Category Archives: Politics

Ill Communication: The GOP Explains Its ‘Female Candidate’ Problem

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day speaks at press conference to launch 'Women on the Right Unite' - an RNC project to promote the recruitment of and support for Republican women and women candidates. (Photo/RNC, June 26, 2013)

Republican National Committee Co-Chair Sharon Day speaks at press conference to launch ‘Women on the Right Unite’ – an RNC project to promote the recruitment of and support for Republican women and women candidates. (Photo/RNC, June 26, 2013)

If the GOP wants to recruit female candidates and attract more female voters it needs to make sure their communications director doesn’t veer off its politically-correct-we-want-diversity’ message.

Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s Communication Director was interviewed (among others) by Real Clear Politics for its article, ‘The GOP’s Female Candidate Problem.’ The article discusses how the RNC is “work[ing] to close the gap with female voters” given that “the majority of the 2012 [female electorate] supported President Obama over Mitt Romney by a 12-point margin.” The piece also mentions that “no viable Republican woman appears inclined to throw her hat in the 2016 ring” amidst the “likelihood of Hillary Clinton as the Democrats’ standard-bearer, potentially making history as the first female presidential nominee from either major party.”

With the above information in mind, Spicer was asked to address the “Republicans’ strategy for attracting more female voters” and the GOP’s concern of not “fielding a more diverse presidential field” while dealing with the possible “optics of Americans watching a host of Republican men fighting it out against one another as Clinton marches to the Democratic nomination . . . ”

Spicer’s initial response was appropriate in that he says all the right things; not raising any flags, while expressing interest in having a more inclusive party.

“Obviously, diversity would be great, but the race is not going to be defined by whether we have a woman; people are going to judge candidates based on their agenda,”

Then he went off the reservation with his next statement.

“This isn’t a beauty contest,” he said. “It’s about trying to put candidates forward who want to run for the presidency of the United States. We have extremely talented women. If they want to run, that’s awesome. If not, there’s no control over that.”

Real Clear Politics added that Spicer was “quick to point out that the RNC and the Republican campaign committees recently held a seminar promoting the recruitment and training of female candidates within party ranks.”

Let’s go back to the phrase “This isn’t a beauty contest.” Did he not realize that he just implied that republican female candidates don’t take the campaign or election process seriously – that they might view it as an easy “contest” based on looks rather than skills and experience? The latent sexism in the comment is not exactly PR-friendly given that the GOP wants to attract female candidates and more female voters to its party. Maybe he didn’t mean what he said or what it inferred, though as a communications director he should be more cognizant of contextual metaphors.

Pin Button sold on Republican National Committee website (Photo/GOP.com)

Pin Button sold on Republican National Committee website (Photo/GOP.com)

Spicer continued his communication stumble with his “If not, there’s no control over that” statement when it comes to finding republican female candidates to run for office. Isn’t recruiting and support viable candidates – male and female – a primary directive of the RNC? Does Spicer think female republican candidates should just fall into the GOP’s lap (to use another inappropriate metaphor) for them to mold and champion?

Near the end of his interview a light bulb must have went off in Spicer’s head that maybe his statements didn’t come off well, hence the ‘seminar promoting recruitment’ statement.

What’s odd is that he has basically shifted the blame to republican women for the GOP’s lack of female candidates on its roster. He might as well had raised his hands and said “Hey, the Republican Party has done the best it could to find these women, but they just don’t want to run. What are we supposed to do?!”

Luckily for him most of the articles’ readers probably didn’t catch the semi-dismissive tone of his comments, though Real Clear Politics placed them in the top half of its piece. By the time most people have read or skimmed the rest of the article Spicer’s comments will blithely be forgotten.

In the end, I doubt the RNC apparatus will be mad at Spicer for discounting potential republican women candidates. They might be a tad pissed that he said out loud what most of the male-dominated party truly thinks about its female members.

As they say, the truth hurts and this one continues to hurt the Republican Party.

Please, Enough With Sandra Fluke Already

Sandra Fluke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention (AP Photo, September 5, 2012)

A couple of days ago Sandra Fluke spoke in primetime at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. I made a point of not watching the Fluke in action. I admit it, I’m tired of seeing and hearing about her and from her.

