Please Vote, Before It's Too Late


If you want to read me gushing about Nic Batum, complaining about Nate McMillan, and wondering exactly why there can't be such a thing as a plastic system (outside of the Spurs), click here.

Otherwise, I am going to talk about politics. Don't worry, this won't be 2008's shrill, impermissible left-wing ranting. If it were, we would quickly end up in highly questionable discussions about whether or not the American voter gets what he deserves; whether the right to vote needs to be aggressively defended with lawyers and knives; and whether, as someone who didn't lift a finger this election season past filling out my ballot, I have any right to be so indignant. The crazy thing is, as much as I want the Tea Party to govern itself back into the Stone Age, I'm nearly as sick of progressives with no grasp of realpolitik. You lose the right to play the "we're the smart, rational ones" card when you fail to see that two-party politics only get so good -- and elected officials only so smart and bold. In Obama, we've done pretty damn well. Even if he didn't save the world. That was some secular Jesus crap, and you all should have known better. Have you never watched The West Wing?

Once you reach that point, then elitism is empty, and subject to any and all critiques.

Again, though, you probably shouldn't listen to me. Even though there's arguably just as much at stake this November as there was in 2008, I didn't do anything to help the cause. I probably tailed off on following politics, especially if you don't count the Tea Party freak show as anything other than entertainment. The belief that Obama would reshape the universe may have been misguided, and the correlation between symbolic and actual social change greatly overstated (if such a thing ever existed). The right accused him of being a Nazi fascist commie, but let's be real about this: No one since you-know-when has aestheticized politics to the extent that Obama did (GLENN BECK THERE'S YOUR SMOKING GUN IT'S CALLED WALTER BENJAMIN!!!!). As a speaker, it was like seeing Jordan in his prime. So you've got politics-as-art, plus rhetoric of the gods. It's not hard to see why we all turned out in droves to make calls, round up voters, and most importantly, hit the polls ourselves. Especially when the other side was ugly, but not yet truly demonic, or so far-reaching and ingrained in the way this country sees itself. We, the young and relatively young, swung the last election. It was a blast, and I think anyone would do it all over again.

Two years later, there is no fun, or exaltation, in sight. Depending on how you see it, Obama has been unmasked, or fallen victim to harsh reality, or made us all feel like chumps for thinking that things would be different this time -- that his campaign would be literal, rather than figurative. We spend our time laughing at the right when, in fact, kooks like Sharron Angle have a good shot at winning. There are thousands and thousands of voters out there who are far angrier, and more stupid, than we were inspired in 2008. This isn't going away overnight, or in a year. Or even two. It will only get worse on the ground.

But there is something very basic we can do. Vote. At very least, keep remotely sane people in office. This isn't about idealism, or what kind of country you would build in a tea cup. It's about not being dragged down by a combination of opportunistic knaves, blood-curdling ignorance, and a form of populism with all the common sense, and force, of an avalanche. STOP THE PEOPLE, for they know not themselves. Go vote, and then get back to basketball.

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At 11/02/2010 12:18 PM, Blogger Josh said...

What, specifically, have the "remotely sane people" done differently?

At 11/02/2010 12:50 PM, Blogger boeniss said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/02/2010 12:54 PM, Blogger Tom said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11/02/2010 12:55 PM, Blogger boeniss said...

What, specfically, have the "remotely sane people" done differently?
Answer: www.whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com

At 11/02/2010 12:56 PM, Blogger Tom said...

slam dunk.

At 11/02/2010 1:00 PM, Blogger Asher said...

It's times like these where I prefer your Works/Baseline style, as I read this whole piece and still have no idea why you think I should vote. I'm actually a moderate Republican. But supposing I were a progressive, it strikes me that Obama's passed way more of his agenda than he's given credit for, and about all of his agenda that he'll ever be able to pass. The Democrats will never take risky votes for cap-and-trade, raising taxes on anyone, or immigration reform right now. And that's about what's left. And on the flip side, it's not like the Republicans will do anything really awful that will survive an Obama veto. Moreover, you lose the House, the Republicans make fools of themselves, and you have a bigger chance of winning in 2012. Which is important, because it probably will make the difference between a Supreme Court that finally swings your way and the same Court we have now. Even if the current leadership isn't as confrontational as Gingrich was in the 90s, simply by winning the House, they would become, in part, responsible for whatever it is voters don't like. On the other hand, continuing the Speakership of the least popular politician in America can only hurt your party. Not that that's even possible; this election is pretty wrapped up.

