Why Barack Obama’s nomination for the US presidency is historic

By Malik Miah

``America, this is our moment’’, stated Barack Obama on June 3 after winning enough delegates to become the presumed presidential nominee for the Democratic Party. Obama becomes the first African American in the history of the country to be nominated by one of the ruling parties. It happened on the evening of June 3 as the final two primaries occurred in Montana and South Dakota, where he and his main opponent New York Senator Hillary Clinton won one state each.

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Obama’s has won 2154 delegates as of June 4. It includes delegates won in direct-vote primaries, state caucuses and the pledges of ``super delegates’’. It put him over the 2118 delegates needed to capture the nomination.

Obama will not officially win the nomination until the delegates vote in August at the Democratic Party convention in Denver, Colorado. The presidential election is in November, where the winner is elected by an electoral college of delegates based on popular votes in each state, not the country as a whole. (Al Gore in 2000 won the national popular vote but lost to Republican George Bush with fewer electoral votes.)

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, US senator from New York and former first lady, conceded to Obama on June 7. She doesn’t have the delegates to win but still argues that she is the best choice to win the White House in November. Her supporters are pushing Obama to pick her as his running mate for vice-president. Clinton’s run was historic too, as the first female candidate in serious contention for the presidency. She won nearly as many popular votes and delegates as Obama.

Many of Clinton’s most fervent backers were older women who grew up in the feminist revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. They hoped she would be the first female president in US history. Women first won the right to vote in the United States in 1920.

Obama and Clinton tapped the deep anger of the US people against the rightist presidency of George Bush and vice-president Dick Cheney, who have reshaped much of US domestic and foreign policy during their eights years in power.

The invasion of Iraq was part of the neoconservatives’plan to bring about a modern-day version of colonial rule in the Middle East — with Israel as the Western outpost and with permanent US military bases in Iraq and other Arab countries to protect their oil interests and put down nationalist rebellions. The September 11, 2001, terrorist attack gave them the opening to topple a hated dictator, impose their rule and launch their plans.

John McCain, the likely Republican nominee for president, supports that goal (which so far is a near complete disaster) and pledges a long-term presence in Iraq. McCain is a strong supporter of imperial ``democracy’’ — a neocolonialism policy not only for the Middle East but the entire world.

Why historic?

Obama, while backing US world domination, sees the invasion and occupation of Iraq as provoking more nationalist resistance and thus undermining the overall strategic objective of US imperialism. He also rejects the extremist US domestic policies that have primarily benefited the wealthy 1 per cent. He supports an expanded economic safety net and abortion rights. Bush and McCain don’t.

McCain’s attacks on Obama must be seen in that context. He says Obama is too inexperienced to be president, pointing to Obama’s refusal to support the US invasion of Iraq and its current occupation.

The significance of Obama’s electoral victory has little to do with his political positions or the reality that he will be the candidate of one of the two major ruling capitalist parties. The Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, stands behind the mission of US imperialist domination of the world.

The differences between Obama and Clinton were narrow, with the exception of the Iraq war. Obama in 2002, then a state politician in Illinois, opposed the war; Senator Clinton voted for it, and refused to repudiate that vote after it became known the war was based on the lies of the Bush administration.

The differences between the Democratic and Republican parties are more about tactics to keep the US as the only world power with military basses, and plans to expand NATO and other Cold War alliances, around the world. The real concerns are not just Islamic fundamentalists, Iran and Syria, but a resurgent Russia and China. Obama and McCain agree on the containment of Russia and China, and the objective of imperial ``democratic’’ rule and modern-day neocolonial domination of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The tactical differences, however, are wide. Obama recognises that for the US to keep its superpower status and support it must return to the bipartisan US foreign policy that existed for decades — one based on traditional diplomacy and a more balanced policy toward friends and foes.

The Bush-Cheney policies have isolated the US from many countries in the Middle East and other Third World countries. The al Qaeda Islamic fundamentalist network is stronger today than after the September 11 terrorist attack. The resistance to foreign occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the pro-US government in Pakistan, is growing stronger.

The influence of anti-US Islamic groups and nationalist forces in many countries is expanding.The aggressive US hostility toward Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, and total uncritical support of Washington’s gendarme Israel has weakened US policy in the region. The gains won by Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza are indications of declining US influence.

