Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

No More Postponements

It was Primary Day, or was supposed to be, seven years ago in New York City, when word came: first, a freak accident; then, clearly something more. By the time the 1010 WINS radio reporter sobbed "Oh my god, my god, it's gone, the tower is gone," we all knew that something new, frightening, unanticipated was happening.

We put the elections on hold, and New Yorkers sought out their loved ones, found their way home, and tuned into their televisions. Except for Lower Manhattan, it wasn't chaos on the streets. It was quiet, almost eerily so -- everyone found the people and places they loved the most and waited.

The next day, as New Yorkers emerged from their apartments, the cloud of smoke hanging above the city and a burning smell present miles from the site, we found our way to common ground, such as the vigils in Union Square. We found each other.

We had put our elections on hold, and engaged in our civic life in other ways -- checking on neighbors, lining up to give blood, sharing tears and looking at photos of missing people in the open churches our parks had become.

At the time, it was unthinkable that life would go on as normal. But 10 days later, a tearful Letterman returned to the air; within days, people returned to their offices; the subways never stopped running for long.

But our politics didn't get back to normal.

From the day of that postponed primary (which, of course, needed to be delayed), our country seemed to agree to postpone democracy. Giuliani's effort to delay New York's elections failed, but the politics of fear that 9/11 enabled the Bush administration to cultivate has been the driving force in our country since. And at first, in those moments of fear, many of us were happy for a commanding hand -- more security, less liberty, seemed an OK trade in those early days (those who warned from the start that such a trade is never worth it will never receive the credit they deserve for being right).

And now, seven years later, we're in a campaign where one side tells us we should still be very afraid. As though we would dishonor those who died in the attack if we dared to challenge the security state those in power wish to maintain.

"Never forget" may be a politicized slogan in the mouths of those who want to justify martial excess, but it's also a very real sentiment for those who lost loved ones, lost a sense of serenity in their beloved city or lost a little of their innocence on that day. I will "never forget" and never roll my eyes at others who keep this day sacred. There were real losses on September 11th that need to be marked.

But not forgetting doesn't equate with not evolving.

Every year on this day, I walk down Broadway from Times Square to Union Square. Every 8-10 blocks, the diagonal Broadway cuts out another public square as it crosses the uptown/downtown avenues: Times Square, then Herald, Madison Square Park, then Union Square. These were the spaces that made me feel safe to come out again seven years ago. And on September 11th, 2002 -- a year later -- Union Square was vibrant with the shared sorrow for what was remembered and hope for a city that was back on its feet.

Today, there were no public gatherings along Broadway. That's not to say there were no memorials today -- but most New Yorkers have returned to life as normal.

If a city can grow beyond a tragedy, so can a nation. One doesn't need to stand still to remember. Just as New Yorkers got their city moving again, we need to get our politics moving.

Enough postponements. The polls are open. We have fewer than 8 weeks to remember that democracy isn't our liability, it's our greatness.

Never Forget? Bush/McCain Never Remembered...

After the attacks, the Bush/McCain team forgot
it was bin Laden & Al Qaeda who attacked us
& launched us into the Iraqi quagmire instead.

They forgot to properly equip our troops,
& forgot to vote to care for our vets.

They forgot that it was religious extremism
that was behind this terrorism,
as they allowed domestic extremism to grow.

They forgot that the world was ready to help,
as they squandered global goodwill
& ruined our international standing.

They forgot to ask us to do anything
other than shop more, drive more, drill more.

They forgot what made America great.

Seven years ago, we said, "Never forget."
Looking at what Bush has done since,
& at what McCain proposes to do next...
it's clear that they never remembered.

Share this anniversary with warm company,
sharing ideas, memories & a drink
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Save Democracy. Get Paid.

What if I told you there was a way you could ensure voting rights on election day?

You might say, "Sure I know about Election Protection and being a poll-watcher."

What if I told you that you wouldn't be a watcher -- but could protect votes from the inside?

You might look at me funny.

What if I told you that you could get paid?

If we've got your interest, it's time you become a Pollworker for Democracy.

Our friends at CREDO have done it again: taken a simple idea, created a straightforward program, and made it easy for people to make a difference.

You know those impossibly ancient people that populate polling sites across America? Well, thank god for them -- because without pollworkers, we wouldn't have elections. That said, let's be kind to them -- let them retire! And the only way to do that is to take their spot.

In many states, the Boards of Elections are still in need of pollworkers. They pay you for your day's labors, and in many cases feed you. And they entrust you with the keys to the automobile of democracy. That means that you get to verify a person's right to vote; you get to proactively offer provisional ballots; you get to be the point-person for irregularities.

Let's be clear: you are not the watcher voicing an objections -- you are the operator making sure sh*t works.

If you can keep lines moving, keep counts honest, keep people enfranchised, keep right-wing efforts to suppress and intimidate out of your polling stations, then you will have spent November 4th wisely.