At 11/02/2010 2:09 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

Thanks for this post Shoals. Love to the Benjamin ref. Can we lock Beck in a room with the Arcades Project and a bottle rat poison and see what gives?

Intentionally or not I think this foray into politics remained true to FD's ethos. If there is such a thing, maybe it's somewhere along the lines of a thrilling resignation to the supremacy of style. Hence Monta, Odom, and Rondo - you've probably defined this yourself, and better, at some point but I missed it.

So in that sense Obama could be seen as a pricelessly FD president. Doesn't hurt that he's a baller, but I for one remain skeptical as to his actual game. The clips are too edited and I don't see enough extension on his jumper.

Thing is, one of the more pernicious critiques of President Obama has been his 'cold' demeanor, his tireless commitment to the mechanics of passing legislation, his lack of flare. Contrast that with the same critics during the '08 election - back then O cared only for creamy, puffy style. Almost a less extreme hippie/commie/fascist dynamic. More sympathetic commentators say he needs to do a better job communicating to the public. But I wonder if they aren't all really asking for the same thing: that he tugs on an upside-down headband and throws some behind-the-back fakes-- instead the best Obama's offered is some rousing and formulaic bashing of the GOP, the 'soaring rhetoric' long ago put to bed.

At Obama's LA rally Jaime Foxx led a 'we are not exhausted' chant. It felt like cheering at a Clipper game.

At 11/02/2010 2:19 PM, Blogger Scott said...

@Trey -- all good points. Maybe that's why Obama pushed so hard for so much in the first two years; I'd imagine he would have a better read of the tea leaves and know that his window of opportunity was narrow at best. And bringing the opposition into the process robs them of their outsider power. Very astute points.

At 11/02/2010 2:31 PM, Blogger Dustin Stevenson said...

I disagree with Scott and Tray wholeheartedly. McConnell has made it clear he knows where his money is - it's in the bank and in this case the bank is playing the outsider card, hammering away at the idea that nothing reasonable can be passed with Obama in office so the only thing to do it to behead him politically. They're going to be just as obstructionist as ever and there's a strong possibility they'll avoid any responsibility. It's not the wrong strategy, it just hurts America.

At 11/02/2010 2:39 PM, Blogger ZAK08 said...

Obama's record on civil liberties is abysmal. What so many fail to remember is that a very significant part of Obama's presidential campaign was the rejection of Bush Administration abuses of the rule of law (e.g., warrantless wiretapping, detentions without due process, unprecedented use of state secret privilege, torture, etc.).

Obama has done a complete 180 on these issues. For anyone who really cares about civil liberities -- not just when the other party is in power -- these positions are indefensible.

What's worse, as a result, Obama has sapped the political enthusism out of so many young people and made them cynics. That's how I feel, at least.

At 11/02/2010 3:25 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I'm not going to argue that the Obama administration has been great on civil liberties, but what I fail to understand is why people like ZAK08 are so cynical now. I mean, maybe you were just really naive, in which case you would eventually become more cynical anyway. Were you unaware that the word "compromise" existed? Obama's presidency has so far gone about as I imagined it would go. We old-timers went through this with Clinton already, although his rhetoric was never as lofty as Obama's, and he didn't seem as, uh, cool as Obama, sunglasses-clad saxophone playing on Arsenio notwithstanding.

At any rate, even if you're disappointed in Obama, is that a reason to not vote in this election? Because if you allow way shittier people to be elected....then what exactly? What are you proving? That you're so pure that you won't participate in any political process that doesn't have outcomes that are exactly in line with what you want?

Good luck with that.

At 11/02/2010 4:01 PM, Blogger ZAK08 said...

You're right, I must have been naive. I thought that when a politician said "X is immoral and counterproductive to our national security, and therefore I will do the opposite of X," this politician would not do precisely X when in office. I'm glad that you old-timers were hip to this all along (yet still supported him? And I'm the cynical one?).

My point was not that one shouldn't vote; but I can definitely relate to those who are no longer motivated to.

