this party." He's displayed solid judgment up until now, and I'm confident he won't get bullied into Hillary as VP. He just did what most people thought could not be done. He bested the Clinton family in a political contest. He out-managed, out-fundraised, and out-classed the dream team. A brother named Barack Hussein Obama. Our time is now.

This Primary Campaign Has Brought Out The Best And Worst In Me

cross-posted to jack and jill politics and daily kos (note: i'm mad verbose. this is long. kick your feet up. get some tea. take your time with this one. I also strongly recommend you check out the comments on Jack and Jill Politics) Last week, after talking with several Hillary Clinton supporters, I had an epiphany: that which I most dislike about the darker sides of her and her campaign is just what some people see in me. It's the worst feeling, to end up displaying traits you deplore, and I'd like to explore it a bit as we move to the general election. I have never been as involved nor as invested in a political campaign as I have been this year. I've traveled to distant states, administered caucuses, knocked on doors, set up mixtapes, installed Internet access, raised and donated funds and rallied my wits and my keyboard in promotion and defense of a candidate I feel represents the best realistic shot at a national wake-up call that's long overdue. Months of cable news and blog coverage later, I know more about superdelegate math, fundraising limits and John King's stupid interactive maps than I ever, ever wanted. I've read entire biographies, full position papers and engaged in heated but productive conversations about deep policy matters on health care, energy, prisons, agriculture and Iraq. I got smarter. Stepping down from the media noise machine has been the greatest gift, and in canvassing for Obama, I learned my most valuable lessons: that people are not as stupid nor as simple as their media portrayals, that it's a lot easier to write off entire blocs of voters from the comfort of my living room and that becoming president of a nation with such diverse people and demands as the USA is just short of impossible. In all that on-the-ground work, I have and will continue to maintain that I've gotten much more out of this process than Obama has out of my work on his behalf. My level of involvement has allowed me to see the impact and power of citizen-initiated action when paired with technology, inspiration and urgent need. I've met some truly amazing people who've sacrificed even more than I. I've grown as a writer, a citizen and a human being. At the other end of the spectrum, however, I have felt driven to lash out in ways that expose the limits of my own ability to communicate. I never set out to hate Hillary Clinton or her supporters. I never thought I'd consider a vote for John McCain. I never thought I'd even jokingly threaten to burn down the city of Denver (sorry yall!). But that's exactly what I felt driven to at many moments during this season. Despite the positive lessons I learned, I have not always been able to take that high road. At the heart of my own anger lay a sense of betrayal, paranoia and a feeling that I was trapped by a family I once held in high esteem and a media that denied the validity of my experience. It began in January, shortly after Obama's Iowa victory. Many of us Obama supporters, especially black folks, were euphoric about his win in that state. On CNN I stated, "I felt like I won," after seeing the results come in. With that one victory, the world shook for a moment, and I could actually see new, previously unimaginable possibilities for the future. Within weeks, however, a troubling pattern began to emerge from the Clinton campaign. It was as if the Iowa loss set off an explosion on a snowy mountain, and a political avalanche was unleashed. Obama was accused of being a potential drug dealer, secret Muslim, "cool black guy" and other derogatory things usually tied to his race. When many of us black folks began pointing out these incidents, we were told that nothing nefarious was afoot, that we must be imagining it. There was little to no mainstream media coverage of what we were seeing. As any one who has been oppressed knows, the only thing worse than the oppression is the denial of that oppression by others, so we at JJP set up the Clinton Attacks Obama wiki in an effort to convince ourselves we weren't crazy and show the world, in a documented fashion, what distressed us. Then came South Carolina. The black vote, which had been reliably behind Clinton, looked certain to move to Obama after his strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire. Rather than stress the positive Clinton brand (if not results) among black voters, the Clintons decided to minimize the black vote and Obama's pending victory. There were the MLK comments and Bill Clinton's comparison of Obama to Jackson was the statement that finally put the media on to what many of us were seeing. The Clinton's star had fallen tragically and unnecessarily among black people. It was in this environment that Jack & Jill Politics really got traction. Despite having been around since the summer of 2006, our traffic truly began to grow when we started articulating this growing sense of frustration and panic over the "color arousal" tactics and code-word-laden decisions of the Clinton campaign. In many ways, we just happened to be in the right place-time and shared a sense of mission with other black political blogs like African American Political Pundit and Field Negro, among many others. Many new readers came here and found that they were not alone. The feeling was one of relief. It reminded me of finding that one other black kid in the white school. Even if you didn't talk, you could occasionally exchange knowing glances or a head nod when the teacher or a student said something racist. Over the next months, the situation escalated. Geraldine Ferraro called Obama the affirmative action candidate. Clinton campaign officials sowed dangerous seeds of discord between black and Latino constituencies. And of course, there was Reverend Wright. In most of these instances, I saw two battles. One was with a media ill-prepared to moderate a national discussion on race at any point, much less during a presidential election. Most of these organizations were unable to competently guide us through the decision to invade a country, so my expectations of their understanding of the black experience were low, and they met those expectations well. But what came as a shock, yes an actual shock, to me was to witness Hillary Clinton and her campaign, time and again, join in the ugliness. From "he wouldn't have been my pastor" to "he's an out of touch elite" to "he only has two years of experience" to "he's not a muslim as far as I know," I was repeatedly disappointed by the decisions she and her campaign made. Each one seemed designed, not just to win, not just to hurt the other candidate, but to attack the very people who, through the darkest of hours, had stood by the Clinton family in the past. As has been pointed out in the comments and as I've written before, I was so disappointed because this candidate, with all her brand name, money, establishment support and built-in advantages, so often rushed to the gutter for combat strategy. After all this, we began hearing "well, it doesn't matter" and "blacks will vote for Hillary in the end," and that's when I really actually snapped. After that, the