Home / Posts tagged "Politicos"

Things I think I think regarding Oprah for president

First, let’s get one thing out of the way: I will always want a president who is above all experienced in and knowledgeable of governing (both at a high level and the everyday minutiae), but also familiar with international history and politics, and empathetic of the challenges facing the poorest and least advantaged Americans. (For a sample resume of an ideal candidate, see Hillary Clinton.)

That said, I had a lot of thoughts in response both to the suggestion that Oprah may run for president and to the reaction other people had to the suggestion that Oprah may run for president. Here are the most prominent of these thoughts:

Continue reading

No cheering in the press box, or a rumination on the greatest joy in sports

Imagine the baseball playoffs happened only every four years and only four teams got to play. Imagine the intervening years were one long tournament to see who got those four spots, one of which always seemed to go to the Yankees. Imagine there were baseball teams that had never gone, some that had only gone once. Imagine fans that prayed for a chance to see their teams step on to the field in the World Series just once in their lifetimes.

You can’t. I can’t. And it doesn’t matter, really, because there is no hypothetical that would convey with any accuracy the sheer ecstasy a World Cup birth can bring to an entire country. The Yankees in this case are Brazil. Yes, I’m talking about soccer, a sport that makes many a silly American laugh or sneer or take pride in the fact he hates the sport precisely because the rest of the world loves it and say, “We have our own football, and it’s better, and we still call the winner of the league ‘world’ champions.”

But, you know what, it’s his loss. That guy won’t cry like a little girl when his team simply makes it in to the big tournament, won’t run to the middle of the street after the game to see it flooded with fellow fans, incredulous and delirious, because the national team did it. They’re in. WE’RE IN! He won’t see his president declare a national holiday the next day because for the first time in 30 years, they’re in. WE’RE IN!

All of that happened in Honduras on Wednesday night, right after Jonathan Bornstein of the U.S. Men’s National Team headed in a goal in the waning seconds of its final World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica. For the U.S., the goal tied a meaningless game–they had punched their ticket to the 2010 “finals,” as they say in Europe, four days before. For Honduras, it meant the “catrachos” hop-scotched Costa Rica for the North and Central American region’s third automatic bid to the greatest sporting event in the world. It will be the country’s second ever trip to the World Cup and the first in 27 years. Most of America wasn’t paying attention when the goal happened. Honduras was on its knees. And afterward, it was euphoric.

It’s an unwritten rule in sports journalism that you don’t cheer in the press box. Sports writers are impartial observers, not fans. Even at The Daily Tar Heel, students covering UNC basketball games were not allowed to wear Carolina blue to the games. You can love the team as much as the next guy. You just can’t wear it on your sleeve. Same goes for the guys in the booth. Sure, most teams in every major league here in the U.S. has regular season radio or TV announcers who call the games with a soft-spot for the locals, but the biggest games get the biggest pros. So for the greatest play in the history of the Super Bowl, the call went to the monotone Joe Buck.

Listen to that Honduran play caller crying as he announces the U.S. goal and Honduras’ entry into the World Cup. It’s hard to imagine any American play caller getting that emotional about anything. Sure they get excited–Gus Johnson is good for that much–but has anyone actually broken down in tears on the air? It wasn’t just the play caller either. If you listen close, you can hear people in the background yell “Gol!” right before he does. The whole booth was watching and praying. The whole country was. And when it was all over, the whole country celebrated.

Honduras is a special place for me. I spent four formative summers there as a teenager, starting right after 8th grade, when my dad was transferred there by Chiquita. He doesn’t work for Chiquita anymore, but he’s still there, still growing bananas. The older of my two younger sisters doesn’t remember living anywhere else and the younger of the two never has. I have dear friends from those summers who I still keep in touch with, and memories that will always make me smile. So even though I root for the U.S. National Team, I wanted that Bornstein goal for Honduras.

