The race for the White House is dramatically shifting. The front runner, Hillary Clinton is increasingly on the defensive as her main rival, Barack Obama is now besting her by six points in crucial Iowa, and pulling even in South Carolina and New Hampshire. With huge rallies of 30,000 is South Carolina and over 8,000 in New Hampshire despite a winter storm, Obama is gathering momentum and Clinton seems to be slowing. Buttressed by the giant crowds, Obama’s campaign, joined by Oprah Winfrey at the rallies over the weekend, is beginning to take on aspects of a mass movement. Today’s Washington Post writes that that in South Carolina,
“An overwhelmingly African American audience took center stage in the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination here Sunday, as Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), joined by television talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, appealed to black voters to set aside their doubts and seize the opportunity to send him to the White House in 2008.”
The racial composition of the South Carolina audience stood in sharp contrast to a recent Obama event at Harlem’s Apollo Theater that curiously was predominately white. However at $30 a head, price may have been a deterrent at the Harlem event. Obama is using rallies as organizing centers, gathering names, phone numbers and e-mails and setting up grass roots enthusiastic organizers.
It should be noted that Obama’s campaign has been drawing big crowds throughout. However, when close to 10,000 come out in a snow storm, you’ve got to take a second look. The Washington Post reported that:
“Winfrey and Obama ended their whirlwind weekend tour by traveling to New Hampshire, where 8,500 people braved a winter storm to see them Sunday night in Manchester”.
The themes of “change” and “hope” seem to be resonating through the campaign. Underlying it the desire for deep and thorough going democracy. That some are questioning the “centrist” stands of the two Democratic front runners is interesting, particularly when it is posed against the more populist programs of John Edwards and others. One person even raised the issue of weighing the importance of a Black American and a woman against more left leaning white men.
I don’t know what other readers think, however, it seems to me that this smacks of posing class against race and gender, and the traditional bemoaning of the influence of “identity” politics in certain quarters of the so-called white left. Fact is one should never forget that presidential politics are by definition bourgeois politics. Fact is the program’s of all of the candidates aint’ that much different. Fact is women and Black folk, because of who they are will be held to a higher “standard’ from others, particularly from the right and center, causing them to soften positions and gravitate in certain direction.” And finally fact is, gender and race will and are having a galvanizing effect on the campaign and reflect its pointedly anti-right wing essence. When the class factor is added, both by the composition of the support base and the background of the candidates themselves, there is little doubt, that politics as usual may be left behind.