Monday, December 10, 2007

Obama and Clinton: There's Change Acoming

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.

9 comments:

NH said...

"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."

Bullcrap. Compare the platforms of Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich to that of the other democratic candidates: there's a world of difference.

Now, if you were just comparing Hillary and Barack to the other dem frontrunners, you might have a point. But all of the democratic frontrunners are authoritarian right-wingers. Just look at their positions. Then go to politicalcompass.org and see who's closest to you.

For all their empty rhetoric, the dem. frontrunners really only appeal to authoritarian right-wingers (although centrists will find them slightly more acceptable than they find the far-right more-authoritarians)

normandmarkowitz said...

Joe really raises a number of important questions, one that many of us have been discussing at length.
First on the issue, I am glad that Joe used the term "so-called white left," since that has been used as a perjorative term for decades, one that Communists as against various "New Left radicals, including White New Left radicals, didn't use. Those who pose class against race and gender and those who see the three as a sort of coalition of forces(those who talk of classism, racism, sexism, for example) are equally wrong. The three can't be separated and class organization, consciousness, and struggle is the dynamic both ignites and unites all three, the only one that can.
On the candidates, not all are the same. Dennis Kucinich is running as he has in the past on a left program, a program that would be considered a socialist program in much of the world and one that we can be very comfortable with. In our discussion here in New Jersey, we have pretty much decided that our role should be to both attack the right Republicans on all of the major issues and build and support Kucinich and his program, as the most effective way to move the "leading" Democratic candidates to the left
Joe may be right that this isn't much difference in reality among the rest of the field, although Edwards has positioned himself signicantly to the left of Hillary and Obama on labor questions and has significant labor support(and it is interesting how ruling class media has marginalized Edwards, even though he ran for Vice President in 2004)
On Obama specifically, it is important to remember that the Reverend Jesse Jackson(who of course was not in any way an establishment candidate) got millions of primary votes and won some primaries and sought through his actions with only limited success to move the Democratic party to the left. This is radically different than Senator Obama, who is running a centrist campaign using glittering generalities like "change" and "hope" and stressing his abilities as a problem solving administrator in his campaign. Our job is to push Senator Obama to the left.
Our role is to defeat the rightwing Republicans in a sweeping way, as Sam Webb noted, and thus set the stage for a new historical stage, ending the right-wing hegemony which has so deformed U.S. politics. The best way to do that is to strike at the right, in my opinion, offer our own alternatives on concrete issues, and identify ourselves with the candidates who most represent what we represent, at this point Kucinich primarily but also others, including Edwards, and hopefully, Senator Obama, as they take more clearly defined progressive positions
Norman Markowitz

joe sims said...

Actually, the term white left has been used rather accurately to describe liberal socialist, and ultra-left elements that refuses to recognize the import of race, gender and sexual orientation and describe them derisively as "identity" politics negating the impact of "class." Democratic (small d) questions for them are "divisive" and "diversions" from the main "class" question. In reality you will never get to the class issue as a whole unless you address these issues, which is part of the entire point of my comment. I use the phrase "so-called" because for me the left in the main as category and in real life is multi-racial, multi-national and of many orientations.
I have never encountered communists having been described or falling into that category, as the national question has always been held up and championed as vital, central, strategic, whatever term one prefers.
The huge support garned by Clinton and Obama speaks to a huge rejection of racism and sexism on the part of the US people. It is part of the campaign and broadly its platform. One of the problems of other campaigns both past and present is the reluctance to address precisely these issues. Therefore one should rightly ask: Can they be considered "left" or working-class positions if they fail to address these issues? We are talking about over half the working population! Give me a
break!
Frankly, I don't think that speaking about these issues in terms of left/right divide is useful. Even Rep Dennis K from Ohio describes his program as "mainstream" and not "socialist." As for supporting a particular candidate: we don't. But are working in the broad field of electoral campaigns to defeat the extreme right in New Jersey and elsewhere.
Finally, I think Rev. Jackson would be surprised to find he saw himself as pushing the Democratic Paty to the left. I think rather, the goal in his historic campaign was to make it more democratic. Again small "d", that is more responsive to the needs of the have-nots and poor. Those who desire a left campaign should run for office themselves, and leave the Democrats (big D) to do what they do best in the field of bourgois presidential campaigns in 2007-8.
joe s

normandmarkowitz said...