It’s a poor country, one wracked by gang violence and currently embroiled in a political fight between a democratically elected, yet politically dangerous Chavez-wannabe and a quick-to-the-crackdown replacement government that resorted to a military coup at a time in history many believed Latin America had finally left that regrettable tactic in the history books. Honduras needed Bornstein to make the goal. And now, he’s a national hero. There was a palpable joy in Honduras’ celebrations, but also relief and maybe some hope that everything will be OK. Soccer has done this before.

Franklin Foer’s book “How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization” is a fascinating read. Using everything from local to international leagues, Foer looks at how certain squads are microcosms that illustrate the defining political questions of our time. The trope holds up in some cases better than others, but the underlying truth is that no sport, no social gathering place, figurative or otherwise, has the ability to affect the power structures that govern the world like soccer. That may not seem plausible to Americans because no sport played in the U.S., certainly not soccer, is capable of bridging the painfully entrenched lines in the sand between Rush Limbaugh’s right wing and Rachel Maddow’s left.

Moments of tragedy have united us–the days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the mass shooting at Virginia Tech–but just as quickly, it seems, the old divisions rear their ugly heads, bigger and uglier than before. We are a much, much larger country and much more diverse than Honduras, so bringing everyone under the same tent isn’t as easy as heading in a goal from a corner kick (and that’s not really all that easy). Maybe there will never be anything we all agree on, nothing that will drives us all to dance in the streets with joy. I suppose that’s OK. Few countries, few peoples, will every feel get to feel what Hondurans are feeling right now. I’ve come to expect the U.S. to make it to the World Cup every four years. My little sisters might never know this feeling again. They deserve it. Honduras deserves it.

To boldly go where no justice has gone before: Copy editing the presidential oath

So we all know that Barack Obama became president at high noon (eastern time) on Tuesday. He didn’t take the official oath until a few minutes after that, but according to the Constitution, the time, not the oath, marks the beginning of his term. The oath itself was administered not exactly flawlessly by Chief Justice John Roberts, who should have taken a page from the book of John Paul Stevens, the much older, much more liberal and, at least as far as oaths are concerned, much wiser justice, who brought along a cheat-sheet to swear in Vice President Joe Biden. Some conspiracy theorists, bless their lefty hearts, believe Roberts was trying to render invalid Obama’s presidency. I have a different view.

At worst, Roberts was just being a know-it-all and thought he didn’t need any help remembering any old oath, thank you very much. At best, he was correcting it. Here are the words that tripped up Roberts:

I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Grammarians and school marms everywhere will tell you that a compound verb should remain intact. The adverb “faithfully” should follow the verb phrase “will execute,” rather than split it as the oath does. Nowadays, of course, this is more of a preference than a hard and fast rule. Likewise, the even more egregious error of splitting an infinitive — to go, for example — happens all the time now. No thanks to the folks at Star Trek for “boldly” inserting such bad grammar into the popular vernacular.

So when Roberts said, “will execute the office of President of the United States faithfully,” instead of “will faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States,” he was doing nothing more than paying homage to some elementary school teacher who grilled good grammar into his head. Perhaps he was being presumptuous in correcting the words of the founding fathers, but I can’t blame him. Everybody needs a copy editor.

Godspeed, Mr. President!

Dear Mr. President,

It’s a new day, a new era, but also just another day people are hurting. I hope that sometime today, you take a moment to yourself, say a little prayer perhaps, and really absorb what this moment means for all of us as Americans — those who preceded you in the fight for civil rights and those who are still fighting. Immediately after, of course, you must gather yourself and get ready for the work ahead because there is lots of it.

There’s the obvious: the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There’s also our environment, our schools, our food, our health. There’s our relationships abroad and our relationships here at home — both mended a bit by your election, but still raw.

In short, you’ve got a lot to do. I don’t know how much your administration will get to or if you will do any of it well. I am full of hope that at least on some measures you will succeed. The majority of the country, even those who didn’t vote for you feel the same, if only because hope is all some of us have left. You gave it to us during your campaign and now, given the state of things, we have few other options but to hold on to it.

Watching your inauguration ceremony, I felt a swell of pride of what our country can do and a swell of patriotism for the great genius of democracy that transfers power peacefully and to applause, not strife.

