Friday, January 30, 2009

Momentum Watch: '08 Gallup Polls Shade NH Solid Blue

An analysis of Gallup Poll Daily tracking data from 2008 finds that 49 percent of New Hampshire voters affiliate with the Democratic Party, compared to 36 percent who identify with or lean toward the GOP. That 13 percentage point gap places New Hampshire among 29 other states ranked "solidly" Democratic by the Gallup organization, with six states "leaning" blue. Only four states -- Alaska, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah -- were ranked solidly Republican in 2008, with one state (Nebraska) leaning. The remaining states -- all of which were carried by McCain in the November election -- are considered "competitive," with the partisan advantage to either party under 5 points.

While Gallup reports that results from the state-level analysis are consistent with national polls finding that a majority of Americans affiliated with any political party leaned toward or identified as Dems in 2008, election results suggest a robust population of Democratic sympathizers is not enough to guarantee that a state will actually vote for Democratic candidates. As the report explains,

Given that most states had a Democratic advantage in party affiliation last year, to some degree it can be argued that Barack Obama could have won many more electoral votes than he did. In fact, Obama won 28 states (plus the District of Columbia) to John McCain's 22 in the 2008 election.

There are several reasons for possible disparities between the party affiliation data and the voting outcomes in a given state. First, turnout has typically been an equalizer in U.S. electoral politics because Democrats almost always have an advantage in identification, but Republicans have been competitive in national and state elections over the last three decades because Republicans are usually more likely than Democrats to vote. Second, one's partisan leaning is not a perfect predictor of voting in a presidential election, in which candidate-specific characteristics can influence a voter's choice. (Emphasis added.)

More momentum: Americans (heart) Democrats!
A report published today by Pew Research finds that the Democratic Party has a "vast favorability advantage" over the GOP among the American public. Overall, 62 percent of U.S. adults who took the January 11-15 survey rated the Democratic Party favorably, compared to 40 percent who held a favorable opinion of the Republican camp. Almost every demographic group reported feeling more favorable toward Dems -- including white evangelic Christians, who were more like to favor the Democratic Party by 2 percentage points. The latest numbers reflect the highest overall favorability rating of either party in 20 years.

Further parsing of the survey data shows that Americans believe historically excluded & ignored constituencies -- including African Americans, the poor, children, women, gays & lesbians, environmentalists, union leaders, and ordinary folks ("people like yourself") -- will gain significantly more political clout under President Obama's administration compared to the last eight years. The biggest losers in the influence department, Americans predict, will be business corporations, conservative Christians, Washington lobbyists, and "the wealthy." (How do you spell, "it's about damn time"?)

Another high note from the Pew study: in January 2009, 70 percent of Americans surveyed approved of the way President Obama explains his policies and plans. Opinion was sharply divided along partisan lines, however, with Democrats (92 percent) and Independent voters (67 percent) giving Obama a higher approval rating than Republicans (44 percent). Over 80 percent of Americans have heard "a lot" (33 percent) or "a little" about President Obama's economic recovery plan, and a majority -- 57 percent -- think the proposal is a good idea.

There's plenty more enlightening fodder for Democratic data geeks in the full report.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Another Milestone: Legislative Action Opportunities

In year of many milestones, we're hitting another one. For the first time since we started organizing as a grassroots volunteer network (that would be January, 2008), Seacoast for Change is offering information about specific state and federal legislation that you may, or may not, choose to actively support. The bills described here are consistent with President Obama's agenda to restore vitality to our nation's troubled economy, provide affordable health care for all, create more good jobs with living wages, invest in clean energy, strengthen our schools and communities, promote civic responsibility, and foster inclusion by creating a government that works for everyone, including those who are most vulnerable to hardship.

We are also providing information about how you can support this legislation if -- and only if -- you wish to do so. Information about opportunities for legislative activism will only be published once -- we're not going to track the response, and there will be no follow up calls or emails reminding you to take action. If you want to make a phone call or write a letter in support of these policies or other legislation going forward, we love you. If that's not your thing, we still love you. If you have feedback or suggestions about the introduction of legislative issues into the mix of Seacoast for Change actions, we welcome your comments (email

In solidarity,


Judy Stadtman
Organizer, Seacoast for Change Grassroots Network
Portsmouth, NH

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Day Poem: What if the mightiest word is love?

Several people mentioned that they would like to read the poem written and recited by Elizabeth Alexander during the inauguration ceremony. Here's a good link to the full text of "Praise Song for the Day, Praise Song for Struggle."

It's moving poem -- and even if poetry is not your thing, it's definitely worth reading over once or twice. I must admit that my favorite passage is this:
Some live by "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
Others by "first do no harm," or "take no more
than you need." What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp --

praise song for walking forward in that light.

Follow up on Seacoast for Change Community Food Drive

Our January food drive to benefit AIDS Response Seacoast was a major success. We collected approximately 300 non-perishable food and personal care items, including 6 jars of peanut butter, 25 cans of tuna, 40 cans of soup, 25 cans of beans, 30 cans of vegetables, 26 boxes of cereal and crackers, and 30 boxes of pasta/rice/macaroni-and-cheese. (The photo below shows it all boxed up and ready to go.)

Thanks to everyone who participated!

We’ll be announcing the details of our February service project soon! If you have any ideas or suggestions for a group community service project suitable for adults or all ages, please call Judy at 603.479.7217. We’ll definitely plan a beach clean-up project when the weather improves.

