It’s incredible how much I neglect this site.
I had a really great weekend in North Carolina two weeks ago. I visited my brother, his wife, and their incredibly perfect, beautiful new daughter Nora Ruth (Ruthie, as they call her), born April 8th, 2003. Pictures soon. My visit was timed deliberately to coincide with that of my mom, who still lives in Wisconsin. The trip was both fun and meaningful.
The week after I returned to the East Bay, though, was possibly the bleakest week I’ve ever had, save perhaps some weeks from the summer of 1984 or the winter of 1993-94. (I never noticed until just this moment that the hardest ages I’ve been have all been divisible by 9, which is odd. Pun intended. Actually, 1988 to 1993 [inclusive] were relatively tough.) After seeing some of my family, whom, I must admit, I miss very much, it was difficult to return to a place that is so far away from most of the people I’ve known & loved most of my life—a place that, off and on, I’ve regretted moving for a variety of reasons.
I have definitely risen back up from the low point I hit between Tuesday and Sunday of last week. It’s clear to me, though, that I’m entering a time in which it is vital to my life and my future that I be seriously, productively introspective. It would help if I could think at least somewhat rationally, an ability I haven’t demonstrated (to myself) very convincingly in the last four years.
Still, I’m feeling better. I’m taking stock. I need to determine, really, where I’m going.
Yesterday was an amazing day. I went to the CLCV/LCV Democratic Presidential Candidate Environmental Debate (which you apparently did not see live on C-SPAN, according to my highly disappointing videotape of debate from the U.S. House of Representatives). I was extremely privileged to be there, having been picked at random to fly down there on CLCV’s tab.
Afterwards, I was able to shake hands with Howard Dean and with Carol Moseley Braun. I told Governor Dean as he leapt down from the stage, assisted by the helping hands of a couple volunteers, “I voted for you the other day on MoveOn.org” (a true statement). His response: “O-oh, you’re great — thank you!” I and the other members of CLCV’s staff got extended face time with Carol Moseley Braun, and a picture with her, which may just go up on the CLCV website tomorrow.
I was largely impressed by the candidates that showed up (Braun, Dean, John Kerry, Al Sharpton, and to a much lesser extent, Joe Lieberman).
It struck me that each of the candidates that were there can play a very important role in the runup to the general election, during which the Democratic Party seriously needs to define what it’s all about:
- Lieberman: How not to win the general election. Lieberman is far too socially conservative and moderate on many issues to seriously contend next November. He dodged a question about whether he would work to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars, probably because he wouldn’t. He is the epitome of “Bush-lite” as coined by Dean. He is not my idea of a strong leader, though he is an admirably dedicated public servant.
- Sharpton: Passionate populism. The man has charisma, is an excellent public speaker, and is hilarious. He may not have fully done his homework on our country’s basic environmental laws, but he was 100% right in asserting that the only way the Democrats will beat Bush is by creating a movement, exposing Bush’s record, and getting new voters to the polls. Sharpton is a leader and a showman, and the Democrats need to embrace him and use him to connect to people who don’t usually vote.
- Braun: She is obviously very caring and compassionate. Her platform, from what I’ve read on the web, is strongly progressive. I didn’t feel she did much to distinguish herself in this debate, however.
- Dean: Pragmatic, intelligent administrator with lots of great ideas. I think that Dean would make a very good President. He has a very no-nonsense view of government’s role and would probably accomplish a lot, simply because his proposals build effectively on the status quo, more than most pie-in-the-sky campaign promises. Some of his positions disappoint me (he doesn’t favor cutting the Pentagon budget, and he recently decided he was in favor of the death penalty); however, he definitely seems to bridge the gap between idealism and mainstream Democratic principles, which should play well in the general election. I think I would need to watch the debate again to get a good handle on what Dean really said, because he talks in a really rapid-fire fashion.
- Kerry: Simply, a leader. John Kerry is very experienced and very impressive. I knew little about him before the debate, and now will probably vote for him in the primary. He has basically everything a candidate needs and will appeal to a lot of people. He’s a war hero, a longstanding leader in the Senate, an environmentalist. He’s a good speaker, has a sense of humor, and has more of “the vision thing” than any of the other candidates. Kerry is clearly emphasizing job creation (he said the word “jobs” at least 6-10 times in the 90-minute forum, reminiscent perhaps of “it’s the economy, stupid”); I think he’s right on in his assessment that we are at the end of an era, after which we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. He proposes to make our economy sustainable by putting people to work building up an environmentally sound technological infrastructure (alternative fuels, for example), which I think is right on target.
There’s more I could say—these are my more or less immediate impressions. My new favorite is Kerry, followed very closely by Dean (whom I’ve liked for months and have even given money to). Neither Kerry nor Dean are afraid to strongly challenge Bush’s record, which they almost certainly will need to do to win. I would not be disappointed if either of them were to win the nomination; though it is an uphill battle, they would give the Democrats the best chance to win.
Of those who did not show up, these are my impressions: Kucinich has possibly the most progressive positions (in fact, he didn’t show up because he was meeting with Nader and the Greens), but has little charisma and weak speaking skills; Gephardt’s intelligence is apparently stunningly Quayle-ite; and Edwards, a total mystery to me, would probably end up coming off as inexperienced in the general election.
I also met a cute girl at the debate, which was great and totally unexpected.