So good luck to you and all of us. May you stand tall, may your wife be strong (and awesomely fashionable), may your girls be proud (and super cute).

On inaugural concerts, generational transitions and the diva-laureate

A few times yesterday during the “We Are One” Inaugural Concert, as the camera panned to the presidential box, you could catch a peak of President-elect Barack Obama’s niece, the daughter of his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, leaning on her father, mouth open, catching a little shut-eye. I can hardly blame her. I’ve flown from Hawaii to the mainland myself and can attest to it being an exhausting trip. (It made me think of the big moments in history I might have slept through as a child: the assassination of Luis Carlos Galan in Colombia or the take down of Panama dictator Manuel Noriega by the U.S. military are the first that come to mind.) As a young child, she may not quite get the historical significance of this moment. In her mind, this may just be par for the course for her famous uncle, who’s been winning elections her whole life, but there is significance in that too. For young children, having non-white candidates, women candidates, will be the norm as will be the expectation that all children can look forward and dream of leading this country. It may sound a trite sentiment, but it’s important and part of the generational shift that Obama’s election represents.

Speaking of generational shifts, the concert itself presented a nice mix of the old and the new — none more awesome perhaps than old school folk singer Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing This Land is Your Land, a song that, like the Boss’ Born in the U.S.A., was written as a tribute to the American worker and an anthem of social justice but has somehow been sapped of its emotional power by the forces of bland (and blind) patriotism. There was also the balding but still grooving Stevie Wonder singing along side current R&B prince Usher and fellow Barranquillera Shakira, who brought out her shake-happy hips in some presidential leather pants. For a concert, there was a little too much talking — Hollywood, I get that you like being in front of any camera, but seriously, how ’bout ceding the stage for a change — but I loved the collection of songs performed. The best moments, for me, were Mary J. Blige’s soulful rendition of Lean on Me in her 4-inch snakeskin boots, Seeger and Springsteen, John Mellencamp and soprano Renee Fleming, who showed everyone how opera divas do it.

Speaking of divas, Beyonce got to close the show with America the Beautiful, donning her own set of leather trousers. Beyonce has been given the additional honor of singing the Obamas’ first dance at the first official inaugural ball Tuesday night, thus cementing her position as America’s diva-laureate. I have to say that I didn’t want to like Beyonce. Destiny’s Child’s music was not especially interesting or distinctive, if you ask me, and anyway the group was obviously manufactured by Beyonce’s father to bring his baby girl (and nobody else) into stardom. Nevertheless, her solo projects have been a better showcase of her vocal talents. The movie musical Dreamgirls may have become a coming out party for Jennifer Hudson, but Beyonce’s Listen was so stirring and powerful, I was won over. She also married the very awesome Jay-Z and did so without pimping herself or the ceremony out to the tabloids for cash. How lasting her career will be remains to be seen and likely will depend on her willingness to push herself to grow as an artist, something she’s done only in baby-steps so far. Still, for the time being, she has the presidential seal of approval. For a diva-laureate, the country could do worse.

2008 in review: Politicos

It seems so long ago that Barack Obama was elected president. It’s been only two months. The man hasn’t even taken office, and yet I already feel as if we’ve heard too much blather about his Cabinet choices — and the choices to replace those choices. One of the would-be secretaries, Bill Richardson, has already resigned. Obama’s gone on vacation — shirtless, with the paparazzi on his trail — laid his grandmother to rest and gotten his daughters off to their new school, Sidwell Friends, the “Harvard” of the D.C. private school set, or so the pundits say, and alma matter to the last presidential daughter to reside in the White House as a tween, Chelsea. I went to college with a classmate of hers. He enjoyed sharing a story about Chelsea and her boyfriend sneaking away from her Secret Service detail during a dance at the school and getting caught making out in a broom closet. He also liked to wear his College Republicans T-shirt almost every other day.

But getting back on subject here, we wouldn’t have all the talking heads discussing the Obama administration-elect as if that Bush guy didn’t still have the launch codes for another week or so, if it weren’t for the long, wrenching, soul-lifting and soul-crushing campaign that was. I’ve voted in three previous presidential contests, and none of them felt like this. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a full-time job, because my retirement savings hadn’t gone to shit, because my husband still can’t sell his condo, almost four years after moving out. This one truly felt as if the world, the future, depended on it. We had women, minorities, first ladies, Hollywood actors, veterans, hockey moms, the child of a father born in Africa, the child of a father born in Scranton. We had race, religion, science, an inspired youth, an inspired senior citizenry, an inspired society of dog-lovers eager to know what breed will go to the White House with the first daughters. We had everything, a gauntlet that would have vanquished lesser individuals.

At the outset, I believed Obama would make a great president in the future, but could not, would not, be elected now. I believed that John McCain would have made a great president in the past, but could not, would not, be chosen to lead a party that so obviously did not want him. I was wrong on both counts. Republicans chose McCain, albeit reluctantly and about 8 years too late, and voters of all kinds looked beyond the fear-mongering and race-baiting and chose Obama. I’m still a little amazed that it happened. We’ll have the rest of 2009 and the three years to follow to see what kind of president Obama will be, to see whether the path Bush has set us on is irreversible, whether Obama truly has the mettle to steer us in a new direction, whether congressional Democrats can get something — anything — done.

For now, though, I thank Barack Obama and Joe Biden and John McCain and Sarah Palin (yes, even her) and Hillary Clinton for being good Americans. It wasn’t pretty, but it was an election.

5 things, in no particular order

1. That race is still going on?

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune projected that Saturday Night Live alum-turned-talking head Al Franken would win the long protracted fight for the Minnesota senate seat that still hasn’t been resolved more than a month after the election. According to the paper’s count, Franken leads by almost 200 votes. When hubby told me this, I realized I hadn’t thought about that race or national politics in general in weeks.

To be sure, anytime President-elect Obama has appointed someone to his Cabinet, I have usually looked up from what I was doing and read up on the story for a few minutes, but a few minutes was it. There was a time, mere weeks ago, when I couldn’t get enough political news. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I read everything I could find, and in the days following loved all the various ways columnists and reporters put the historic win in perspective. It’s likely, I suppose, that I OD’d and am now giving myself time to recover so that when Obama really is president, I’ll go back to a larger dose of news. But, on the other hand, it’s nice to see the wars of words that take daily place on the blogosphere go on without me and without giving me any more ulcers.

And speaking of Senate races . . .

2. Have Senate replacement battles always gotten this much attention?

Obviously, an invitation to join the Senate’s millionaire boys club means you’re set for life, which is why so much attention is paid when someone is tapped — rather than elected — to the position. Still, it seems like this year more than most, people are going crazy over all the possible appointments. Obama (whose own seat is at the center of the most controversial fight, given his governor’s kaching moment after Obama’s election) has asked a handful of senators to join his administration, leaving at least three seats open seats open. There’s VP-elect Biden of Delaware, Secretary of State to-be Hillary Clinton of New York and Secretary of the Interior to-be Ken Salazar of Colorado. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Caroline Kennedy has declared she wants Hillary’s seat, which was once held by her uncle Bobby. I think she’s qualified, even though some see it as a dynastic power grab. I’m not from New York, so I can’t speak to what the people of that state think, but at least you know she’s not in it for the money. There’s something to be said for someone who doesn’t need lobbyists to pay for her new house (like they did for former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska) while she’s deciding on how to vote for particular pieces of legislation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

In my own state of Colorado, there is a long line of potential candidates for Salazar’s post, but you better believe that Republicans are licking their chops for what they now see as a gettable seat. Nobody would have beaten the popular Salazar in his re-election bid two years from now. His replacement would be an incumbent too, but a much more vulnerable one, and Obama’s coattails may not be what they were this year after he has two years of having to deal with the current economic mess under his belt.

And speaking of Obama …

3. How many pastors does it take to controversify an inauguration?

A lot of people are making hay of his invitation of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to the inauguration to read the invocation. It’s easy to see why. Warren was among the California pastors who supported Proposition 8 in California, which took away the rights of gay couples to marry after those rights had been established as constitutional by that state’s Supreme Court. Gay people helped Obama get elected and celebrated with him on Election Night even as they saw their rights stripped away by a group of people who campaigned on lies (churches would be forced to marry gay couples — not true) and innuendo (children would be indoctrinated into the gay lifestyle — as if).

Obviously, many Obama supporters are upset over this. What really bothers me is not Warren but this: Why is religion allowed to play such a big role in the public square in what is by every definition a secular government? Say what religious people will, our country wasn’t founded by committed Christians “under God” (those words did not appear in the original pledge of allegiance). It was founded by Enlightenment humanists who wanted to establish freedom from religion in government. Many of the first settlers who came to the colonies, including those legendary Pilgrims, were fleeing a monarchy that exerted too great an influence on their religious lives. Those early Christians wanted the government to stay away from their houses of worship. The long and winding road that led us from that to this is a bit baffling to me.

I don’t think that this was a calculated political decision by Obama. I truly believe he is a person of faith and wants that faith represented during his inauguration. But his faith, as far as his office is concerned, is beside the point. He may not agree with me, but the Constitution does.

And speaking of Christians . . .

4. Will this recession finally end the commercialization of Christmas?

I wonder how many pastors out there are taking advantage of this economic downturn — in which many families are toning down the gift-giving — to remind people that Christmas (or Hanukkah for that matter) was never about gift-giving. Bill O’Reilly is wrong about the “war” against Christmas — it isn’t about political correctness and those who say “Happy Holidays!” That’s merely a surface distraction, in other words, O’Reilly’s bread and butter. The true war against Christmas is the commercialization of it. When you’ve got a list of gifts to buy a mile long and it takes an hour just to find a parking space at the mall, who has time to reflect on family and friends, the year gone by and the year ahead, and, most importantly, what the holiday truly means. I don’t hope to have another recession like this one any time soon. The abstention from gift-buying may be a sign, for many families, of economic duress, but I hope at least some embrace the idea that you don’t have to buy anything to make this of all holidays worth celebrating.

And speaking of celebrating . . .

5. Is Tyler Hansbrough the greatest Tar Heel of all time?

Well, no. At least, it’s arguable, but the boy has scored more points than any other player who has worn Carolina blue and that is as great an accomplishment as any in college basketball. It’s a record I don’t expect to be broken again in my lifetime, which is exactly how old it was (30 years) until yesterday, when Hansbrough made it his with a little more than 7 minutes to go in the first half. Besides, few of the players capable of it would stay in college long enough to see it through. That’s what’s great about Tyler — he is a quintessential college player. He loves college life. He may not go on to be an NBA star, but in this game, he is one of the best.

I’m glad I got to watch him break the record. I hope I get to watch him win it all in March. Go Heels!

“And I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you pesky kids”

Viewed from one perspective, this hasn’t been a good week for newspapers. My own employer was put up for sale, a token gesture by the corporate overlords who really just want to put the thing out of its misery. My previous employer, the Chicago Tribune, declared bankruptcy — days after laying off a dozen longtime editorial staffers, now “creditors,” who can expect their hard-earned severance as soon as their esteemed governor, Rod Blagojevich, admits guilt in all corruption charges levied against him yesterday, which is to say, when hell freezes over. The New York Times is having “cash flow” problems. The Miami Herald is up for sale. Everywhere you turn, the people who provide news are hard up.

And yet, this will be a great week for newspapers, especially newspapers in Chicago. Even with the axe hanging over their heads, journalists at both the Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times (who have convicted felon Conrad Black to blame for their troubles) rose to the occasion when the aforementioned governor was charged with political crimes that set a new low in political malfeasance — quite the feat in Illinois. (Even the dead people who cast ballots for the late Richard J. Daley of Chicago are spinning in their graves.) Both papers offered up-to-the-minute news and reactions online, both printed afternoon extras and I am sure both kept employees working late into the night so this morning editions’ could be replete with detail and analysis. Both papers may be losing money, but their journalistic fervor is in tact.