Even Israel sees the failures of current US policy. After Bush recently spoke to its parliament (the Knesset) about those appeasing the enemy (an indirect attack on Obama’s support for diplomacy without conditions), Israel decided to open talks with its arch-enemy Syria.

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Obama’s expected nomination is historic clearly not because of the pro-imperialist policies of the two major parties. It is historic because only white men have ever served as president. Obama, as a representative of an oppressed racial group that was forged out of the slave trade, slavery and legal racism, and whose father is from Kenya, resonates widely.

Segregation is still in the memory of millions of southern Blacks. It took until 1967 before the US Supreme Court allowed Blacks and whites to legally marry. It took a massive civil rights movement in the 1960s to adopt turning-point civil rights (1964) and voting rights (1965) laws. What excites the vast majority of African Americans is that one of their own could be electedpresident.

The reality of past racism and unimaginable success is why Barack Obama’s nomination is historic and significant.

What it doesn’t mean

Obama’s success has its limitations in terms of what it means for African Americans’ future, and for all working people.

The end of legal racism in the 1960s did not end racial discrimination. The vast majority of African Americans and other oppressed minorities still suffer from that institutional discrimination. It is why unemployment, education rights and home ownership are significantly lower for African Americans than for whites. Many gains such as affirmative action programs and school integration have been rolled back. Net wealth for African Americans and others who suffered such historic discrimination is also much smaller than for white working people.

At the same time, a new Black upper and middle class have formed since the 1970s. That middle class — families like Barack and Michelle Obama's — do attend the best universities, live in the better neighbourhoods and believe it is possible to be a CEO or president.

After recognising the historic meaning of his nomination — that a Black man can know get the spot and possibly become president of the most powerful country in the world — sharpens the political discussion and debates along class lines. It is no longer just about race.

Obama‘s program is pro-big business. He backs the neocolonial foreign policy of his party, which may be ``milder’’ than Bush-Cheney’s in tone but is nevertheless a neo-colonial policy toward enemies of the US. Obama will not deviate from the ruling-class strategy or policy. He will make some cosmetic and symbolic changes to the openly religion-driven neoconservative policies of Bush-Cheney. But in the final analysis, Obama cannot make the fundamental changes necessary to improve the lives of the average African American, Latino American, Asian American and white American citizens. (Immigrants and undocumented workers don’t exist for either major party candidate.)

For African Americans it is pure pride to have the opportunity to vote for a Black person for president. Many older Blacks still remember when legal segregation was the law of the land in most southern states. It doesn’t matter to them if Obama’s polices befit few in the Black community.

At the same time, the relative social progress that made an Obama candidacy possible is the fact that most young people, of all ethnic groups and races, don’t see it as odd that a Black, woman or non-white can be elected president. They ask, ``Why not?’’.

Minor parties’ role – McKinney and Nader

The minor progressive and left political parties, in that context, can play an important role in the debates over the next five months. While millions of young people and African Americans have been galvanised by Obama’s candidacy — tens of thousands attend his rallies — the left and progressive forces who oppose his basically neocolonial and neoliberal policies should identify with the concerns for change and embrace those supporters’ hopes, while explaining why a break with the two major parties is necessary for working people to elect a government that genuinely represents their interests.

The Obama phenomenon as it's been called is significant because it taps real anger and hopes. It should be embraced in a constructive and critical manner. It is the only way to win support from those who become disillusioned in the future to consider alternative views when and if Obama wins the presidency.

The aim is to engage and embrace; it is to help move those activists towards independent politics.

The Green Party's likely presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney (a former Democratic congress member from the state of Georgia) and independent candidacy of Ralph Nader are important. It allows those who reject the two major parties on progressive grounds to discuss and offer radical solutions. Both campaigns speak in support of social movements and why the issues of war and peace will not be possible under an Obama or McCain presidency.

What is lacking today are militant social movements that can push the government to adopt reforms that benefit the economic and social interests of the working class. There is no activist labour movement in the US. Today the trade unions are in retreat, suffering setbacks and defeats especially in the manufacturing sectors (auto) and transportation (airlines).

There are weak campaigns in defence of civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, environmental issues and to protect other social gains. Even the anti-war movement against the occupation of Iraq and the possible US war against Iran are relatively small even though a majority of people in the Unied States now oppose the reasons given to invade Iraq.

Obama’s next step

What happens next in the Democratic and Republican party races for president is of interest to people around the world because the US is the only superpower. It has military forces stationed in scores of countries. It threatens its enemies with more wars, including the use of nuclear weapons.

Now that Obama has the nomination he will be judged not simply as the first African American candidate but on his political positions, vision and objectives to turn around the economy and end the wars overseas.

No matter what he doses or says, it will not change how Blacks will probably vote. The nationalist sentiment is strong. It’s why 90 per cent plus of all African Americans voted for Obama during the Democratic Party primaries (an unprecedented figure) and will do so again, including the few African American Republicans.

The white backlash

Obama does face a unique challenge. To win he must overcome the nearly 20 per cent of white voters who say they will never vote for an African American for president (down from 80 per cent a generation ago).

Polls have failed in many elections to show this negative racial factor. It is clear that Hillary Clinton’s supporters used it to win many southern states where lower-paid whites tended to support her over Obama. She and most pundits called these white bigots ``blue-collar Americans’’ (blue-collar workers who are Black, Asian or Latino were simply not mentioned).

Overall, however, Obama did win a majority of white working people in many other states outside of the old Jim Crow segregated South. While race matters, it isn’t like it used to be.

Latino and Asian Americans were more divided on Obama’s campaign, reflecting historical contradictions used by the ruling power structures to divide minorities against each other. But again, Obama won many younger Asians, Latinos and other ethnic groups to his campaign as a candidate representing change.

The contradictions of US politics remain. There isn’t a ``colorblind or non-racial society’’ that conservatives pretend exists as a way not to support special programs for oppressed minorities. It also applies to gender; many men and women say they would never vote for a woman as president.

Historic change

June 3 was an historic date. It should be acknowledged as it reflects genuine positive changes in US civil society. The problems of economic recession and wars don’t diminish its significance. The change, while primarily symbolic and not fundamental, does show how the capitalist system is able to continuously adapt and incorporate new social groups into its leadership (previously all-white male) structure, without undermining its ability to rule.

[Malik Miah is an editor of Against The Current magazine and a San Francisco supporter of the socialist group Solidarity.]


2008 Presidential Elections: Defeat McCain

By Freedom Road Socialist Organization

The anti-war movement and a wide array of progressive people’s forces is set to protest outside the Sept. 1 Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Organizers are predicting more than 50,000 will fill the streets on Labor Day 2008. Protesters will confront the war-makers, racists and reactionaries who just a few years ago were bragging that Republican rule would last forever.

The Republicans are desperate to turn around their decline, after losing big in the November 2006 congressional elections. More recently they lost three special elections, one each in Mississippi and Louisiana as well as the seat held by former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois. The American people are frustrated by the Iraq war, worried about the economy and angry about corruption. The writing is on the wall. It may be in misspelled English, and it may be on the wall of a destroyed house in Iraq, but it is clear that the U.S. occupation is going down and taking the Republicans with it.

So up steps John McCain to receive the Republican crown. McCain is the war and occupation candidate. He is determined to carry forward the Bush agenda and is dedicated to the occupation in Iraq for “maybe 100 years.” “That would be fine with me,” McCain said at a January 2008 campaign stop. More recently McCain changed his tune with a plan to get troops home by 2013 - just in time for the next presidential election. We ask, “Who is he trying to fool?” McCain is more of the same - more war, repression, inequality and tax cuts for the rich. The same tired, worn out politics. Besides, have you seen this man when he gets angry?

On Nov. 4, 2008 we are calling for a vote against McCain. The stage is set to vote out the Republicans and to reject their reactionary agenda of war, immigrant bashing, rolling back the rights of women, racist inequality, discrimination against gays and lesbians and poverty. A vote against McCain will create better conditions for working class and oppressed people to make change in our society. Most importantly, we are calling for a vote against McCain because it will be seen as a referendum on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Four years, let alone 100 years, is too long to wait.