More Inuaguration Day News Coverage

I can now write the words I've been longing to say for the past 18 months: President Obama. PresidentObamaPresidentObamaPresidentObama. Feels pretty good, doesn't it?

In case you missed the local news coverage of Inauguration Day events and celebrations, Seacoast for Change got a nice write-up (with photo) in the Portsmouth Herald in Wednesday's paper, and an Associated Press article about the Music Hall event appeared in several New England newspapers. The Portsmouth Herald also covered the Music Hall broadcast, interviewed locals who attended a community viewing in Exeter, and reported on the Leftist Marching Band's packed-to-capacity "End of an Error" Bash at the Press Room. Foster's covered the inauguration broadcast at the Portsmouth Library (see photo of Seacoast for Change volunteer Andy Kaplan), and ran a great story on Tuesday evening's community gathering at New Hope Baptist Church.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day: How Far We've Come

Caroline French sent me this pic of a Get Out The Vote visibility in Portsmouth's Market Square from just before the NH primary. "The wind chill was 0 degrees that day," she writes. It's a poignant reminder of how far we've come in the last twelve months.

Of course, the January temperatures haven't risen as much as my spirits lately:

Inauguration: Transcript of Bishop Robinson's Address

When Laurie McCray and her son Michael dropped by yesterday with a donation for the Seacoast for Change Community Food Drive, she mentioned her frustration that HBO cut Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson's opening blessing from the broadcast of Sunday's pre-inaugural "We Are One" concert. Christianity Today published a web video and transcript of Bishop Robinson's moving and politically-direct invocation (under the annoying headline "Gay Bishop Kicks Off Celebrity-Filled Event" ), which definitely deserves to be widely read and taken to heart. The text of the transcript is below.

"O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears -- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless this nation with anger -- anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.

Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.

Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."

Friday, January 16, 2009

In the News: Local Coverage of MLK Jr. Day of Service, Inauguration Day

In case you missed it, there's been good coverage in local news outlets about next week's MLK, Jr. Day of Service and Inauguration Day events in the Seacoast area:

MLK Day of Service: Rally, march and fair to be held Jan. 19 in Portsmouth, by Rachel M. Colins, Portsmouth Herald, 01.15.09.

Seacoast Ready for Obama Inauguration, by Rachel Forrest, Portsmouth Herald, 01.15.09. (This article does not include events organized by Seacoast for Change, but the paper did print notices about our food drive and Inauguration Day viz in the community calendar.)

The Wire NH Inauguration Day write-up includes info about events in Concord & Manchester.

Finally, Seacoast for Change was featured this week in a story by staff reporter Adam Krauss in Foster's Daily Democrat: Portsmouth activist staying home for inauguration, 01.14.09. Alas, Mr. Krauss misreported some of the event details (our visibility is from 4-5 on Tuesday), but it's nice to see our grassroots network getting some press.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good Stuff: New Website Covers NH Legislation

Any local politico or policy wonk can tell you that the website provides an online database of current legislation and a calendar of public hearings (as well as the full text of all NH statutes). But despite multiple search paths and directories, it's not always easy to find exactly what you're looking for or track the progress of specific bills. A new website, Front Door Politics NH, offers an appealing alternative for readers seeking straight-forward reporting on legislative developments, as well as (and this what I really like) user-friendly information about the legislative process and how concerned citizens can get involved. For example, the site includes a glossary of legislative terms and a jargon-free primer on how a bill becomes law in NH, as well as an easy-to-scan spreadsheet of the 2009 LSR (the list of roughly 1,000 bills submitted for consideration in the current legislative session). A print version of the weekly blog will appear in the Portsmouth Wire newspaper; according to the site, weekly podcasts are coming soon. Front Door Politics is a project of independent producer Hilary Niles of Barrington.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Follow up on Portsmouth Health Care Forum

Thanks to everyone who came out for the Community Health Care Forum at the Portsmouth Public Library on Monday, December 29. The well-attended event -- which was one of over 300 similar forums held nationwide -- was organized by Dr. Thomas Clairmont of Portsmouth Primary Care Associates in response to a request from the Obama transition team for community input on health care reform.

Participant comments were uniformly thoughtful and constructive -- remarks from several primary care physicians and other local health care professionals were especially informative, as were reports from health care consumers about barriers to purchasing individual health plans and the rising cost of group coverage. Dr. Clairmont shared a copy of the event summary he submitted to the transition team; which includes the key points of the discussion -- you can read it here (in .pdf).

At our Seacoast for Change brunch and community meeting earlier in December, supporters identified health care reform as top priority for local action. In the coming months, we’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to engage the Seacoast community in discussion and action to support affordable, high-quality health care for all (please send your suggestions to Judy Stadtman at Meanwhile, readers may be interested in this recent article by Niko Karvounis of the Century Foundation (reprinted by AlterNet). Karvounis critiques mainstream media coverage of health care policy developments, noting that news stories tend to focus on high-conflict political debates surrounding the health care reform, rather than providing substantive coverage of the public impact of proposed changes.

“There's no question that health care reform won't be easy; Obama definitely has his work cut out for him, and the public should know it,” Kavournis writes.
“But already the media seem to be licking their chops at the political controversies they see in the near future. Discussions of health care reform are already being wrapped in Obama's political persona, with reports cautioning that partisanship may slay the Uniter and that the Chosen One may come up short. If we're seeing this sort of coverage now, you have to wonder if the media will have the wherewithal to focus on policy once health care reform becomes a long, procedural slog as legislators debate some of the 115 discrete options for reform that the Congressional Budget Office has recently outlined.”
You can read the whole thing here.