Sunday, February 10, 2008

Senator Obama Continues to Mobilize People for Progressive Change

by Norman Markowitz

Elections are, among other things exercises in mobilizing masses of people to advance politically, not only electing individuals and parties to ostensibly represent the people. Barack Obama is campaigning for substantive progressive change and he is making change, confounding mass media week to week. Yesterday he won big in the state of Washington, a swing state that Democrats can and do carry often. It was supposed to be close, but it wasn't. Washington is a state where Asian American voters, who according to the media supported Clinton in California, are a significant force. Washington also is a strong labor state.

Obama also won big in caucuses in Nebraska, a traditionally Republican right to work state without a significant African American population and he won big. Caucus elections often bring out party activists in much greater percentages than general primaries. Finally, Senator Obama won big in Louisiana, a state with a large African American population and a state where he has committed himself to a reconstruction policy for the Levees that should have been in place when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Obama's speech in the aftermath of the primary was a continuation of his clear, focused and eloquent call for unity and active commitment to a progressive program. The people were listening if the media wasn't (actually, the media was more interested in talking about Huckabee's successes over McCain last night and making Rand Corporation chit chat about the impossibility of Huck's winning, the value of Huck staying in the race to provide an opponent for McCain--sort of like those fixed professional wrestling matches that people still watch as a sort of burlesque entertainment).

I wrote an article very recently on Obama's background and policies, which I expect will appear in the PA on line edition very soon. As a "coming attraction" for that article, let me say that I was surprised, in doing research for it, on how really progressive a candidate Obama is, and how the media and especially sections of the left have refused to take him seriously, preferring instead to play out their fixed ideas as the political landscape changes before them.

I was surprised because I had listened to the endless comments about his vagueness, the rich and powerful among his supporters, and for that matter the world of Chicago machine politics which I remember from the two years that I lived and worked in DeKalb, Illinois (1969-1971, when the Mayor of Mayors, Richard Daley I was still in power).

But, like Robert Wagner who came out of New York's Tammany Hall and was the major sponsor of the National Labor Relations Act (still the most significant piece of pro labor legislation in U.S. history) and many other products of conventional party politics, especially Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, Obama is convincing more and more people that he can answer Lenin's question, What is to be Done? with the answer that Franklin Roosevelt gave when he rallied American workers to win the battle of production during World War II, "It Can be Done because It Must be Done." It is that urgency and commitment that he is resonating as the campaign goes forward and he remains, even with these victories, an underdog.

No comments: