Lots of different things pissing me off this week so let’s just make this one a grab bag of rant.
The Flordia Primary, Part One. Some time ago, Will Rogers, the noted American humorist, said, “I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat.” Still true. Given the state of the country today – mired in a war that we shouldn’t have gotten into, edging into recession, a housing shortage that bids fair to upend our financial apple cart – the Democratic nominee for President should be a shoo-in. I think the DNC – the Democratic National Committee – assumes that. Not me. I still trust them to find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It’s a time tested Democratic tradition.
Cases in point – the Florida and the Michigan primaries. You’ve heard a lot this week about the Florida Republican primary but not so much the Democratic one. Why is that? Because the DNC has decided to punish those two states for moving their primaries ahead despite what the DNC told them. Furthermore, the DNC says they won’t be seating those states’ delegates at the Convention later this year. That’ll show ‘em! Naughty locals!
Question: what state lost the Dems the election in 2000? That’s right – Florida. There’s also plenty of votes to be had in Michigan. Mary’s family comes from Michigan and she knows some of them who have voted Democratic regularly before. This time they’ll sit it out or will vote Republican. Why? They’re pissed that the Dems have told them their delegates won’t be seated; that their votes in the primary don’t mean anything. If some people told me my vote didn’t matter, I’d find others who thought it did.
I haven’t heard the RNC doing anything like this even though the primaries got moved up for them as well. Why? I’m assuming it’s because they want to WIN in November. For the DNC, it’s a matter of principle. If the state Democratic Committees won’t obey, then the DNC will spank.
Look, for the record, I’m not nuts about all the Primaries being moved up and into one lump so early. It starts the election season WAAAY too soon. That said, the Michigan Dems had an argument to make – they are a more diverse state racially than Iowa or New Hampshire, the problems of Detroit better exemplify the problems of Big Cities, and they just plain have more voters. Why should the early leaders – perhaps the nomination itself – be decided by two relatively small states?
Dear DNC – in a Presidential election year, can we make it a rule: DO NOT PISS OFF VOTERS? You might need them by November. Just a thought from someone who has you best interests at heart or at least wishes that you weren’t acting like doofi.
The Florida Primary, Part Deux. The DNC, in its wisdom, decreed that not only would the delegates not be seated and thus the votes wouldn’t count, but that the delegates couldn’t campaign there, which they didn’t. However, it hasn’t stopped Senator Hilary Clinton from claiming “victory.” Yeah, yeah, yeah – it was a “rally” that just “happened” to occur after the polls closed. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more.
Senator, what is it you think you won? No-one showed up for the game. The totals don’t matter. Stop it. After the drubbing you took in South Carolina, this only makes you look desperate. Just. . .don’t.
The Florida Primary, Part C. And then there’s the Republican side of this festival. Was there a stupidercampaign strategy than Rudy Guiliani’s? Ignore all the early primaries in favor of Florida on the basis of what – that there are a lot of retired New Yorkers down there that will hand him a victory? What it gave him was third place. And Huckabee gave him a race for that slot. Maybe they did remember you, Rudy. My impression from the New Yorkers I knew back when you were mayor of the city was that they hoped you would become Governor of New York or even President because it would make you stop being mayor.
What’s that? The strategy seemed to be working fine for a while? He was leading in the polls in Florida? Sure – until the other candidates showed up after South Carolina. Then he melted like a sno-cone on NYC asphalt in August.
Rudy made himself a non-entity in the Primary despite his appearance on the debates. He wasn’t a player in the earlier caucuses or Primaries. What if he had won Florida? How many ex-New Yorkers are there in the country? He needed to show early that he could go toe-to-toe with the other candidates anywhere and come out strong. That he had something to offer other than chanting “Nine-One-One” over and over.
Today, from all reports, Rudy will drop out of the race in favor of John McCain. (John Edwards dropped out on the Democrat side and that is a real shame, in my opinion; I liked Edwards a lot.) I’ll shed no tears; the idea of Rudy Guliani in the White House scared the bejabbers out of me.
So why even bother getting all worked up about it? The stupidity of it bothers me. It’s folly. If I remember correctly, the historian Barbara Tuchman defined folly (at least on the national level) as policy set in contradiction with one’s own best self-interests. Folly is what got us into Iraq. It created our economic crisis when short-range profits became the only over-riding business goal (witness the mortgage market disaster). It happens when self-interest is substituted for a more general public interest as witness out next rant.
