Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Midwestern Road Trip

soothes the soul...

I've been on the road for the last week. Left DC for Ann Arbor on the 19th.

Did a poetry reading at Jay Platt's West Side Book Shop on the 20th. That was a wonderful time.

Julie was there, of course (I stayed at her house). And my sister Teri came up from Chicago. Old political friends and old co-rec softball friends and old Student-Book-Service-University Cellar friends and even a young man taking a poetry class at the University of Michigan showed up. And all of them attentive and kind. A sweet, extended moment.

Then, after another day, on to Chicago, where I spent a night at sister Dale's and another night at brother Mark's house. I got a chance to talk to John Bachtell at the community center at 33rd St. and S. Wallace. John enthusiastically agreed to a public reading sometime in the next month or two. The next day, I talked to Mike James at Heartland Cafe about doing the same thing. Michael was just as agreeable as John. So it looks like I will get an opportunity to read at venues on both the North and South Sides at a March or April time to be announced.

On Thursday afternoon I headed down to Urbana where Nate and his partner Nikki live. Nephew Abraham (Mark's son) showed up in Urbana, too--on Friday night. Abe makes an occasional appearance on In and Out, in the comments section (here and here, for example). He's a tough audience, always challenging me to substantiate my opinions.

Abe just got a new-media type job with the Chicago Tribune after working for several years in the news division side of Google. His perspective on similarities and differences between the news room at the Trib and work life at Google, recounted in "From Google News to the Chicago Tribune, Observations after a month in the newsroom" are fascinating.

I love being on the road, seeing my kids and sibs and old friends, but I'll be glad to be heading back to D.C. tonight. For one thing, I sort of miss my writing routine. And for another, I want to blog more often, a change that seems too difficult to make when traveling.

Marrianne has also suggested that I begin using Facebook and Twitter to help promote whatever I post. Given how exciting it is when the audience for these pages grows by even a couple new readers, I'm looking forward to following her advice.

... and bookends Hilary Clinton's congressional testimony 

In the meantime, I have been a far less diligent consumer of the news in any form, this past week. But at a McDonald's stop a few days ago, on a TV actually tuned to CNN, I did manage to catch some of Hillary Clinton's testimony before Congress. I was briefly riveted by what I was seeing. Clinton seemed so formidable, almost intimidating the members of Congress who tried to confront her. She's no stone face, either, and displayed a wider range of apparently authentic emotion than that generally displayed by others (mostly men) who testify before Congress.

It struck me then that Clinton might well be the Republicans' worst nightmare. Right now, among all possible candidates for president in 2016, she probably has the highest name recognition and favorability rating. She almost certainly has the most demographically diverse group of potential supporters among registered voters, and first claim on the most talented and experienced election strategists in the country.

Sure, there are reasons why she might not run, and reasons why she might lose, but it seems to me that the stronger arguments are on the side of a Clinton run and a Clinton victory. If that turns out to be the case, eight years of Obama would be only the first act of a Democratic resurgence capable of wiping out much of the damage inflicted by Republican administrations dating back to Richard Nixon. (Here's a piece by Robert Reich that discusses some of that undoing).

Of course, that would just be remedial action. There is still the very large problem of climate change, which must be addressed in the most progressive possible ways, no matter how late in the game it might be. That, as I've argued before in "The Climatological Cliff Looms Largest" and "Calamity Jeff Speaks," must be a first priority if human beings are to avoid a dystopian future.

Such continuing progressive action, if it is to come, will require a center-left political coalition that has not previously manifested itself in the United States. It will take leftists, who sit out most elections (or participate half-heartedly), deciding that they are all in; deciding that the political compromises that characterize democratic governance at its best are not so compromising as they have always seemed. Arguably, if leftists are willing to back off from an ideological rejection of electoral politics, it might be possible to put to together a center-left electoral majority big enough to convincingly defeat the forces of reaction that dominate the Republican party today and make the world's oldest democracy more democratic, and governable once more.

Anyway, Hillary Clinton might very well be the candidate most likely to mobilize that center-left coalition. Sure, she's no leftist. And Bill Clinton's history as a driving force in pushing the Democratic party rightward, and his role in welfare reform, also compromise Hillary in some fundamental way, at least insofar as many leftists are concerned. Nevertheless, she is admired for her political courage, for her competence as Secretary of State, and for her leadership in the first effort to achieve national health care reform, however disastrous the attempt turned out to be. Add leftist electoral engagement to Clinton's obvious political strengths and to the feminist enthusiasm that is likely to boost her campaign, and the possibilities for a major Democratic victory in 2016 go up.

Maybe nobody else sees it that way, but I'm betting that there's a few Republican strategists who have their fingers crossed for anybody-but-Hillary.

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