Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards Withdraws; Some Thoughts About What It Means

By Norman Markowitz

Progressives seeking to build a national majority coalition that would both end and dismantle nearly thirty years of right-wing political power in the United States suffered a setback (that is all, I think, it can be called) with the apparent announcement that John Edwards is withdrawing his candidacy. Some, myself included, had hoped that Edwards would stay in, continue to win delegates, and form a coalition with Senator Obama's delegates at the convention to develop both a program and a presidential slate that would decisively defeat the right-wing Republicans and begin to enact in the 21st century programs like national public health care, substantial increases in minimum wages and other labor and social programs, funded through progressive taxation.

Depending on what Edwards now does, Hillary Clinton, with the greatest amount of money and establishment support, will be in a stronger position, which ordinarily will make her less likely to advance progressive initiatives.

John McCain, a traditional conservative Republican from Arizona, in essence of "old fashioned" Goldwater Republican, disliked by the most extreme and dogmatic sections of the right because he has (like Goldwater for that matter) not kowtowed to them on issues involving the separation of Church and state and has even associated himself with criticism of and policies against big business lobbying and looting in Washington, has now been declared the Republican front-runner.

This is also potentially dangerous for progressive activists who will be saddled with the Democratic nominee. McCain is the only credible candidate the Republicans have, not that he is in any real way an "independent" or an opponent of the "conservatives" but he is the only one who can disassociate himself from the domestic political disasters of the Bush administration, point to his battles with Bush in the past and represent for center right and even center voters a white male alternative to Bush and his policies. Like his lifelong political hero, Theodore Roosevelt (and McCain is in no way on domestic policy comparable to Theodore Roosevelt) McCain will try to portray himself as a representative of the smart and "socially conscious" rich, not the contemporary successor to the union busting, public land grabbing, foodstuff adulterating businessmen and politicians whom Theodore Roosevelt routinely lambasted as greedy stupid fools, setting the stage for economic crisis and social revolution.

Who can stop McCain from saving the Republican right from themselves and giving us, on domestic policy at least, a much smarter and softer version of George W. Bush's domestic policy (on the Iraq War, which is his most visible political Achilles heel, McCain takes a militarist stance that is not only disastrous as policy but undermines his candidacy)? In this moment, I would say that it is clearly Senator Obama.

First, Senator Obama has attracted people of progressive views, many of whom have been alienated from politics or are having their first experience with political activities, in a way that few candidates have for a very long time. Also, it becomes more and more obvious that Senator Obama is far less acceptable to ruling circles than Hillary Clinton, (or else why would he be so targetted right now by establishment media) because he is younger, fresher, with political hands that are relatively clean. He is far less of a known commodity, far more likely to bring into government independents and progressives from the mass organizations and the communities along with the traditional Democratic organization politicians, as Franklin Roosevelt did during the depression. His formal positions have been much more vague than John Edwards, but that, along with taking money from the Big Money is par for the course in U.S. politics. I say that not to approve of it or to apologize for it, but because it is a matter of fact.

Unlike Franklin Roosevelt, Senator Obama doesn't come from old money, with a tradition of looking down at the corporate leaders for their lack of social responsibility. Unlike Lyndon Johnson, he wouldn't bring to the presidency decades of practical political leadership over Democratic legislators. But he can, I think, turn his status as an African American, a member of the minority group most stigmatized in U.S. history, into a very positive force, becoming in effect a real unifying leader for working class and progressive people of all colors,
ethnicities and sexual orientations, in part because he is a real, not a phoney outsider to what is a corrupt racist system, even if he (like everyone else who is not a billionaire and is a serious candidate for the presidency) does take financial support from the bosses within that system.

All of these conjectures may be meaningless if Clinton wins a large victory in next week's "Super Tuesday," which is a good reason for progressives to both vote for and get out the vote for Obama. At least, that is my analysis at the moment.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yet a recent issue of The Nation says that Obama's program (and his advisors) are objectively to the right of Ms. Clinton.

stimbox said...

Mike Gravel is still in the race despite being shut out of the debates and media coverage.
Both Clinton and Obama leave me cold.
Gravel will make a nice protest vote.
He is also way more progressive than Hillbama.
http://www.gravel2008.us/issues

normanmarkowitz said...

To Anon
Obama is being attacked all over the place as a phoney, a hypocrite, and his advisors are also being portrayed as young ivy leage African-American elitists. Both Obama and Clinton have vague programs, but friends and comrades, the programs are talking points ande negotiating tools for the candidates. What should matter to us is the mass forces supporting the candidates and who among them we have a serious chance to advance peoples issues with, along with who can defeat the right. I think at the moment(and I repeat at the moment) that that is Obama, rather than Clinton, who has much more of a negative track record, who, like her husband in my opinion, is much more likely to ignore the mass forces who elected her and pursue center and center right policies.
To Stim
Gravel is still there, and Gravel is still a solid progressive candidate, but I don't see any campaign of any kind for him so that a vote for Gravel would be an individual rather than a collective act of protest

normanmarkowitz said...

To Anon
Obama is being attacked all over the place as a phoney, a hypocrite, and his advisors are also being portrayed as young ivy leage African-American elitists. Both Obama and Clinton have vague programs, but friends and comrades, the programs are talking points ande negotiating tools for the candidates. What should matter to us is the mass forces supporting the candidates and who among them we have a serious chance to advance peoples issues with, along with who can defeat the right. I think at the moment(and I repeat at the moment) that that is Obama, rather than Clinton, who has much more of a negative track record, who, like her husband in my opinion, is much more likely to ignore the mass forces who elected her and pursue center and center right policies.
To Stim
Gravel is still there, and Gravel is still a solid progressive candidate, but I don't see any campaign of any kind for him so that a vote for Gravel would be an individual rather than a collective act of protest