Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Progressives and the Obama campaign

I have previously stated that I support Barack Obama for President. I am working on the campaign.

Numerous writers have noted that the policy positions of the three major candidates are remarkably similar. On Tues., Jan.15, 2007, at the Las Vegas debate the three candidates significantly agreed on their plans to leave Iraq within a year. This has been a contentious issue and several commentators have made assertions about the candidates plans that do not match the actual plans.
There health care plans are substantially the same. There is a difference, and the Edwards plan has some advantages. However, unless you know of some way to get a 60 + vote in the Senate, we are not going to have a progressive national health plan. At best, we may be able to get semi decent plan in some states and continue the fight for a national system.
Even their economic and anti poverty plans are similar. Edwards gives a better speech on this, but if you look at their plans there is little difference.
Edwards is good at the anti corporate speech, which some call populism. (BTW, I support populism). At the same time Barack Obama campaigns against the control of our government and the agenda by special interests and lobbyists. Not quite anti corporate, but close.

A left candidate is not going to win this election. A Democrat might, but that is not certain. Each of these candidates have remarkably similar positions. We are not going to determine who wins and we are not going to gain access to power from this election. Those who dismiss Barack Obama are making a substantive error.

So, if the candidates are very similar, why then should I as a progressive support Barack?

These are some ideas to consider.
What kind of a campaign will it take to win? Which candidate will build the kind of a campaign that will gain the White House, and several seats in the Senate and even more in the House?
A win will require the mobilization of broad new forces in our political system. I propose an in depth discussion of which candidate will be able to mobilize new forces?
Which forces will be brought into the mobilization? For example, to date, Hillary has been able to mobilize White women over 50, and Barack has been able to mobilize youth and African Americans. The next few primaries will tell us more about this.
We need a candidate that will build a new majority in this country. How do we get there?

How will we change the political landscape and make room for future mobilization. I am impressed with the growth of the youth vote for Obama.
I have taught at a university for the last 35 years and have regularly worked with politically active students. This Obama effort is different. It has an energy an enthusiasm that I have rarely seen. And, it is positive, not cynical. (This may differ in various areas around the country. I do not know)
We need to recognize that a person who is 22- 25, was only 17 when George Bush was elected. They have only begun to pay attention to politics. Their entire political experience has been the Republican war/Katrina debacles. Their participation in this effort is formative for them. One of my early elections was for Eugene Mc Carthy (1968) , and another was for George Mc Govern (1972). These efforts taught me not to trust the D.P. What we know is that these campaigns created an environment which benefited the creation of a left.

This campaign will create a significant environment for a new generation of young people. It will engage them in political efforts.

In addition the Obama campaign takes the U.S. issue with race one step forward. It is not a final push. However, it is a major step. And, this generation is prepared to work together across racial lines. This has not been true in prior campaigns. Even the Jackson campaign (which I worked in) was a project of the African American community and a group of progressives. This Obama campaign, particularly the youth part of it, is a campaign of a broad majority in pushing forward on race. If Barack can win in Iowa, he can win in the U.S.

Should Barack Obama win the nomination, race and racism will be on the agenda. Important in this effort will be to divide the stone cold racists from those in the majority communities who are not actively participating in oppression but who deny the importance of racism in our society.
As a candidate he represents a new generation of Black leaders, yes, a post Civil Rights generation. Barack is skilled at organizing and reaching out to new people. And his campaign will take us this one step forward.

I am confident that another aspect of racism will be strong in the November election- the anti immigration efforts. If you listen to Lou Dobbs, or read the newspapers, you can see the extensive preparation already being prepared by the Republicans to run an anti immigrant campaign. The Republicans will seek to consolidate their long use of race as a wedge issue by running an anti immigrant effort. They will claim they are not opposed to immigrants, just illegal immigrants. But, they will mobilize a racist vote. We on the left will need to prepare for a difficult anti immigrant campaign with which ever Democrat candidate who emerges.

It is important at this juncture to bring in as many new young people as possible and to engage them in anti racism work; both working to elect Obama and working to oppose anti immigrant hysteria that is approaching.

I look forward to a discussion about how a progressive majority can be created and mobilized.

Duane Campbell
From a discussion on dsamember

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