Sunday, December 26, 2004

Awards Nobody Asked For

"They're off to find the hero of the day
But what if they should fall by someone's wicked way?"

It's that time of year again - time for corny-ass year-in-review columns. I'm giving out special awards to people who gave me hope that our world wasn't going to hell in a hand-basket. This was, after all, a pretty shitty year news-wise.

So, without further ado, ONAF's Political Heroes of 2004:

The North Carolina constitution guarantees a quality education for everyone in the state, but the legislature and the governor have been all too content to let poorer districts wallow in underfunded disrepair. Now, thanks to Republican (!) Superior Court Judge Howard Manning, Jr., that may be starting to change. He has followed up his 2002 decision in Leandro v. North Carolina with an effort to force the executive and legislative branches to comply - and this year, he managed to shake a significant sum of money for poor districts out of the notoriously tight-fisted Governor Mike Easley. The result: hope that poor kids won't continue to be neglected.

Also continuing to do a job well is New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who had another big year in his one-man crusade to keep white-collar criminals off the streets. If only more people took white-collar crime as seriously as Spitzer...

We give an award to Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama for the audacity of hope. Not to mention one of the best convention speeches ever. We can only hope that this guy is the future of the Democratic Party.

And an award to North Carolina Senator John Edwards for reminding us that, yes, there are poor people out there - a fact that tends to get lost in the shuffle during election years.

But my personal hero of the year is San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. It takes a good bit of courage to break the law in the pursuit of justice, which is what Newsom did when he ordered his city to offer marriage certificates to gay couples. Since that courageous act of civil disobedience, conservatives have reviled him for "attacking marriage" and liberals have denounced him for opening up a hot-button issue and possibly costing them an election. Don't believe either of them. What Gavin Newsom did was try to make the world a little bit more caring, a little bit more just - and when confronted with the decision between what was right and what was politically prudent, he made the right choice. So Mayor Newsom, and the officials in Oregon, New York, and New Mexico who followed him, this blog's for you.


Anonymous said...

Not that this makes his acts any less valuable, but one thing to keep in mind about Newsom is that he's mayor of San Francisco, the city where is viable election opponent came not from the Republican party but from the Green party. He wasn't exactly alienating his constituency with this move.

But he WAS damaging his potential chances at a governorship....maybe.

But then again, not every politically valuable act has to be tilting against the windmills.

- Ben

Mike said...

I really don't have anything worthwhile to add. Except that I agree with everyone you listed that I've heard of. As for Peyton and Eli's uncle (probably not, but wouldn't that be cool?), he sounds like a model Republican. Though Bush would doubtless decry him as an activist judge.

Anonymous said...

As much as it pains me, I can't agree with your award to Newsom. Nobody wants to see this country stop acting as if it's protecting marriage by preventing loving couples from participating in it more than I do. Well, maybe there are people who want it more, but I really really want it.

But Newsom is the head executive of the city of San Francisco in exactly the same way that Bush is the head executive of the United States. Their jobs are to faithfully execute the laws created by their respective legislatures. They do not have license to decide the law based on their own personal beliefs, regardless of how strongly they hold them.

This does not preclude their right to advocate their beliefs; indeed, their positions give them unique abilities to attract the public eye to an issue. But they must remain faithful to the oaths of office that they took, and respect that theirs is not the definition of the law.

I'd probably give the big award to Spitzer. He got a lot of flak for being partisan despite an obvious case history to the contrary, and he's going after the untouchable corruption in our society. I enjoyed Obama's speech quite a bit, but I'll have to reserve judgement until he's actually made a difference in something high-profile. I hope he's everything the Democratic party is making him out to be.

- pierce