The Sarah Palin follies

Now that the campaign is over, we’re hearing more about the Sarah Palin fiasco. Fox News has the goods – Sarah Palin didn’t know that Africa was a continent. She thought it was a country!

How many Republicans will defend her now that the election is over?


The Oregonian calls Senate race for Merkley

It looks like the Democrats will pick up another seat in te Senate.

Democrat Jeff Merkley has ousted Republican Gordon Smith from his U.S. Senate seat, The Oregonian projects.

Merkley, a five-term state lawmaker and former Habitat for Humanity director, took advantage of a surge of Democratic support to win a close, bitterly fought battle with Smith, who has served 12 years in Washington.

Neither candidate, however was willing to rule the race over until more votes are tallied.

“More good news,” said Matt Canter, spokesman for Merkley, “but we’ll just continue to watch the ballots come in and wait to claim victory.”

If this holds up it brings the Democrats up to 57.


The Hispanic vote

Barack Obama beat John McCain among Hispanics by more than a 2-1 margin. This fact helps explain why Obama was able to thump McCain in New Mexico and Nevada by double digits and handily win Colorado as well.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Watching the Republican convention, I was struck by the crowds at the convention. The words “melting pot” did not come to mind. This continued at campaign events in states like Colorado.

Republicans in Colorado pointed to other GOP mistakes.

“I have gone to a few Republican campaign events, and you don’t see a brown face or a black face in the crowd,” said former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Republican who retired in 2004.

“The Republican Party, they are not inclusive,” Campbell said.

He would not say which candidate campaigns he attended, but offered, “the last couple of statewide races.”

During the primaries, the pundits said Latinos would not support a black candidate. After the conventions, many of them stopped talking about the Hispanic vote. It turns out this was one of the most under-reported stories of this campaign.

The Republicans are in trouble if this trend continues.


So much for the Bradley Effect

For the most part, the pollsters did a very good job in this election. Barack Obama appears to have won the popular vote by six points, which pretty much matches the polling averages. Rasmussen got the percentages exactly right, and Nate Silver’s projection was also accurate. Even the polls that were off a little were very close on Obama’s totals.

This should not be a surprise. With few exceptions (like New Hampshire), the polls were pretty accurate during the primaries. The pundits needed to fill air time, so many of them had to speculate about the Bradley Effect, but we now see that it no longer applies.


Bans on gay marriage counter Obama’s message

It’s tempting for some of us to look at the election of the country’s first African-American president and conclude that our days of bigotry and inequality are behind us. Come January, a black man who anchored his campaign to the uplifting themes of unity and change will take office, a watershed moment in not only our country’s history, but the history of all humankind. Without question, this election stands as a promising sign for anyone who strives for equality and harmony, and believes that what unites us truly is greater than what divides us. But while it’s clear that the racial and gender divides (thanks to Hillary Clinton and, yes, even Sarah Palin) have narrowed as we head into 2009, the passing of gay marriage bans in California, Florida and Arizona shows that we still have a long way to go on the road to true equality in this country.

In the months leading up to election day, I posed the following question several times but never received a legitimate answer: How is banning gay marriage anything but discrimination? Why is it acceptable in the 21st century for someone to have their right to marry taken away because of their sexual orientation? For that matter, why is it acceptable for anyone to have any right taken away from them for any reason? Opponents of gay marriage claim they want to protect American families, but I’ve never understood what exactly that means. If the gay couple down the street was allowed to place a ring on each other’s finger and be recognized by the state as a married couple, would they then creep down to your house in the middle of the night and eat your children? Would they crash your weekly Family Game Night? Superimpose themselves into your family photos? Slash the tires of your minivan? Opponents also talk about protecting the sanctity of marriage and only allowing couples who can procreate to get married. If that’s the case, shouldn’t straight couples who cheat on one another or elect to not have children have their marriage licenses revoked?

The bottom line is that these bans on gay marriage are just another form of intolerance. Telling two gay people that they can’t get married is no different than telling an interracial couple that they can’t get married. Perhaps even more discouraging is the ballot measure that was passed in Arkansas prohibiting “unmarried sexual partners” from adopting children or serving as foster parents. The initiative applied to both opposite-sex and same-sex couples, but the intent here is crystal clear. Apparently it’s not enough to tell gay couples that they can’t get married; we also need to make it clear that they can never have a family, even when there are so many children in desperate need of a loving home.

I’m extremely hopeful that the election of Barack Obama will bring about a more open-minded approach to how we as a nation view the world and choose to legislate. After all, I’m not talking about “gay rights” here; these are human rights. Because Obama speaks so passionately about overcoming the bitter divisiveness that has fractured this country – black vs. white, men vs. women, democrats vs. republicans and, yes, gay vs. straight – many of us were hoping his message would help defeat the bigotry behind the initiatives in California, Florida, Arizona and Arkansas. Perhaps we got a little ahead of ourselves. Instead, it seems apparent that Obama won the White House on the strength of his economic message more than his social views. At the same time, the fact that so many young and first-time voters were so engaged in the election suggests that this more open-minded shift could be on the way.

Electing a transformational figure like Barack Obama looks like an encouraging first step, but that transformation is obviously still a work in progress.


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