So sign on up -- and somebody you can be the impossibly ancient pollworker who knows that for decades you made our democracy work.

We're Holding Our Heads High, Bob

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert -- a favorite columnist of Living Liberally -- laments:

Liberals have been so cowed by the pummeling they’ve taken from the right that they’ve tried to shed their own identity, calling themselves everything but liberal and hoping to pass conservative muster by presenting themselves as hyper-religious and lifelong lovers of rifles, handguns, whatever.

He goes on to articulate the proud liberal legacy in America: civil rights and women's rights, environmental protection and food safety, Social Security and Medicare, concluding:

Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people.

Bob - have we got a video to show you.

Bob, you're speaking our language. The 10,000 monthly attendees at Living Liberally events around the country agree with you. The activists, bloggers and electeds in the video above agree with you. Daily Kos creator Markos -- whose first words on his blog (as recounted in his new book Taking on the System) were "I am progressive. I am liberal. I make no apologies." -- agrees with you too.

And John Kennedy pre-emptively agreed with you in his famous remarks (that are the video's soundtrack).

So what's with our elected officials? What's with our leaders on the "Left" that leave them so scared of this label?

They believe they've only given up on a word that's been poisoned in the public imagination while we were too complacent to defend it. But they are actually giving up the ideas, the tradition and the accomplishments that had accompanied that word for the last century.

Unfortunately, if you only think election-to-election, you don't make language your battlefield. You willingly cede that footing thinking repositioning may get you short-term gains.

We see where that gets us. Which is why so many regular Americans are taking the lead where our "leaders" are failing -- why everyday citizens are becoming voters, volunteers, activists, and even candidates under the "liberal" banner. From Idaho, where 6 chapters of Drinking Liberally gather progressive peace activists; to Salt Lake City, where 40-50 regularly gather and proudly proclaim their liberal identify -- there are loud, lively Liberals in this nation.

Bob, we're with you in calling upon our politicians to step up -- but in the meantime, don't despair: we're holding our heads high -- liberal, loud and proud.

Salt Lake City Makes Local Columnist Drunk, Happy

The words "fun" and "political speech" usually don't go together - unless you, like me, watched John McCain's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday with the members of the Salt Lake City chapter of Drinking Liberally.

So begins Sean Means' recent "Culture Vulture" column in the Salt Late City Tribune as he describes the enjoyment he had at the local DL chapter's recent McCain on the Rocks watch party.

I love that the challengers for Governor and Lieutenant Governor were in attendance, unafraid to be seen with a group of scary liberals...and that Sean goes into detail on some of the rules of the drinking game.

A Sip of McCain on the Rocks

Obama packs our a week-long Denver celebration.
The GOP has empty seats, a police-state Saint Paul,
a phone-in Prez, a scandal-a-day, & a shortened convention
that even Republicans don't want to attend.

Biden buys good news cycles & great energy.
Given Palin's inexperience, poor judgment, scandals
& right-wing radicalism -- this Veep to Nowhere
actually does make McCain look qualified by comparison.

The Dems bring dignity, hope, vision.
McCain's no-vetting, pandering VP pick
shows that this out-of-touch, ill, 72-year-old
just doesn't take the Presidency seriously.

There's something to seeing McCain on the ropes...
now, enjoy McCain on the Rocks.

Join for a drink (& a drinking game) --
after all, you can't watch tonight alone...or sober
-- at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

McCain on the Rocks - Drinking Game Rules

For use and wide distribution...drink liberally:

McCain on the Rocks:
The Official Drinking Liberally
McCain Convention Speech Drinking Game

Take a Sip when
He Says:
- faith
- service
- experience
- Barack Obama
- global war on terror
or when:
- he makes reference to being a POW
- he compares himself to Ronald Reagan
- he calls Iraq a success
- he praises Sarah Palin by name

Take a Gulp when:
He Says:
- my friends
- George Bush
- maverick
- Joe Lieberman
- Vietnam
or when:
- he references his relationship to God
- he talks about Sarah Palin’s lovely family
- he compares himself to Teddy Roosevelt
- he claims not to like talking about being a POW

Take a Big Gulp when:
He Says:
- torture
- climate change
- straight-talk
- Cheney
- Iran
or when:
- he praises his own bi-partisan ways
- he questions a Democrat’s patriotism
- he gets real explicit about his POW experience
- he compares himself to General Patton

Chug when:
- he explicitly praises George W. Bush
- he makes allusions to Obama’s race

Celebratory Toast if:
- he forgets a line, pauses more than 3 seconds
- he forgets a line, curses at the audience
- he compares himself to Richard Nixon
- he tries an endearing joke about his age

Finish Your Drink if:

- He replaces Palin with a younger beauty queen
- He calls for Bush a lousy President
- He jokes about bombing Iran

McCain on the Rocks

Tomorrow, John McCain will give his acceptance speech.