And, please, this has nothing to do with "compromise." Of course compromise is a good thing. However, if (as you seem to concede) Obama has in fact "compromised" on some of his civil liberties positions, then to what end? What has been gained? Has he admitted he was wrong all along (and Bush was right),and we are now safer? Hardly. If Obama himself does not admit to compromising, then why do you feel the need to do it for him?

The fact is that all of my local candidates (and the Democratic base) support Obama's policies in this area, let alone disavow them. Maybe abstaining from voting will help actually change things; maybe it won't. But encouraging people to vote a party line for no other reason than "Look how bad the Republicans are!" is simply fear-mongering. I don't have the answer, but that is the surest way for those in power to stay in power, and for our problems to continue.

Sorry for the rant. I do appreciate the chance to voice some of my concerns.

At 11/02/2010 4:10 PM, Blogger bushytop said...

your first para struck a chord with me, this line in particular: "You lose the right to play the 'we're the smart, rational ones' card when you fail to see that two-party politics only get so good -- and elected officials only so smart and bold." seems to be a meme right now and it's pretty troubling when you think about it. it's apathetic, pessimistic, cynical, and unfortunately on the nose.

ira glass's recent interview with paul begala talked a lot about this lack of "real politicking" from a left pov. interesting as it was revealing.

At 11/02/2010 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. Public option for health coverage has been effectively killed.
2. Don't ask don't tell? Trying to get a stay on the judges ruling for political purposes?
3. Guantanamo Bay is still open and very much in business.

The three points above have made me quit on Obama, he may have made a lot of less heralded progress on other issues as pointed out by boeniss above, but in 2008 he campaigned on the above points and has yet to deliver. In fact he has yielded to purely partisan politics on issues that I believe are based on civil rights, outside the scope of partisan politics.

At 11/02/2010 5:08 PM, Blogger j_d_hastings said...

Honestly, this is more or less how I figured things would go down on election 2008. I didn't see the level of crazy that would come out out, but the rest seemed obvious.

The economic scene was so bad, and resistance to every move to fight it was so strong that it was inevitable things would still be pretty crappy right now. In which case people would react against the incumbents.

The same thing may happen in 2012too. What worries me now is if Sharon Angle can get herself elected to 6 years in the senate, I will no longer have faith the country won't elect someone batshit crazy at the national level.

I do have some serious problems with a few decisions made, but overall the deck was stacked against him, and the euphoria only built him up for a harder reality check (The problem with hype).

I voted weeks ago via absentee ballot. I still think robots would do a better job ruling us than we do ourselves.

At 11/02/2010 5:58 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

@FreeWade Serious question: Does it matter to you that your list of points will be much, much longer if Republicans take Congress? I know this is "fear-mongering" in ZAK08's mind, but it's a legitimate question.

Do you even understand how legislation is passed in this country? Can you please lay out the strategy that would have resulted in Congress passing a public option? I was disappointed, too, but it is true that what we have now is better than what we had before, and it lays the groundwork for movement toward a public option.

Anyway, it's fucking stupid for people on the left to sit this election out to protest Obama not being more left-wing, thus letting total lunatic right-wingers into the Senate and House.

Look, I seriously considered voting for Nader (clearly not a perfect candidate himself) in 2000, but then you have to consider that enough people doing so or just staying home resulted in eight years of Bush/Cheney, two wars, and a seriously fucked up economy.

But, whatever, quit on Obama if you want.

At 11/02/2010 6:19 PM, Blogger ZAK08 said...

@Brown Recluse, Esq. Here is the strategy that would have resulted in Congress passing a public option: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/03/11/the-public-options-last-s_n_495383.html

At 11/02/2010 6:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@BrownRecluse, I see you have ignored my points 2 and 3 because they are inexcusable failures. Obama had the option to follow through on his promises (and in some cases even received outside help as in the case with don't ask dont tell where a Judge basically did the dirty work for him.) Instead he decided to tow a stupid conservative party mantra that Obama personally does not believe in, just so he could maintain the support/chummy camaraderie of his old school WASP generals whose support he needed for Afghanistan- another unnecessary war!)

