March 21, 2010 was a good day

There were two huge news events yesterday, both of which made me more hopeful about the future of our nation, for drastically different reasons.

First, health care reform. I’ve been a big supporter of this since the beginning. The promise of reform of our woefully dysfunctional health insurance system was a key issue of President Obama’s campaign, and I am impressed that he stuck to it against considerable odds. Charting a course both idealistic and pragmatic, he achieved something other presidents have tried, unsuccessfully, for decades.

Is it a flawed and perhaps inadequate reform? Yes. But it’s a start. We’ve known we were on the wrong road, a dead-end road, for decades. We’re not back on the right road yet, but at least we’ve finally turned around and are heading in the right direction.

I’ll save the particulars for another discussion, and I’ll refrain from my usual complaints about the likes of Michele Bachmann, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin et al. I believe this is a profoundly good thing for America, and I believe in the coming months it will get better. By election day, the true value of what has been achieved will have started to become apparent. We’ll still be plugging our ears over the screeches from the far right, but in the end it won’t matter, because the Democrats in Congress, despite themselves, managed to get something, something really big, done. For more on what this reform bill means, there are some excellent articles at the New York Times.

The other big news, less essential to most Americans’ day-to-day lives, but great for Minnesota Twins fans, and really for anyone who appreciates the role baseball plays in America’s cultural life, is that the Twins signed Joe Mauer to an 8-year contract. And not just any 8-year contract, but a New York Yankees-sized 8-year contract. The amount of money involved may seem obscene to many, and I’m sure there will be complaints that if the team can afford that kind of salary for one player, they could have afforded to chip in more of the cost of Target Field. (I’d have to admit, there’s some credence to that argument, considering that this 8-year contract for Joe Mauer — $184 million — is more than the Twins’ share of stadium construction costs — $167.4 million.)

But that doesn’t matter. The fact is, Joe Mauer is unequivocally a superstar of Major League Baseball. And this is the scale of MLB superstar salaries. If Mauer had gone to free agency at the end of this season, he would have been signed by the Yankees, or the Red Sox, or another “large market” team on the East or West Coast, and if anything, he would have been paid more. I’m proud of the Twins for sticking it out, keeping the hometown boy at home, and giving him the kind of salary his stature in the league warrants.

Considering that less than a decade ago the Twins were being considered for contraction, the fact that they have become a perennial contender, and are now beginning a new era in a first-class ballpark with an MVP catcher, this contract is a decisive statement that mid-market teams do count, and that Major League Baseball really does happen outside of the Bronx. For more thoughts on the Mauer contract, check out this article from

What’s really going on in this election?

obamacheesehead.jpgIt looks like my candidate of choice, Barack Obama, sailed to an easy victory over Hillary Clinton tonight in the Wisconsin primary. That’s good news, as far as I’m concerned. I’m also glad to see John McCain taking a decisive victory over Mike Huckabee (sorry, I refuse to provide a link), even though I still find it disturbing that 37% of the voters in the Republican primary were willing to support a candidate who proudly professes his disbelief in evolution. I don’t really want McCain to win the general election, and I know he’ll pose a much tougher challenge to the Democratic nominee than any of the other Republicans could hope to, but I can live with a McCain presidency. If someone as willfully ignorant as Huckabee won, though, I might just have to move to Canada. (And that’s a promise I couldn’t even keep when Bush got re-elected.)

When I saw that Huckabee 37% number, I also noticed the stunning disparity in total number of Democratic vs. Republican voters in said primary:

Wisconsin primary results, 2/19/2008
Source: MSNBC

I know Democrats have been turning out in higher numbers than Republicans this year, and that Wisconsin, although generally considered a “battleground” state, has tended to lean ever-so-slightly left or, if you must, “blue.” But still, this is a huge difference: Hillary Clinton, the decisive loser in the Democratic race, garnered more than twice the number of votes as the winner of the Republican race.

Tally up the total number of votes (with 92% of precincts reporting), and the Democrats had nearly 1,000,000 votes, while the Republicans just scraped above 370,000.

Again, I’m sure there are several contributing factors that increased this year’s Democratic turnout (and decreased Republican turnout), but I think we should not gloss over the fact that the electorate is skewing this strongly to the Democrats. I would have to do some research on how primary voting has split between the parties in past elections before coming to any grandiose (or paranoid) conclusions about all of this, but for now I will just make a mental note of the state of affairs here in February, and compare results come November.