Newsroom employees make sport of complaining about “the suits upstairs,” but if newspapers are failing it isn’t because the newsrooms aren’t doing their jobs. Among the many accusations levied against Blagojevich is one concerning the Tribune. Angered by relentless news coverage and an unforgiving editorial board who rightly demanded more from their elected leader, the good governor, according to charges against him, sought to hold back help on the Tribune’s parent company as it made moves to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its historic ballpark, Wrigley Field. Is there a better testament to work of the Tribune reporters and editors than that? Can we imagine what emboldened politicians and corrupt officials in Illinois and elsewhere might do without committed watchdogs on their trail? Can we, as citizens, afford to live without newspapers? Obviously no, and yet, such a future may yet come to be.

Many readers say they get their news from Yahoo or Google, but the last time I checked neither of those Internet sites employs journalists. Their “news” is merely an aggregation of links to content generated by other news organizations, most of them print publications. The newspaper may be dead, according to some small-thinking business soothsayers, but our need for news is not. It may be easy for newsroom people like me to blame “the suits” for their inability to sell what we work so hard to make the best product it can be. But faced with a difficult new business environment, they failed to answer the challenge, choosing simply to make the newsrooms do “more with less.” Now, having little left to cut, except their losses, they are giving up.

We in the newsrooms are still fighting. Yesterday, the Tribune and Sun-Times proved, once again, why the fight matters. To them, I say, thanks.

Palin knows her turkey — as we all should

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s ticket may not have won the presidential election, but that doesn’t mean she intends to go quietly into that Alaskan goodnight. As a vice presidential nominee, she gained the stature to be one of her party’s standard bearers going forward, but to remain so, she’s going to have to stay in the public eye.

One way to do that, I suppose, is to pardon a turkey and then hold a news conference as the rest of the turkeys, the ones deemed less camera-ready, are being slaughtered behind her. This happened last week, and the footage became quite the hit on YouTube.com after it was shown on MSNBC’s countdown and a handful of other news programs. Certainly, the incongruity of pardoning a turkey and then breezily talking politics and smiling cheekily (the only way Sarah knows how) for the camera while the other birds get ready to become Thanksgiving dinner is amusing. If nothing else, it points to the silliness of the pardoning ritual — why bother saving the life of one turkey when at factory farms across the country the only humane action taken against animals brought up for slaughter in the poorest of conditions is death itself?

Many of the programs who showed the footage of Palin and the dying turkeys called it yet another “gaffe” from the good governor, warned viewers about the “graphic” nature of the video and just generally criticized her. For what, though, I’m not sure. I’ve written about Palin before and probably will again, but on this, if on few other issues, I’m on her side. What, exactly, is wrong with being aware of where your food comes from? Of not thinking it a big deal that turkeys are dying right behind you? Where do people think their meat comes from if not from once living animals?

I’m not a vegetarian. Humans are carnivores. It’s in our biology. There are nutrients we get from meat that we don’t get anywhere else naturally. Having said that, though, I do sympathize with those who chose to abstain from meat because of the way animals are treated in our food industry. Most live in factory farms, in cages barely bigger than they are, without ever seeing the light of day. Farms and ranches have a mythological place in our country’s heritage and rightfully so, but in today’s world many are run not by families but by corporations with little regard or respect for the land and the animals. The result may be inexpensive food, but we end up paying for it in other ways: poor health, to offer one example, from cows whose meat is high in fat because they’ve been overfed with grain and aren’t allowed to graze naturally.

A library full of books has been written about the sad state of our food industry and how far removed the average American is from the source of his or her sustenance. The best are probably The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, who outlined how the next president can revolutionize the food industry in our country (and clean up the environment in the process) in a recent New York Times piece.

So Sarah Palin may be a lot of things and may have committed her share of gaffes. Knowing where her food comes from isn’t one of them. Just a little something to chew on as you digest that Thanksgiving meal.