Anyway back to the point that you did mention. The public option for health care could have been passed- please refer to ZAK08's link above. Speaking of realpolitik as espoused by B Shoals. When I voted for Obama, I wanted him to be capricious and arbitrary just as George Bush before him was in forcing unpopular wars and policies on the American people. What is the use of having power if you cannot be capricious and arbitrary with it? I wish Obama had taken a page from the GW Bush playbook and just rammed his policies down our throats. He had the House and Senate on his side after-all? I would have had a greater appreciation for his first two years than the dejected indifference I feel now over his compromise-tainted lack of progress/change.

At 11/02/2010 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That (Kurt Rambis /the electorate) thinks (28 minutes /a half-term) of (unrivalled player efficiency /unprecedented legislative accomplishments) is grounds for (benching /overturning the Congressional mandate of) (Kevin Love/ the Democratic party) is (beyond me/ fucking crazy).

At 11/02/2010 7:48 PM, Blogger Jerry Vinokurov said...

Having to eat a shit sandwich is not made more appealing by the fact that the alternative is an even bigger shit sandwich with razor blades inside. I voted for the Democrats this year, but I sure as hell didn't like it.

At 11/02/2010 8:25 PM, Blogger Josh said...

Thanks Boeniss.

Well, he's escalated the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, done his damnedest to diplomatically and economically isolate Iran (need I spell out why that's such a bad idea), been as bad (arguably worse) than Bush on civil liberties, our failing health care system was locked into place for the forseeable future, his deficit commission is making noises about cutting Social Security, he used the bully pulpit to protect the banks rather than fight for reform, nothing's changed with regards to our Israel/Palestine policy, nothing's been done about DOMA, the government did everything it could to shield BP after the oil spill (and the MMS remains a joke), and he's escalated the War on Drugs (and the exploding prison system that creates). But on the other hand, he's increased the funding for our national parks by 10% and signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Let's throw him a fucking parade.

And before I get criticized for not being "pragmatic", I'd like to remind the audience that in politics, the currency is power. Now, most people, by themselves, don't have a lot of power, and one vote isn't going to do much. But if you want to maximize your vote, you should demand something in exchange for it. If you don't, and your politicians can take your vote for granted, they won't feel the need to do anything to keep it. In the words of Lawrence O'Donnell (from the film Unreasonable Man), "I worked within the Democratic Party. I didn't listen or have to listen to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party, because the left had nowhere to go."

I promise, I'm much nicer when talking about basketball :)

At 11/02/2010 10:26 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Very good sentence by Shoals:
"You lose the right to play the "we're the smart, rational ones" card when you fail to see that two-party politics only get so good -- and elected officials only so smart and bold."

Very good sentence by Josh:
"If you don't, and your politicians can take your vote for granted, they won't feel the need to do anything to keep it."

The effect of extreme groups like the Tea Party on mainstream politics seem to support Josh's argument.

Re: Obama, I think that even if you take his governance as an overall success (which I would), it is hard to see how he has really transformed/transcended politics, which was supposed to be the most freedarko thing about him. It seems to me that the Obama administration's obsession with message was supposed to be exactly what we wanted to move beyond.

At 11/02/2010 10:29 PM, Blogger spanish bombs said...

Oh sorry, I meant to put some ellipses in the Josh quote. Happily, the quoted comment is directly above mine for easy referencing. Way to not write a convenient quote though, you 76er!

At 11/02/2010 11:51 PM, Blogger walrusoflove said...

voting is naive. the only way to change the world is to be yourself. get zen. share the love.

who does representative democracy represent? ...banks aren't even people but a handful of them still win over the will of the 300mil...

PS For everyone on the Obama train. Fear not. He will actually make a bigger impact when he is out of office than in it. And not in an Isiah Thomas kinda way.

At 11/03/2010 12:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@Josh, nice link, the quote:

'It is clear that Democrats treat liberals today like they have always treated ethnic voters -- by failing to represent them, and leaving them to choose the least of evils.'

Is very telling of the situation we are faced with today.

At 11/03/2010 11:33 AM, Blogger Tom Deal said...

ya'll should know that the shame of existence is having air to breathe in hell.

At 11/03/2010 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoals, I applaud your take on KG/Charlie situation.

Can Charlie catch the irony in airing the laundry on twitter. Is that manning up or getting in the ring?


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