Since it is Presidents' Day (or whatever else you call today, apostrophized or not), I thought I'd take it easy on our current president, and take a break from the regular ridicule I've been heaping upon him since he was sworn in. Today's supposed to be a noble holiday, after all, so I thought I'd make an extra effort at evenhandedness, and take a look back through history at some of the rocky starts various American presidents have had on the job.
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Last night, President Barack Obama bid the American public farewell. He gave a speech that was inspiring, and called upon Americans to get involved in the political process in a multitude of ways. Like many historic farewell addresses (even quoting from George Washington's), it also delivered a warning about what Obama perceives as current and future dangers which threaten America. Washington's farewell address, when read in full, contains a scathing denunciation of the mere concept of political parties (called "factions" at the time), and Obama's followed suit in denouncing the rabidly partisan era we now find ourselves in.
The Democratic Party is currently struggling with the question of who should be leading it, heading into the future. Should they stick with known leaders, or is it time for fresh blood? Most notable in this power struggle are the questions of who should lead the Democrats in the House, and who should lead the Democratic National Committee. The Senate had largely decided their own leadership question before the election, since Harry Reid had already announced his retirement. The Senate leadership handoff that just happened had already been worked out months ago, and Senator Chuck Schumer will (starting in January) be known as Minority Leader Schumer for the next two years. Over on the House side, a fierce debate is taking place as to whether Nancy Pelosi should continue as the Democratic leader or whether someone younger might be a better option. The D.N.C. leadership may be the biggest fight of all, though, as multiple candidates have already thrown their hats in the ring.
For the past eight years, America has had an African-American president. Faced with the prospect of a white woman succeeding him, America instead just elected an angry white man as president. Call it the triumph of angry white men everywhere. Millions of Americans are about to find out what it's like to be led by the equivalent of the drunk uncle at the Thanksgiving table who refuses to follow the rules of politeness and political correctness. Was it a backlash against our first black president? Or rampant misogyny towards Hillary Clinton? Or just free-floating rage against a changing culture that is becoming more tolerant and multicultural by the year? It's impossible to accurately say, really. The only thing that can be said for certain is that angry white men are now dominant.
However, regular readers of this column are going to have to wait yet another week for a standard Friday Talking Points offering. This week we are throwing out our format entirely, and instead providing an explanation of who we're voting for, followed by a call for reform in an effort to inject a possible silver lining to what promises to be a very contentious Election Day (no matter who wins). Yes, there will be optimism at the end of this column, specifically provided for people who are tired of the apocalyptic tone of the final pre-election week. So there's that to look forward to.
Hoo boy. Every Friday morning, we sit down and review all the news stories from the past week, in preparation for writing this column. After spending a few hours reading and taking notes and copying URLs, the writing begins. But we've learned, over the years, to do a last-minute check on the headlines right before we stop reading the news and start typing. Because every so often, a big bombshell lands that simply cannot be ignored. This is, to put it mildly, one of those times we're glad we checked, because a bombshell just exploded all over the presidential race.
There is a major political debate currently happening in many parts of this country, but the astonishing thing is that most politicians -- especially those on the national stage -- seem to want to pretend the debate doesn't even exist. We saw this previously on the issue of gay marriage, when even the Democratic candidates for president in 2008 wouldn't support the idea for fear of losing votes -- even though it was obviously the right thing to do. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would only support half-measures whose time had already passed, saying they were in favor of "civil unions," but that "marriage" was too sacred a word to use for these unions. That was only eight years ago, and the political shift since then has been monumental. These days, it would be hard for any Democrat to get elected who didn't wholeheartedly support marriage equality for all. The people led, and the leaders eventually followed.
The Drug Enforcement Agency finally just released its long-awaited decision, and it was a disappointing one for anyone hoping for a sane realignment of federal policy towards marijuana. Marijuana will remain a Schedule I dangerous controlled substance, although (the one silver lining) the federal monopoly on marijuana legally grown for scientific research purposes will end, and multiple sites will be allowed (only one now exists). This will help expand medical research on marijuana -- something that the federal government has been actively discouraging for decades, now. So at least there's that. But the D.E.A.'s refusal to recognize that (as Dylan once said) the times they are a-changing means that federal marijuana policy reform is likely to happen from one of two other possible routes.
This is definitely going to be my final report from Philadelphia. I realize I'm almost a week late with it, but it was a busy and sleep-deprived week all around. In case you missed it, I reviewed the primetime speeches Monday and then yesterday posted my photos from the trip. Today I'm going to cover Day Three and Day Four (outside of the primetime hour), as well as give a few closing thoughts and general impressions.
Donald Trump finally stopped talking, so I can now start writing. His speech went on for almost an hour and a half, which was a bit much for me -- especially after an exhausting week of listening to Republicans talk. But that's the end of the evening, so let's go back to the beginning and see how we got here.