Things I learned this election cycle

Election Day is over. The winner, Democrat Barack Obama, is celebrating his win, getting his administration ready for a smooth transition and, given the state of things, perhaps silently wondering, “What the hell did I get myself into?” I wish him and our country the best. For the moment, I’d like to reflect on some of the things that stuck with me over the course of this election season, some humorous, some not so. We learned a lot about the candidates (sometimes too much). We learned a lot about ourselves, as individuals and as a country. I learned . . .

. . . that women candidates are here to stay. Gerraldine Ferraro may have been the first, but Hillary Clinton, I believe, will be the one remembered as truly having started it all. Whereas Ferraro was tapped for the nomination by Walter Mondale, Clinton tapped herself. She put herself forward as a candidate for president and was affirmed by millions and millions of voters. At the end of her run, I knew that because of her, eventually, future female candidates could be younger, could be the mothers of young children and could maybe even campaign in a skirt instead of a pantsuit. And lo and behold, before I thought any of those things would happen, Sarah Palin did them all. Her selection may have turned out controversial, but it cemented the fact that the presence of women at the top is deeply important to both parties.

. . . that Tina Fey can act. Her Sarah Palin impression unleashed her as a performer in a way that took me by surprise. I have always been a huge fan of Fey, but I always considered her a writer first. (And I mean that as the highest praise I can give.) Though she was the brains behind the operation, Saturday Night Live rarely featured her in many skits outside of Weekend Update, none in which she or the character she was playing was the focal point. In the few movies she’s been in and her NBC show 30 Rock, she always seems to play a version of herself. Finally, in Palin, she let go of herself a little bit and shined. Sure, Palin was an easy target for parody, and perhaps it helped that both wear glasses. Still, though, playing a politician you happen to look like doesn’t guarantee a good impression or laughs (see Fred Armisen as Barack Obama). Fey has said that with the campaign over she’s putting away Fey for good, which is probably just as well. I’ll be looking forward to what characters she takes on the future.

. . . that standing in the same room as someone with whom you disagree can and will be exploited for political purpose. In our deeply polarized country, sometimes it feels as if we are at our safest, at our least encumbered, only when surrounded by people who are of like mind. It should be no surprise, then, that some of us have come to see spending time with those we disagree with as the exact opposite: imposing, dangerous. How can anyone stand in the same room as fiery, radical preacher, for example, and not begin to conform to his ideas? It’s easy. I read once that one key mark of intelligence, something that separates humans from animals, is the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in the mind at the same time. We can all do it. That some of us are no longer willing to is another matter, and that we have come to expect our leaders never to do it is ridiculous and scary. The fact is not all good ideas come from sensible centrist people. You know what used to be considered radical? The abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage. I don’t necessarily want President-elect Obama to make time to listen to what every crazy out there, on the left or the right, has to say. He has too many more important things to do. But I am glad to know that he won’t refuse to listen to them on principle.

. . . that this really is the dawn of a new era. The morning after the election, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, one of that network’s conservative talking heads and a supporter of John McCain, said that he welcomed at least one measure of change that Obama represented—a generational shift in leadership. For so long, he said, the politics of Washington has been marked by the politics of the 1960s, and especially the legacy of the Vietnam war. Obama, at 47 years of age, would be the very first president to be free of the baggage of that era. Scarborough, also 47, welcomed a future in which politics was here and now, not shackled by lines drawn in the sand 40 and 50 years ago. It remains true that Obama’s election is most meaningful to African-Americans, who for the first time see themselves reflected in the complexion of our leader. Personally, in Obama, I see the child of an immigrant, his Kenyan father, who came to this country seeking education and opportunity, just like my parents did. However you see the man, or whether or not you supported him, it is undeniable he represents something new and different, two things Americans aren’t always quick to embrace. But this is a new century, a new millennium, and, at least on Tuesday, a majority of Americans agreed that what Obama is—mixed, young, hopeful—is who we are.