I’ve taken to calling Fluke ‘Mary Magdalene‘ America’s latest reincarnation of special womanhood. She can do no wrong – she must be defended 24 hours of day, 7 days a week and 365 days of the year.

Yet, there is something strangely patronizing about the Fluke bandwagon. She’s treated like a young girl who requires knights (male and female) to protect her from the mean, bad men. Seriously, this woman is over 30 years and just graduated with a Georgetown University law degree! I’m sure that she is able to defend herself without her unofficial squires running to her assistance.

Fluke’s  infamous, remote dust-up via talk radio with that idiot RushLimbaugh (he called her a ‘slut’) galvanized American women in regards to their healthcare and the upcoming presidential election, which was a boon for the Democratic Party. Probably one of the few times a woman being called a “slut” is/was a good thing.

Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights activist (Photo, 1957, The Mike Wallace Interview)

However, the happenstance of her celebrity combined with her limited work as a “women’s activist” (as she’s been described) makes for a strange combination that I find bothersome.

It’s kind of like a reality television star with little to no acting experience who wants to be viewed as a serious actor or actress.

I’m not saying that she doesn’t care about women’s issues/reproductive rights, but let’s wait a bit before we call her the next Margaret Sanger, Gloria Steinem or Rosa Parks.

Also, let’s be honest about the real issue surrounding Fluke’s celebrity. If Fluke was Black, blonde, had acne or big tits or looked like a cheerleader (god-forbid) we wouldn’t know who the hell she is. Limbaugh could’ve called her a host of names (feminazi anyone?) and that would’ve been it. The public and the media are very fickle over the types of women whom they hand out the ‘deserve to be defended’ crown.

Rosa Parks, civil rights activist (AP Photo, 2005)

I’m sure Fluke’s flunkies (as I sometimes call them) would say that I’m being mean, jealous or hateful towards such a ‘strong, dedicated woman.’ But the fact is women are viewed and treated differently based on their looks and ethnicity.

We can’t be ugly or no one wants you. Can’t be too attractive or no one will take you seriously. Fluke falls right in the middle, which has made for a perfect media and political confluence. Mary Magdalene indeed.

I just wish the media, politicians and others would keep in mind that Fluke is just one woman and that she doesn’t represent ALL women – though my cynical, pessimistic side sarcastically tells me “Good luck with that!”

Sigh – I guess we’re stuck with Fluke. Thanks a lot Limbaugh.

If Barack Obama decided to change his vice president in the run-up to the 2012 election, who would make a good VP choice?

My response to question posted on Quora . . .

The only way Obama would dump Biden if Biden got caught in some salacious scandal or Biden was suffering from a major medical illness that would impede his ability to do his job or the job of the president if something happened to Obama.

Joseph Biden, Vice President of the United States (Photo/Wikimedia Commons)

The ramifications for Obama dumping Biden for some other reason(s) than the above would be serious. Obama would constantly face questions such as “Did you dump Biden because you were afraid that you would lose the upcoming 2012 election?” or “Did you replace Biden because it was politically expedient to do so?” Obama would end up spending so much time defending his VP switcheroo that it would be even harder to stick to his campaign agenda while fighting off the GOP presidential ticket. Replacing his VP would be a sign of weakness, no matter how Obama and his campaign team would try to spin it.

Also, Biden seems to still have pull with traditional/long-standing democrats (whites, blacks, etc.), independents, progressives, women, the 50+ crowd and those who appreciate that he’s not a slick-looking, smooth-acting politician (the under 40 crowd). That’s a lot to give up (replacing your VP) for one who might be able to attract the Latino vote and/or those small, iffy pockets of conservative democrats and moderate republicans.

Link to more answers to Quora question: If Barack Obama decides to change his vice president in the run-up to the 2012 election, who would make a good VP choice?

Super Committee, Super Bullshit

U.S. Capitol Building (Source/Wikimedia Commons)

Now that the White House and U.S. Congress have signed-off on the debt ceiling bill they’ve moved onto setting up the so-called super committee. The super committee, a requirement of the debt ceiling bill, will be responsible for finding $1.5 billion in cuts over the next decade.

President Barack Obama did his usual bipartisan spin on how he hopes the congressional super committee will work together, find common ground, etc. House Speaker John Boehner (R), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D) will each nominate three persons to sit on the committee. Names of potential committee members have been tossed around, but nothing official has been announced as of yet though the August 16 committee commencement deadline is fast approaching. Plus Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the United States credit rating may help speed along the membership selection process.