issue moved beyond what Hillary was saying to why so many so-called Democratic leaders sat idly by, doing nothing. It moved to black superdelegates who not only bucked the overwhelming will of their constituencies, but did so in the face of clear, undeniable and unnecessary racially charged tactics that undermined not just Obama but, as rikyrah has so perfectly put it, "any black candidate who wants a shot at national politics outside a gerrymandered district." Most importantly, it became a test of the relationship between black voters and a Democratic party which for decades could rely on this demographic's loyalty beyond all others, despite the spotty record of actual results. Hillary and Obama were the actors, but the play was much, much bigger than them. Once this bridge was crossed, I fell into a heightened state of battle, and I saw everything through this lens. I became obsessed and I often became nasty. I found a community at JJP that often felt exactly as I did, and we supported each other in our justified outrage and incredulity. So the name-calling escalated: Ice Queen, Borg Queen, Tonya Harding, and beyond. Many of these terms were used in jest. All were used out of frustration and a sense of absurd, tragic comedy. As Hillary escalated her claims and false calculations (Michigan, Florida, popular vote, sniper fire, Obama voters as delusional), there was very little room left for me to escalate on top of that. I was fueled by anger and sometimes hate. Proud of me Yoda would not have been. Here's what I didn't realize. All the while I and many Obama supporters here were going through our trauma, many, but not all, Hillary supporters experienced their own version of the same. While I haven't found evidence of Obama or his campaign being involved, it is clear that the media handled gender about as ignorantly and dangerously as it handled race. How else can you explain the comparisons to Hillary as your wife in probate court or a nagging mother? Why else would it be acceptable to compare Obama's "weakness" in military aggression to his "feminine" ways? The hard part is that a) Hillary has often used the reality of sexism to shield herself from legitimate attacks, and b) by pretending this was a "horse race" for so long I believe the media helped her candidacy far more than it hurt it. She was given multiple stays of execution though she mathematically lost back in March. Still, that doesn't mean the illegitimate media attacks didn't exist and broadly. Many supporters saw the attacks on Hillary as more than that. They were saw them as attacks on women, and so, many women who might have been on the fence or only tepid Clinton supporters rushed to her in defense of themselves and their daughters, mothers and sisters. They may have seen the desperation in many of her tactics, but they also saw themselves under siege and could excuse much of that behavior as necessary to wage this worthy battle. (True, all of these supporters didn't rush to Michelle Obama's defense as she's been dragged through the fire, but again, we're not all perfect, and that's not an excuse). I spent hours and days even, researching all the race-baiting and ugliness going on in the media and among Clinton folks, but I never bothered to try to find out what was driving some of Hillary's staunchest supporters. That's not quite right. I found some justifications, but the most visible ones were easy to eliminate. I don't give any weight to "Obama is a muslim who will give all our money to Africa" or "Obama stole this from Hillary" wing of Clinton supporters. But I did completely miss the experience of Clinton-supporting women who wretched at the statements of Chris Matthews and others. In hindsight, this was a failure on my part. Here's a video that describes some of the incidents I know I missed: I love the part of this job that involves policy research and genuine arguments about the future. I love the biting and satirical edge many of the posts here use. I love the raw honesty that lives here for a people who are too often told their experience doesn't matter. However, I know from experience that I caused collateral damage with the tone of many of my personality-driven posts and that my own failure to try understanding the experience of those I disagreed with did me few favors. The sad part is that I had the model right there in front of me in two forms. The first was my own experience in canvassing, where you just can't start screaming at somebody when you're on their property. The second model is Obama himself. He has largely conducted himself and his campaign with admirable grace throughout even the hottest moments in this contest. I should have just asked, "What would Obama do?" So that's the situation I find myself in now, wondering and watching, "what would Obama do?" And I see the same steady, confident and open attitude that drew me to his candidacy in the first place. His people are talking to Clinton people (because "we shouldn't negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate"), and discussions are under way about debt retirement, campaign staffing and even cabinet positions. I don't know how much credibility I have among the most intractable of Clinton supporters, but I know that my own inflammatory attacks against Clinton are useless and probably counterproductive at this point. I know that I'm interested in having this conversation beyond the group of people who already know where I'm coming from because it's those conversations that will help the healing process even if forgiveness is hard or impossible to come by. This post is not a blanket apology for what this blog has become and my part in it. That's not at all what I'm saying. What we have here has grown into a truly amazing community of people fired up about much more than Obama, and I wouldn't change that for anything. I'll always call out wrong where I see it, and I'm not saying a simple kiss and make-up will undo the damage that has been wrought. As CPL mentioned in a recent post, I think both the Clintons need to make a Herculean effort to begin the healing process. Whether by attacking or dismissing the votes of entire caucus states or her remarks about RFK's assassination, the damage resulting from many of their tactics will not simply disappear without effort. As Ricky Ricardo would say, "they got some 'splainin to do," and I know I'll never look at them the same. However, I think Obama and all of his supporters also have work to do, not in wiping the slate clean with Hillary Clinton but in really trying to understand the experience of reasonable Hillary supporters who felt they had to defend her because they were defending something much larger than her. As with all things large, we can start small. I started by talking to actual Clinton supporters I knew, and I urge any pro-Obama folk out there to do the same. I've been making small changes to this post based on some comments from the Jack & Jill Politics fam, and I wanted to add one other point. If we are to actually succeed in changing this country, beyond the election of this particular politician, we (all people) need to at least try to see the world from the perspective of those we disagree with. Often such attempts will not be rewarded, but the attempt will reach some and, if nothing else, it will give us confidence that we've done everything possible to move forward. I'm trying again to be the change I want to see. Forever fired up! - Baratunde aka Jack Turner