I just read a friend's blog entry about traveling as part of a group to Albany, NY to lobby the state government there about cultural funding issues. It reminded me of getting to march on Washington on a couple of occasions, lots of years ago, once during Bush XLI (I love that we number our presidents like Superbowls.) and once during the Clinton administration. These marches concerned housing issues, something I was active in at that time. (It was a period when I had time for political activity beyond turning off the radio whenever Bush starts to speak and saying, "oh, shut the hell up already.")
The trips, about five hours each direction from where I live, were made on a packed school bus, the seats in which were too small for us even when we were kids with much smaller seats ourselves. My travel-mates were strangers, but like-minded ones, so the trips were pleasant enough. For some reason, I remember one trip in which the adults had brought a lot of big signs about the importance of saying no to drugs. This was fine until we made a rest-stop half way down and we all made a run to the coffee stand that would have put to shame a bus-load of desperate opium addicts parking in a poppy field. (The other irony is that I'm drawing tokes myself from a now-cold-but-I-don't-care-just-give-me-the-damn-coffee cup as I write these words. But I'm not an addict. I'm a joy sipper. I can stop any time I want to. I just don't want to, that's all.)
It was energizing, this idea of being one of countless thousands marching through the streets of this powerful place, and gathering within sight of the Capitol Building to hear important speakers. Coretta Scott King was one. Richie Havens sang. So did Rita Coolidge. Others as well.
The first march, large though it was, got relegated to the minor media coverage heap when Bette Davis died the same day and got our front page. (For the record, I don't blame Ms. Davis for this and, in fact, am pretty sure she wasn't any happier about it than we were.) The second time we scored a little better. I really wouldn't mind doing it again sometime.
Another Political Item
One of the hazards of not writing entries more often is that the ones that do get written are overburdened with topics. Bear with me please, dear readers, on some political analysis absolutely no one asked for.
On the Republican side, we now know John McCain is in. I guess even Mike Huckabee saw his prospects were dwindling as we had primaries in more and more states where people wear shoes and don't marry their sisters. His pulling out of the campaign reminded me somewhat of those tv-shows where someone tells his boss, "You can't fire me, I quit!" The man was trailing in delegates to Mitt Romney, who stopped running weeks ago, for crying out loud.
I like McCain, and although my disagreement with him on certain issues makes it impossible for me to vote for him, he has more of my respect than all of the other candidates combined. At the same time, if he's to keep his reputation as a guy who talks straight, he's got to stop doing things like campaigning in Texas by calling the Bushes two of the greatest presidents we've ever had. Most Republicans don't even believe that.
And don't you love the politicians who are coming out endorsing McCain now that he's already getting the nomination?
Among the Democrats, it's not surprising this is looking like it will go to the convention without yet being resolved. In policy terms, I don't think there are strong differences between Obama and Clinton, and the Democratic primary system of apportioning delegates in proportion to the popular vote, rather than doing winner-take-all, practically guarantees a photo finish. The real difference between the two candidates is less what they say they want to accomplish, and more about how it looks like they'll go about trying to accomplish it. It's the diplomat vs. the street fighter. Notwithstanding any ads which, as near as I can tell, are saying that you can call Hillary on the telephone at 3:00 am, either approach has some value.
Hillary, now on a first-name basis with the world (like Elvis, Liza, and Yanni) seems almost Shakespearian in her complexity and inner conflicts. It's hard sometimes not to feel there are two Hillaries: the compassionate social leader with the heart and intelligence to lead a nation to great things; and the disingenuous pandering politician who stands out even among other disingenuous pandering politicians. The latter, I fear, too often forms a crust around the former, though both are present at all times.
I also wish she would stop speaking in applause points, raising her voice at pre-determined moments in a kind of verbal "applause-please" pose that does nothing to dispel the image many have of her as insincere. It's painful to watch. The great speakers don't do that, and never did. They just speak, knowing that if what they're saying warrants it, the applause will come.
Regarding Obama, the oft-heard criticism is that his campaign has achieved cult status. That he speaks well and gets people excited is somehow framed as a liability. But read any book about leadership, and you'll see that the ability to get people excited about what they're doing is among the greatest qualities anyone in a position of leadership can possess.
Finally, I have to ask...why is it Stephen Colbert was told he couldn't run for president because his was not a serious candidacy, but now Ralph Nader can? Is a campaign centered on astute political humor really less valuable than one based on vanity?
Sort of Political Item, But Not Really
I meant to write sooner about the passing of William Buckley. It would be hard to find someone from whom I differ more politically. And yet he was someone whose writing I admired greatly. Regardless of whether one agreed with Buckley's content, his skill at creating sentences of mind-bogglingly complex structure and yet making them understandable was unequalled. The man juggled subordinate clauses that had subordinate clauses and managed to keep them all in the air, never dropping one. I think of him as one of two must-read-for-their-styles writers, Peggy Noonan for her gorgeous prose being the other.