Change we can still believe in

Letters to the Boston editor, September 5, 2008
By BOSTON PHOENIX LETTERS  |  September 4, 2008

Steven Stark is right to remind us that the presidential race isn’t a done deal. Barack Obama has already cleared many hurdles in his historic bid for the presidency, yet many remain. Further, as Stark points out, it would be a mistake to count out John McCain. But Stark undermines his argument by presenting dubious evidence to suggest that Obama’s odds are less favorable than we might think.

First, how Obama performs on Election Day has nothing to do with what state he calls home. After all, the Republicans didn’t fare too well the last time an Arizona senator headed the presidential ticket (Barry Goldwater in 1964).

Second, Stark says that no candidate in the primary era has won the presidency after failing to win more than one of the nation’s seven largest states’ primary or caucuses. He neglects to point out that in previous years, the presumptive nominees were determined before Pennsylvania and Texas had the opportunity to vote.

Further, political scientists dispute the National Journal’s claim that Obama was the most liberal Democrat in 2007. Instead, compelling evidence that considers all of the roll-call votes cast shows that Obama (and Clinton) is just to the left of the average Democratic member of the 110th Congress.

Whether Obama’s political “inexperience” will work against him remains an open question. The winning presidential candidates in 1960, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004 all had less “political experience” than their opponents. And indeed this year, there appears to be a rising tide against the traditional metric of political experience.

Jon Rogowski

But you’re still cool with China, right?
Very amusing, Sara Faith Alterman, but you dropped some clues that you barely visited Beijing, and are mainly reporting stereotypes and dribble. I lived in Beijing for five weeks in March through April of this year, and walked, took taxis and the subway, rode the bus and my bicycle all over the city. There are no giant Mao statues randomly scattered around Beijing. You don’t have to have been there to know this, just have to know something about China (see discussion about removal of statues, New York Times, April 15, 1988). Your second clue was more subtle: there are no cereal boxes in China! (Or very few, imported, in Western-style supermarkets — that’s our kinda food, girlfriend.)

Your “observations” make me wonder where this anger is coming from — are Americans afraid of China? Resentful? Anxious about the future? So much that we vomit mean-spirited bile and say things like this (and I wish I were kidding):

I should have known that a country that vehemently denied SARS and tried to poison our pets and children might be a little less than forthcoming about the asinine, algae-scented shitshow that is the 2008 Olympics.

You felt affronted that people wanted a picture with you. Yes, this happened to me, perhaps even once per day, but it was flattering and charming. Permissions were always asked and there were big smiles all around. So what exactly was your problem?

Your article has one achievement — a new term for the attitude that Americans are superior and residents of other cultures inferior: “Americaphile asshole.” It used to be “Ugly American” and “Boobus Americanus.” Great to have a new phrase for the 21st century.

Catherine Caldwell-Harris, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Of Psychology
Boston University, Boston

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