You want to watch.
You can only watch with a drink in hand.
You shouldn't be drinking alone.

Therefore: it's time for a watch party.

Drinking Liberally is working with People For the American Way on a national night of gatherings -- fittingly called "McCain on the Rocks." You can find a local get-together, or check with your area DL chapter to see if they are hosting something.

We'll be posting the official DL Drinking Game later on, but in the meantime, Bill Nothstine from our exceptional Portland, Oregon chapter has already posted rules for an all-evening drinking game (sip if a speaker references his POW experience; drink if McCain speaks of his POW experience; chug if anyone says how much McCain doesn't like to mention his POW experience).

They've also create a guide for McCain-themed haiku and limericks.

Such as:

Now McCain will not talk to the press
They're asking hard questions, I guess
And they're kicked off the bus
Where they can't cause a fuss
So much for the Straight Talk Express

When the RNC meets in St. Paul
It will kick off a most dismal fall
If their best hope is Palin
Their luck must be failin'
So they'll come at a crawl if at all

Download the drinking game and haiku/limerick guides below -- they are PDF attachments. (If attachments don't show up, follow the links above to find the rules online.)

We're enjoying McCain on the ropes. Now, let's have him on the Rocks.

Carnival vs. Police State

Haven't been blogging much these past two weeks. Traveling makes it difficult enough to sit down and write; the busy pace of Conventions makes it harder; and these two Conventions have been such extremes that I want to be wandering through them more than describing them.

Denver was a democratic carnival, where the main pedestrian drag of the Lower Downtown area was filled with suited delegates, young people, protesters (from the Left and the Right), vendors (Barack Obama action figure anyone), musicians, annoyed Denverites, bicycle cabs...and, yes, riot police. Their presence reminded you any moment there cold be travel; but they didn't block streets...they didn't separate the delegates from the protesters or the onlookers.

It was an open city for an open convention. While I was there, I felt aware of the cops...but not oppressed by them.

Then I came to Saint Paul. Maybe it's the layout of the city -- whereas the Denver Pepsi Center is on the outskirts of downtown, the Xcel Center is at the heart of this city...and thus the heart has been cut off from its body by barbed wire and barricades. A beautiful city becomes unwalkable. The locals, who love their home, are ashamed that this is the face they show to the world.

Walking with the peace protest on Monday -- the 10,000 that featured families, children, vets and no violence -- we were led through caged paths with high, black grates on either end. Police stood at the read as we slowly slogged through narrower avenues near the center. At one point a friend asked, "Should we be worried that they already have their gas masks on?" At another point, we wanted to peel off -- and a cordon of 30 shoulder-to-shoulder riot cops told us that we had to march the full parade route.

They don't seem to be wanting to do this. But in that environment, they are not individual police officers (residents of St. Paul keep telling us they love their police -- that they are "neighborhood cops"), but one side of a tense confrontation; and we protesters were made to feel like the other side. The tension mounted. Surrounded by my public safety officials, and by 10,000 people in agreement with me...I didn't feel safe.

That gloom and fear pervades the RNC. Hope and happiness charged the DNC. Maybe each party is just pushing its brand.

More soon...and check out Open Left where Matt Stoller has been photo-documenting much of this experience.

The Official Barack Obama Convention Speech Drinking Game

As Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President tonight, enjoy his address with drink in hand -- ready to toast, to celebrate and to share the experience...with drinking game rules, of course.

Take a Sip when
He Says:
- hope
- change
- community organizer
- Bush
- Hillary Clinton
or when:
- he says how much he loves America
- he tells a joke that actually makes you laugh
- he implicitly/explicitly compares himself to MLK
- compliments Michelle for being accomplished

Take a Gulp when:
He Says:
- Yes we can
- Iraq
- Kansas
- Cheney
- Bill Clinton
or when:
- he quotes a great American text or speech
- he talks about Joe Biden's lovely family
- he compares himself to JFK
- he compliments Michelle for being a good wife and mother

Take a Big Gulp when:
He Says:
- audacity
- glass ceiling
- bipartisan
- Rove
- swiftboat
or when:
- he quotes the Bible
- he uses the word "partisan" like it's a bad thing
- compliments a Republican (or Joe Lieberman)
- he compares himself to RFK

Chug when:
- he gratuitously compliments McCain's "service" and "courage"
- he jokes about John McCain's houses

Celebratory Toast if:
- he uses the word "partisan" like it's a good thing
- challenges McCain to a duel
- praises President Jimmy Carter
- he makes you cry

Finish Your Drink if:
- He mentions Reverend Jeremiah Wright
- He calls for Bush’s impeachment
- He threatens to bomb Iran.

(If you want to print out a version, you can click on the attachment link for the PDF below -- prints 2 per page)