I don’t understand the need for a super committee. The National Committee on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (‘debt commission’ ‘Bowles-Simpson commission’) in December 2010 had already laid out for the U.S. via a 66-page report the state of the economy and what needs to be done to make us solvent.  The report recommended $4 trillion in savings through increased revenue and entitlement cuts. Of course, their suggestions were voted down, which was too expected. Those in government know that committees and committee reports are places where good ideas and suggestions–especially those that are not liked–die a quiet death.

In the instance of the super committee ideas won’t make it to the conference room because the Committee will be stacked with budget hawks (Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.) and program protectors (Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.) from each party. Moderates will not be welcome at this dinner party. It will be a committee that won’t budge and won’t accommodate while pretending to behave in a bipartisan manner.

Tax revenues will be tabled due to the never-ending election cycle. Tax cuts will continue to be given to top tier income earners. Government programs will continue to be slashed under the auspices of doing more with less. Entitlements will find their way back in while the suggested cuts are bandied about by the committee as if they’re playing Monopoly instead of with the lives of millions of Americans. The report will be completed before its November 23 deadline because the committee members will want to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Eventually the report will be released around the Christmas holiday or during an off-news cycle in December so that the media and the general public won’t take the time to read it and notice that only short-term, financially-miniscule decisions had been made. Obama will thank the super committee for doing a super job. Then the report will be tossed aside just like previous reports on the U.S. economy.

I can smell the bullshit already.

In Defense of Michele Bachmann Against Newsweek


8/8/2011

I never thought that I would see the day that I would be defending GOP Presidential Candidate Michele Bachmann.

The above photo is on the cover of the latest issue of Newsweek magazine. To be blunt, she looks manic and a tad deranged. There really is no excuse for this photo by Newsweek. I doubt that this is best picture they had of Bachmann, though past photos of her haven’t exactly been the most flattering­.

Maybe Newsweek wanted a photo that made Bachmann look somewhat mentally off-kilter to tie in with their “Queen of Rage’ headline. What might be even scarier is that Bachmann may have had final photo approval and thought this was the best photo of the bunch. Not exactly a shining example of a basic judgement call.

Bachmann’s politics, rhetoric and behavior are considered extreme by many, including myself. Furthermor­e, I do not believe that she has the intellectu­al stamina and/or temperamen­t to be the President of the United States. All that being said, isn’t up to the public to decide whether her candidacy should be taken seriously, not for Newsweek to infer something about Bachmann via a crazy-look­ing photograph­?

You might recall during the 2008 presidenti­al campaign Newsweek got in hot water over a cover photo pic of then GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin in running shorts. They don’t seem to have the greatest mag cover track record with showing female GOPers in the best light.

With all the brouhaha surrounding the Bachmann photo I can’t help but smell a whiff of manufactur­ed PR by Newsweek who isn’t exactly high-up on the news media radar.

Hey Newsweek – if you don’t like a candidate or a candidate’s politics then say so. There is no need to place inappropri­ate and/or unflatteri­ng photos about certain candidates as some sort of subliminal/editorial message.

The defense of Michele Bachmann by a Democrat (albeit a semi-crank­y one) rests.

Racist Remarks: It’s All About the Context

The Internet is all abuzz over Pat Buchanan referring to President Obama as “your boy” during his August 2nd appearance on MSNBC’s ‘The Al Sharpton Show.’ Sharpton and Buchanan were discussing the debt ceiling bill when the following exchange occurred:

Buchanan: And let me tell you, your boy, Barack Obama, caved in on it in 2010 and he’ll cave in on it again.

Sharpton: My what? My president Barack Obama? What did you say?

Buchanan: He’s your boy in the ring, he’s your fighter.

Sharpton: He’s nobody’s boy. He’s your president and he’s our president. And that’s what y’all have got to get through your head.

The next morning on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Buchanan was forced to clarify his controversial remarks. He said the following:

I was asked who was the big losers in these battles and the big winners, and I said one of the big losers, using boxing terminology, was ‘your boy,’ and I meant the president of the United States,” he said. “Rev. Sharpton said my boy is the president of the United States and he’s doing a rope-a-dope in the Ali fashion and he’s going to finish off your crowd. Now this was taken, some folks took what I said as some kind of slur. None was meant, none was intended, none was delivered, for the record.

Buchanan has walked the almost racist/racist fine line many times throughout his career. He has yet to step over it, but he has come very close.

Crossing the Line

It’s that coming close part which makes it hard to concretely decide whether someone’s comments have been misinterpreted; is a sign of cultural cluelessness or just simply racist.

Maybe Buchanan used “your boy” in reference to Sharpton’s support for Obama. It is a phrase that is used mostly by guys when they’re talking about someone’s friend or someone they respect. It is also an expression used to show dislike for that person or that they’re not a close friend. Others have chimed in that its just a phrase – that since Buchanan said “your boy” not “boy” therefore he was not implying anything. It was just words.

Nevertheless, when Buchanan uttered that phrase it took on another tone for many people. The tone of white men who for centuries treated and viewed adult black men as children. Maybe that’s not what Buchanan meant, but given his past oratorical miscues and racial tone-deafness over the decades he has been been called a bigot, a racist and an anti-semite.

Some will say Buchanan is not a racist because he’s never called anyone a n*gger. That may be true, but there are other words that may not be as incendiary, but they still do harm or cause anger.

Dealing With the Filter

As an African-American I have lost count on how many times a  white person has said that I was ‘articulate’ or ‘well-spoken’ in a surprising tone, even after they know I went to college. How the hell am I supposed to sound?! Whenever I hear those descriptions my eyes squint and I gnash my teeth. I never acknowledge the so-called compliment because I find it insulting. Yet, when I have tried to explain my thoughts on the matter to white people most simply don’t get it. I’m sure they thought I was being overly sensitive.

Racism can still be overt, but is is mostly subtle now; sometimes almost opaque. Throwing down the so-called race card on someone truly depends on the context and the individual(s) involved. Once you have determined that you were the victim of a racist remark you have other filters you have to go through.  Has this person said questionable things to you or others before? How does he/she react around other non-whites? Will he/she realize that what they said upset you? Should you let this person know that they’ve offended you? Will they care? Should you even bother?

This type of filtering has led to reclassification of some formerly racist remarks to be viewed as misinterpretations and the person who made the remark to simply be seen as culturally clueless in a Pollyanna sort of way.

So – basically as long as you don’t say the n-word your borderline racist comment(s) will get a pass. Just ask Pat Buchanan, he is the master (pun intended) of such things.

Are we too tired to holler? The Debt Ceiling and American Politics

President Obama and Congress finally came to a compromise about the U.S. debt ceiling. Our country’s financial crisis was avoided by the raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling through 2012; cutting $2.4 trillion in expenses and establishing a special congressional committee to recommend long-term fiscal reforms

Excuse me for not doing cartwheels. Where the hell is the tax revenue? What about the damn Bush tax cuts that got us into this mess? Why the fuck do we need a super Congressional committee to discuss what has already been discussed and published last December by the White House’s National Commission On Fiscal Responsibility and Reform?

After all the political threats, PR tantrums and ‘my dick is bigger than yours’ action going on amongst the Democrats and Republicans – this is what they give us? I have the suspicion that this compromise had probably been mentioned before earlier, but was tossed aside as each party try to out-dude the other at the expense of the American public.

Now that the debt crisis is over (really?) the White House tells us that they will now concentrate on how to create more jobs. This should have been Obama’s number one priority after the 2008 election – not healthcare, but I digress.

How the hell are they going to create jobs when they have no additional revenue coming in? As we all know by now (except for the GOP) trickle down/supply-side economics (aka voodoo economics) does not work, so the Obama Administration can forget about the majority of the haves sharing their wealth. Those pesky Bush tax cuts keeps rearing its ugly head.

As for cutting expenses, it just means that the U.S. government will spend less money. Reducing expenses does not generate revenue, you simply spend less while trying to maintain the status quo. I guess this is America’s version of an austerity plan, though countries who have gone this route include significant tax increases. Most politicians see tax increases as political kryptonite to be avoided as much as possible.

I don’t have positive feelings about how well this is going to work out, but the U.S. will do its best. Unfortunately, this is no longer good enough anymore. I am so sick and tired of this bullshit. I am sick and tired of a lot of things.

I’m tired of politicians making decisions about our social programs as if they’re playing a game of chess instead of people’s well-being.

I’m tired of hearing faulty unemployment statistics which don’t truly report the number of people who are unemployed but no longer receive unemployment benefits or those who are underemployed or making significantly less due to cutbacks and lay-offs.

I’m tired of seeing seeing foreclosure signs and people getting kicked out of their homes while banks are reporting rosy quarterly profits.

I’m tired of the increasing cost of higher education because state and federal grants have been slashed forcing students to take out more loans while job opportunities are fewer and fewer.

I’m tired of wondering how much I will owe whenever I have a new prescription filled because my health insurance seems to cover less while I pay more.

I’m tired of seeing of wounded veterans with loss limbs due to never-ending wars in countries where our reasons for being there are still unclear.

Sometimes I feel that Americans have been run-down by the U.S. government. We’ve become cynical in that we mostly don’t expect government to do the right thing. Battling for change, to have your voice heard can be exhilarating, but it can also be exhausting.

Lately, I feel that’s what our government has been counting on so that it can go about its day.

It’s kind of hard to holler when you’re just too damn tired.

Social Media and Civic Engagement: Many Questions, A Few Answers

Diana Owen, Lee Rainie, Mindy Finn and Macon Phillips – Panelists, “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation,” Brookings Institution, June 28, 2011 (Photo/Angelia Levy)

Can social networks increase our involvement in the political process beyond clicking the ‘like’ button?

Politics and social media have finally made a connection. Yet, the level of understanding and usage of social media varies from person to person. The public, politicians and governmental entities are trying to grasp how to use social media while simultaneously learning how to use it effectively as the technology is constantly changing. It makes for a daunting task for those interested in using social media to increase engagement.

The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC held a panel on June 28, 2011 to discuss the impact of social networks on the public’s interest and involvement in governance.

The panelists for “How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation” were Mindy Finn, Partner at the Engage, a firm that provides advice about online technology. She also directed Mitt Romney’s digital and online operations during his 2008 presidential campaign; Diana Owen, Social Professor of Political Science and Director of the American Studies Program at Georgetown University; Macon Phillips, Special Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of Digital Strategy for the White House and Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which surveys the effect of technology on our socioeconomic lives.

Though the topic was social media and how it can increase civic engagement the panelists found themselves discussing how social media can be utilized and utilized better when it comes the public’s level of civic engagement.

Social Media Post-2008

Social networking has come quite a way in a relatively short period of time. Prior to 2008 older and newer social networking sites such as Friendster, MySpace and Facebook were seen primarily as tools for the young in which they talked to their friends, shared music and posted photos.

Then social networking stepped into another realm with its use by the Obama campaign and the rise of Facebook. Obama’s campaign heavily used Twitter, Facebook and their website to keep voters abreast of their campaign stops, political stances and scheduled rallies.

Other presidential candidates such as Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), former Sen. John Edwards (D-SC) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did the same, but not with a similar level of effectiveness. Obama’s use of social media became the benchmark for how politicians could successfully connect with the public.

After the election, hundreds of local, state and Congressional politicians set-up a website, Facebook or Twitter account. Government agencies took steps to become a part of the social networking arena. The White House’s website became chockful of information about President Obama’s schedule and the Administration’s agenda, information that had been never readily available and with such detail. Earlier this week, the Obama Administration announced that President Obama would start tweeting via the White House’s official Twitter account.

However, does the fact that local, state and federal government have become social media users mean that they have connected successfully with the American public?

Politicians, the Public and Social Media

Macon Phillips stated that though the White House has primarily used its website to communicate with the public it wants to create a “more robust web program.”

Phillips said that the White House uses Twitter and Facebook, but that they have started to include LinkedIn as part of their social media work.

“We’ve done some real interesting work with [LinkedIn],” Phillips said, adding that “We try to look at all those communities where we actually wanted to find people where they were . . . their expertise in order to reach them more directly.” Phillips also stated that his office has also looked into Quora and other new sites, which seem “very compelling and full of experts.”

Mindy Finn saw social media as a way to get the public more civically involved at the grassroots level. Finn said that social media’ impact on politics has had a “revolutionary effect.” She cited the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt as places where social media has played a major role in politics in those countries. Finn said that if campaigns can “do social media right it should be the central nervous system of the campaign.”