I think this is a question largely of semantics, Joe. I, like others use the term left and the term "democratic" or "progressive" to mean pretty much the same thing, for the working class and the poor, critical of corporate power, advocating expanding the public sector. Jackson and Congressman Kucinich fall in that category.

If we are to have an influence, it has to be on the issues, advancing democratic, progressive and left(not meaning dictatorship of the proletariat, transition to socialism policies) into the political mainstream and making it mainstream. If we don't do that we will be sitting on the sidelines analyzing events or acting as foot soldiers for various candidates without advancing those issues.

joe sims said...

As this is a public forum, I think it is imporant to remind you that it was your post which first posed the value of a "centrist" woman or African American against a "left" candidate like Edwards or Dennis K, a curious and unfortunate juxtaposition as I have tried to suggest. Further it raises the issue of what is meant by the term "left". Can one be left and not have a consistent position on race and gender issues? How can Dennis K be "left" and oppose a woman's right to choose? You just can't shove this issue aside and ignore it. For too long the so-called left has ignored or not adequaltely dealt with the issues facing over one-half the population. And do terms have a class resonance or not and what way does this interpenetrate with race and gender? And by the way did you ever stop to think of what does it take for a Black person or a woman to win a presidential election in the US today, as opposed to running a "protest" campaign valuable though they are. Are these question of "semantics" or science?

Eskiegirl302 said...

Here's what I think:

For quite some time now I have studying the constitution and checking into what the government has been doing our country.

Fact:
All ten planks of the communist manifesto are operating in the united states of America right now.

Fact:

We are very close to losing what freedoms and liberties we have left.

Question:

Who of any candidate is going to do anything to preserve our freedoms and liberties?

Fact:
Ron Paul. This man has been fighting against his own party and trying to teach them just what belongs to the people for the past 20 years.

Fact:
Government does not and has not listened to the people in many many years, although the people are the very thing the power belongs to. The Government has no problem relieving us of that burden.

Question:

Do you like government who tells you what to do? Do you like Government who runs your life? Well if your looking to people like rudy and hillary your gonna get more of the same and worse.

Hillary Clinton belongs to the cfr, she voted for an illegal and an immoral war, and she turned around and voted to give more money for it. More of the same thing with this flip flopper.

I will admit I have not studied Barack Obama as much but, does he have some sort of problem running his own campaign? I see two women doing all the talking and not much on what he will do as president to fix all that bush and this last administration have screwed us on.

People need to wake up. Or it may be you who wakes up in some Fema Camp. It may you who gets tortured. It may be you who loses your home. You don't own it the way you think you think you do anyway. You can't own anything in America. Well, you can but you have to know how.

Our founding fathers protected us well. Funny people don't know that. Most people think that George Washington was the First president of the USA also. He wasn't. He was the 11th president. Funny how people don't know the history and the men who died for them so that they could live and be free even in todays world. Funny how people just take for granted that it will always be that way. It won't be if they don't stop being so irresponsible. Freedom isn't free. You have to pay to attention to keep it.

Joel said...

To eskiegirl302:

What exactly are the ten planks of the communist manifesto that are operating right now?

Nurkle said...

Hey eskiegirl302, what's wrong with women speaking for Obama's campaign? Maybe you think women should just shut up?

Dizzy said...

Eskiegirl302:

Ron Paul hasn't been in his "party" for the past 20 years. He's a libertarian. He was a libertarian candidate for prez, too. And George Washington was the eleventh president? huh?