By Joe Sims
Much attention has been paid of late to Barack Obama's “move to the center” as the presidential campaign enters its general phase. On issue after issue, be it FISA, the death penalty, gun control, fatherhood, and most recently “refining” positions on Iraq, the Democratic nominee seems to be changing his mind. While it remains to be seen if apple pie makes the list, a chorus of wails has arisen accusing Mr. Obama of opportunism, flip flopping, “being a regular politician” and “selling out.”
In response, both detractors and defenders attach themselves to the concept of the political “center” the holy ground on which supposedly US polices are fought and lost or won. Some on the left have correctly pointed to the importance of “left-center” unity as foundation for the contest and the perils of offending those middle of the roaders who will cast the decisive ballots in November. Some blog space was taken up with Joel Wendland's excellent treatment of this subject a few days ago.
What is lost in most of the discussion, however, is that the millions of voters who make up the political center are not the only or even the most important constituency in this election. Left/Center unity alone will not prevail in November. Today there is another form of unity that is even more important: the unity of all the people, left, center, and yes, even right. Wendland made this point well when he said:
“Heck, winning on November 4th means Obama needs bitter gun-toters, radical leftists, evangelicals, tree-huggers, factory workers, IT specialists, janitors, professors, seniors, students, civil libertarians, law and order types, hermits, urbanites, farmers, cops, soldiers, peaceniks, war supporters, and even some Wall Street speculators and Republicans to vote for him and fund his campaign. Does he accomplish it by adopting The Nation's political agenda?”
One could and should however go even further. Winning in November will also require unity across class lines, including, middle, upper-middle, and even ruling class elements. This clearly is implicit in the concept of unity of all the people.
Why unity of the all the people? Because the Bush administration and the ilk that is coming together to support Mr. McCain, represent an extreme danger to all of us. On issue after issue that is abundantly clear. What seems not so clear is the coalition that will be required to defeat them.
Today's news points to the possibility of Obama's winning the far West and important states in the South, areas that for decades have been dominated by the Republican right. Has anyone thought about what it would mean for labor, indigenous, Latino environmental, LGBT and women's rights to break the right-wing hold on these states?
Even Obama's recent “clarifications” on the death penalty and gun control are indicative of what is as stake. Think for a moment about the recent spate of 5-4 Supreme Court decisions. If McCain is elected, just one more right-wing justice will swing the court even further to right, and give reaction the ability to do damage for decades into the future. A different stripe of appointment could make all the difference in the world. It would be small but hugely important measure.
This leads me to the next points. Isn't the Democrat being hopelessly compromised and related to it what is possible in a new administration? Again the first and most important issue is getting the fan clubs of the John Birch society, the White Citizens Council and the Ku Klux Klan out of the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. Make no mistake: that's what they are. That would be a huge achievement
Secondly, one should have no illusions about what is possible in a new Administration. Yes, single payer health care, an end to war, union organizing rights will be more more possible. However, none of these will be automatic or come without a protracted struggle. The fight will be long and hard. More advanced platforms and demands will be even harder. Will there be measures against big business and the rich? Some will move in that direction, but come on folks Give me a break!
Whether a candidate is personally compromised or objectively shut in or shutdown, depends partly on the individual but even more importantly on the strength of the class and democratic movements that are in play. At this moment this anti-right wing movement for hope, unity and change, is just at its beginning. It will be some time before it will gain the strength, maturity and wisdom necessary. Change is hard. Just look around the world: Brazil, South Africa, India, Italy, etc, all give an idea just how difficult make real change will be. In all of these countries, the working class and organized left forces are much larger and more experienced than here.
Right now let's take the first step and have the maturity to understand that unity of all the people is what's needed. Not happy? Hell, I don't blame you. You got legitimate concerns. Raise them. But don't take your frustrations out on Obama: go out and build a movement that will make what you want to see possible. Otherwise your gonna end up with McCain. Or take it out on me. Let me know what you think.