“Political campaigns are about people . . . it’s about connecting people and forming relationships with people, and that’s what social media is all about,” said Finn.

However, Finn said that politicians still campaign the old way in that they spend most of their time with those who can contribute the big money, “reserving the end of their campaign to try to meet some voters . . . person to person.”

Social Networking and Governance

Social media has also had an impact on the way the public receives their political news and participates in the political process. Finn stated that though social media has been beneficial there remains the perceived threat that “use of social media [is] a distraction” in that it “pulls people away from real friendships and their communities.” Lee Rainie said Pew’s report Social Networking and Our Lives shows that has not been the case.

“People particularly who use Facebook have more friends, more close friends, more likely to be involved in politics, more likely to be open to diverse points of views,’ said Rainie. He also said that usage of social media has continued to grow, as “twenty-two percent of internet users used social media in one way, shape or form in the 2010 election.”

Diana Owen said that there has been a correlation between social media usage and “election purposes.” In Georgetown University’ s Government in Politics in the Information Age, Owen said their report showed that “taking a civics course . . . greatly increases the probability that a person will use social media at least for election purposes.”

What Owen found interesting was that the incorporation of social media into civics education appeared to have an impact on civic engagement. Owens also said that sixty-seven percent of those whose civic courses integrated social media were “engaged in the 2008 campaign.”

Rainie agreed that civics education could add to a person’s comfortability level when using social media for their political activities. Raine said that the Pew study found that almost twenty-three percent of Americans “had tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate . . .  and that ten percent had attended a political rally.”

The panelists seemed to agree that the public’s use of social media to post their thoughts, ideas or news within their network or community can be an effective form of political activism.

Social Media and Reviving American Democracy

When asked what could social media do to improve participation in campaigns and “reinvigorate American Democracy,” the panelists mentioned how social media needed to be more a part of the political and news conversation.

Finn said that campaigns will need to accept that they must be “decentralized” in that the flow of information should come from the people and their social networks – not directly from the campaigns themselves.

Phillips has been fascinated by how social media content is currated – gathered and distributed. He said that “people are looking at stuff for alerts, they’re waiting for stuff to use to broadcast on their own vehicles.” Phillps also noted how American policy officials have conversed with large groups of people by way of Facebook chats.

Rainie noted that in the Pew Study twenty-two percent of Facebook users submit a comment on someone else’s post during a typical day; twenty percent comment on someone else’s photo and forty-four percent of social media users claim to update their status at least once a week.

Finn said that the use of social media combined with a very fast news cycle meant that politicians and the government must find new ways to provide information online for its constituents as quickly as possible.

Owen stated that in 2008 Facebook was the social media darling when it came to civic engagement; in 2010 it was Twitter. She said that because “we’re having a greater fragmentation of the platforms that people use for social media to access campaigns” that it is still  hard to predict what will be the next big thing to reinvigorate the public when it comes to their political interactions.

2012 Elections and Social Media

Phillips was hesitant to discuss his thoughts given his position and the fact that President Obama is running for re-election. However, he did mention that his office remains interested in making  more use of LinkedIn. He said that LinkedIn’s data “is very professionally-organized” and that it gets “looked over a lot.” He also said that Twitter will be used a lot more beyond tweeting White House announcements.

As evidenced by the fact that in the 2010 election over twenty-six percent of the American population have mobile phones is a sign that that mobile apps will play a bigger part in the upcoming presidential election said Rainie, he added that “All of the metrics of [how the public] uses social media are going up . . . the Internet is just going to become more and more important part of the campaign.”

Finn believed that new journalists with print and digital experience will play a significant part in the election cycle. She said that their ability to “determine good versus bad facts will be more important than ever,” especially since “having a good story is now less important than breaking news.”

Also, new journalists “must participate in social media” said Finn. They must think of different platforms to promote their story in the social media era. Finn said that new journalists must be “active social media participants” in that they make regular use of their Facebook and Twitter accounts not to only “post info but also engage with their followers, fans and those in their social network community.”

Owen said that in 2012 that those with the social media resources will continue to be the “social networking innovators” in that that they will have the most influence. Though you still hear about the digital divide being about race, Owen said that socioeconmic status mostly determines a person’s social network involvement. “Users of social media are not as diverse as we would like them to be,” said Owen. She also said that class and education status will play a role in the 2012 election and subsequent elections when it comes to social media.

Final Thoughts

Social media continues to play a significant part in the public’s political discussions and actions. Yet, does a tweet constitute civic engagement? Does becoming a fan of a politician’s page proves that a voter is paying attention to that politician’s activities?

The panelists seemed to believe that social  media can be used to reignite the public’s interest in campaigns, elections and civics education. However, their answers didn’t seem to go beyond what has already been addressed about how social media can empower its citizenry and what tools would best serve this purpose . Maybe this is because many of us are still learning how to use social media, let alone how to use it effectively in the political/governmental arena. Its ability to mobilize citizens to become full-fledged participants in the American democratic process has yet to be determined.

(For complete discussion, see How Social Networking Can Reinvigorate American Democracy and Civic Participation)

Anthony Weiner Should Resign – Not Because of the Photos

Rep. Anthony Weiner (June 11, 2011 – Photo/CNN)

Note: Blog post written prior to Rep. Anthony Weiner’s June 16, 2011 resignation from the U.S. Congress.

It’s been a little over week since a tweeted photo of Rep. Anthony Weiner‘s (New York, 9th Dist.) penis became a news and media sensation. Subsequent photos of Weiner shirtless, flexing his pecs close-up and in the Congressional locker room has popped up as well. Some members of Congress, the media and the general public have asked him to resign, but Weiner has been steadfast in holding onto his seat.

The hysteria over the photos has been ridiculous, though he brought it on himself by posting the photos and then lying about it. However, I still believe he should resign. Not because of the photos, which I found to be more laughable and slightly narcissistic than lewd. He should resign because he is no longer an effective representative for his constituents or the Democratic Party.

Yet, I understand why he has not resigned. Weiner is probably thinking ‘Well, I haven’t spent time with prostitutes (Sen.Barney Frank, Sen. David Vitter, Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer); hit on underage Congressional pages (Rep. Mark Foley); tried to pick up an undercover male cop in an airport bathroom (Sen. Larry Craig); left my wife to go hitchhiking with my Argentinian mistress (Gov. Mark Sanford); cheated on my cancer-ridden wife with a campaign worker whom I knocked up (Former Sen. John Edwards); had an affair with my political treasurer who was the wife of my administrative assistant (Sen. John Ensign) or fathered a 10-year old lovechild with my housekeeper while I was governor of California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) or left ejaculation on an intern’s dress (Former U.S. President Bill Clinton). Hell, I just sent some photos which was a HUGE mistake!’

Though America has come a long way in redefining what it deems to be immoral, it’s puritanical streak still exists. In Europe, Weiner’s transgression would’ve moved to the backpages of most newspapers by now with a nod and wink to his silliness and that would’ve been it. However in the U.S. he is fighting to keep his job and his marriage.

The Weiner scandal is an example of the fact that many of us live a different life online. We say and do things online that we probably wouldn’t do face-to-face. When you’re online it can cause you not to filter things as well as you would in-person. The Internet makes it so easy to type, point, click and send anything to anyone. As a result, you sometimes forget to think ‘Should I have done that?’ or ‘What would person X think about that?’ By the time you wonder about your online action–if ever–it’s too late. Information such as a Facebook photo posted by a friend of your drunken wife at a strip club, your ex texting a naked photo of you to her friends and neighbors or a tweet in which you called your boss a dick is out there for all to find, read and see. You can never take it back.

Yet the question remains – Is what Weiner did so wrong? He showed an extreme lack of judgement in using his work-related social media accounts to send photos of himself to women who weren’t his wife. He also showed his technological cluelessness in not understanding the online ramifications for his postings. That’s it in a nutshell. The wrongfulness of his actions will be decided by his wife, Huma Abedin, not the general public or Congress since Weiner embarrassed himself and humiliated her with his quasi-adulterous online life.

Weiner should resign because he will no longer be taken seriously by his colleagues, the public or the people he represents. Whenever he opens his mouth to speak on anything his online photos will be mentioned over and over again. Whenever he attempts to take the high moral ground on anything he will have to deal with questions regarding his own morality. Whenever he runs for election candidate X will throw his photos in his political face and everything else will be drowned out. He will, in effect be neutered, pun intended.