Because He Can. Let’s jump from Florida to Mississippi. Here’s the bare-bones. The governor of that state, Haley Barbour, asked the Federal government in the form of HUD to let the state divert six hundred million dollars from grants earmarked for housing victims of Katrina to a major expansion of the state-owned port which would eventually include casino and recreation properties. The Secretary of HUD – one Alphonso Jackson – has approved the waiver.
The governor was a political director for Reagan, was the Republican National Committee chairman, and a lobbyist. The company that bars his name still sends him checks. Read it all here.
Never mind that there are still thousands of people living in FEMA trailers. Or that Alphonso Jackson is under investigation from the FBI and the HUD Inspector General for publicly boasting that his decisions were made on the basis of political favoritism.
Look, I was raised in Mayor Richard J. Daley’s Chicago, back when the Machine was strong and the political chicanery was ripe. Even in those days, Mississippi politics were legendary and I guess it’s nice to see tradition being kept up. Nobody’s denying that the port is important but the purpose of that money was to get people out of the trailers and into real homes. Their problem is they don’t have money in the first place – poor to lower middle-class folks – and it’s the powerful that matter. That’s Bush’s America right there for you, folks.
Brent Warr, the mayor of Gulfport, which will be the recipient of this largesse, opined in the article that the locals weren’t as divided as some folks might think, saying: “I think it’s being used as political fodder by individuals with perspectives other than what’s necessarily best for the coast. Most of them are not down here, they are outside the coast, typically from other states.”
Hmmmmm. Where have I heard that line of reasoning from someone in ol’ Miss? Oh, I remember! It was back in the Sixties, back during the Civil Rights days, when all them Northerners came down riling up the local coloreds who, up until that time, had been a happy and content lot. Wasn’t that it, Mr. Warr? Pesky outside agitators!
Do you know where that six hundred million is coming from, Mr. Warr? From other states! Mississippi needed help after Katrina because Ol’Miss was poor and couldn’t do it all by its poor li’l ol’ self! If you’re going to take the money then you’d better be prepared for the scrutiny and maybe, just maybe, the possibility that we don’t care how you do business down there – that maybe we want the money that’ssupposed to go for homes for people who need them should do just that!
Ah, who am I kidding. The deal is already done.
Let’s skip like a stone across the Mississippi for one more outrage.
Blues for the Blue Collar Workers. Over in New Orleans, blue collar workers find they are being pushed out of the city by a lack of affordable housing in the form of either their own homes or affordable rents. In a news item on msnbc, it says that Katrina destroyed about 41,000 low cost rental units that housed the blue collar workers were destroyed. These are people who do not want public assistance. They’re not asking for a hand-out. Imagine that! They’re just looking for a semblance of what they had before. Work hard, pay a fair percentage of their pay on housing, and get on with their lives.
Vacancies in the service sector are way up but there’s a not only a lack of affordable housing within the city for those doing the work, there’s a lack of planning for it. The Bush Administration has tried offering tax breaks for those who are willing to build mixed-income housing. Not a lot of takers. Not a lot of other ideas coming from the Bushies, either. That seems to be the one tool in the toolbox – tax breaks or tax cuts. Screw drivers won’t do when you what need is a wrench.
What’s to be done? I couldn’t tell you – not my area of expertise, folks. All I can say is that is a problem we should be able to solve. If it’s not solved, a great American city will become less than what it was. We’ve failed New Orleans on a pretty regular basis. I haven’t seen so many dropped balls since I watched the Chicago Bears in the really bad old days when “Shotgun” Rudy Bukich was the quarterback. Mind you, the mayor on N’Awlins and governor of Louisiana have done their bit to muck it up. But Katrina happened more than two years ago. Things should be better than this. Shouldn’t it?
The common thread through this entire column, I guess, is the concept of folly. Poor planning, bad thinking, greed – all in opposition to what should be the enlightened self-interests of those involved and of We, the People. Self-interest doesn’t mean just what is good for me. That’s selfish self-interest. Back when I was an actor, I knew it didn’t mean anything if I was good and the play itself was lousy. What the audience would remember was that the play was lousy. What history will remember if we continue this way is how we took a great country and let it screw itself up. Sometimes, the most patriotic thing you can do is rant.
Let’s all be more patriotic.
John Ostrander writes GrimJack: The Manx Cat, new installments of which appear every Tuesday here on ComicMix, and much of Munden’s Bar, new installments of which will reappear anon here on ComicMix. Both for free. His new Suicide Squadmini-series is out there from DC Comics, and his Star Wars: Legacy is out there from Dark Horse, both at finer comics shops across the galaxy.
John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.