All that being said, there is a possibility that he could hold onto his job, but at what cost? He will be a shadow of his former political self. Maybe that is the ultimate and real reason why he should resign.

Sarah Palin: Not So Plain, Not So Tall

Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska; possible GOP 2012 presidential candidate (Photo by Theresalbs2002/WikimediaCommons)

When I was a teen, I read the classic children’s book ‘Sarah Plain and Tall,’ which is about a woman who dresses plainly but is ‘tall’ of character. This book popped into my head when I heard about Sarah Palin’s upcoming ‘One Nation‘ tour. This Palin is definitely not plain. As for her character, it depends on whom you’re asking at the time.

If you haven’t heard already, Palin plans to visit historical sites along the East Coast (starting Memorial weekend) in which she’ll “share the importance of America’s foundation.” Not exactly sure what she plans to accomplish since details are still sketchy. One can’t help but think that this move–amongst others she has made recently–is in preparation for her run for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Palin has been quiet these past few months as her popularity and poll numbers have dropped since the Tucson/Giffords shooting. The GOP weren’t exactly enamored about her possible presidential candidacy, especially when they had other more viable potential candidates in the wings such as Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. Romney, Pawlenty and Gingrich are the only bigwigs left and yet the GOP still look like they’re waiting for someone else, someone better. I doubt that person is Palin, but maybe she feels that she is the one person to pull the party together.

Palin could have been the lead GOP 2012 candidate if she had played her cards right after the 2008 election. She knew as the GOP’s then vice-presidential candidate that the general public thought (and some still think) that she is all flash, no substance. Her intelligence and interest in governing has been constantly questioned.

After November 2008 she could have taken stock of her situation and decided to beef up her credentials. She could have sat down and familiarized herself with the print and digital media. She could have hit the books to get a stronger understanding of the U.S. economy, how government works and our nation’s history. Palin could have reached out to experts, journalists, politicians and academics to find out what they think about foreign affairs, the national debt, health care, social reform or the U.S. military presence overseas. She could have written op-ed pieces, co-written reports, posted blogs, showed up on the Sunday talk shows, or participated in panel discussions at think tanks or universities.  She could have done town halls or Facebook discussions where the public could ask her questions about the state of America. Palin did none of those things.

What has she done these past 2+ years?  She gave a Thanksgiving interview in which a turkey was being slaughtered in the background. She resigned from the governorship of the state of Alaska with 18 months left in her first term. She did a reality show based on her life in Alaska. She became a sometime pundit on Fox News. She wrote Going Rogue which read more like a conversation than a book explaining her political purpose in life. She decried that Obama’s healthcare program would institute bureaucratic death panels which would decide who are worthy to receive healthcare or pass on to the hereafter. She made limited speeches in front of corporate executives and advocacy groups in which she charged five and six figure fees. She wrote notes in black ink on her hand to help her remember talking points during speeches. She joined the social media sphere via Twitter and Facebook which allowed the public immediate access to her word choice skills (remember ‘refudiate?‘) that was cause for ridicule.  She showed tone-deafness when she turned the Tucson shooting into a complaint about people targeting her. These are not the things you do when you want to be taken seriously as a possible presidential candidate.

Some people despise Sarah Palin and/or think she is an idiot. I think she is a serious lightweight who loves the media/public attention and the idea of being president, not the actual work that comes with being President of the United States. She doesn’t have the mental stamina or fortitude to handle the job, though she probably doesn’t think she needs it. Palin seems to be a firm believer of guts over intelligence. That’s great if you’re picking who is going to win the Super Bowl, not so great when you have to decide whether to send Navy Seals into Pakistan to kill an international terrorist. There is a difference, though she probably wouldn’t see it.

Palin wasted an opportunity to be viewed as a thoughtful, smart and genuine candidate, even if you disagreed with her politics. Unfortunately for her, our image of her as a semi-dim cheerleader has not changed. She loves to blame others for how she is viewed and/or portrayed. Palin has yet to realize or accept that she has no one to blame but herself.

Note: Sarah Palin decided not to run as a potential GOP presidential candidate for the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Mitt Romney ended up becoming the GOP’s nominee. Romney lost the presidential election to to incumbent President Barack Obama.

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