Barack Obama is on track to be the candidate of the Democratic Party, the other party of big business. This is despite Hillary Clinton’s racist demonization campaign of Obama and his supporters - the distorted attacks on Reverend Wright and the ideas of Black liberation theology, ‘voter registration’ campaigns designed to confuse Black voters and turn them away from the polls and Hillary’s racist appeals to “hard working Americans, white Americans.”

While Hillary Clinton has sunk to her lowest, Barack Obama has risen to answer the attacks and prompted uncomfortable discussions at coffee shops, lunch counters and dinner tables across the country. The United States was built on national oppression: the seizure of land from Native Americans, the slave labor of Africans, the exploitation of immigrants from Asia and Latin America. The struggle against racism and for equality are not just struggles of the past, they continue today, as seen in the fight for immigrant rights, justice for Katrina survivors and against the harassment of Arab Americans and American Muslims.

The facts are plain; Obama parts ways, to a degree, with Clinton on the Iraq War, free trade agreements and racism. He has a message of hope with wide appeal. However, Obama operates well within the confines of the Democrats and their big business backers. That said, his election will create a better political climate for the anti-war, immigrant rights, labor and national movements. And no matter who is in the White House, it is important for progressives to stay active and to fight for an agenda that places the peoples needs first.

Say no to war, racism, discrimination and reaction!
Vote against McCain!

Uri Avnery



No, I Can't!

AFTER MONTHS of a tough and bitter race, a merciless struggle, Barack Obama has defeated his formidable opponent, Hillary Clinton. He has wrought a miracle: for the first time in history a black person has become a credible candidate for the presidency of the most powerful country in the world.


And what was the first thing he did after his astounding victory? He ran to the conference of the Israel lobby, AIPAC, and made a speech that broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning.


That is shocking enough. Even more shocking is the fact that nobody was shocked.


IT WAS a triumphalist conference. Even this powerful organization had never seen anything like it. 7000 Jewish functionaries from all over the United States came together to accept the obeisance of the entire Washington elite, which came to kowtow at their feet. All the three presidential hopefuls made speeches, trying to outdo each other in flattery. 300 Senators and Members of Congress crowded the hallways. Everybody who wants to be elected or reelected to any office, indeed everybody who has any political ambitions at all, came to see and be seen.


The Washington of AIPAC is like the Constantinople of the Byzantine emperors in its heyday.

The world looked on and was filled with wonderment. The Israeli media were ecstatic. In all the world's capitals the events were followed closely and conclusions were drawn. All the Arab media reported on them extensively. Aljazeera devoted an hour to a discussion of the phenomenon.


The most extreme conclusions of professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt were confirmed in their entirety. On the eve of their visit to Israel, this coming Thursday, the Israel Lobby stood at the center of political life in the US and the world at large.


WHY, ACTUALLY? Why do the candidates for the American presidency believe that the Israel lobby is so absolutely essential to their being elected?


The Jewish votes are important, of course, especially in several swing states which may decide the outcome. But African-Americans have more votes, and so do the Hispanics. Obama has brought to the political scene millions of new young voters. Numerically, the Arab-Muslim community in the US is also not an insignificant factor.


Some say that Jewish money speaks. The Jews are rich.  Perhaps they donate more than others for political causes. But the myth about all-powerful Jewish money has an anti-Semitic ring. After all, other lobbies, and most decidedly the huge multinational corporations, have given considerable sums of money to Obama (as well as to his opponents). And Obama himself has proudly announced that hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have sent him small donations, which have amounted to tens of millions. 


True, it has been proven that the Jewish lobby can almost always block the election of a senator or a member of Congress who does not dance - and do so with fervor - to the Israeli tune. In some exemplary cases (which were indeed meant to be seen as examples) the lobby has defeated popular politicians by lending its political and financial clout to the election campaign of a practically unknown rival.


But in a presidential race?


THE TRANSPARENT fawning of Obama on the Israel lobby stands out more than similar efforts by the other candidates.

Why? Because his dizzying success in the primaries was entirely due to his promise to bring about a change, to put an end to the rotten practices of Washington and to replace the old cynics with a young, brave person who does not compromise his principles.


And lo and behold, the very first thing he does after securing the nomination of his party is to compromise his principles. And how!

The outstanding thing that distinguishes him from both Hillary Clinton and John McCain is his uncompromising opposition to the war in Iraq from the very first moment. That was courageous. That was unpopular. That was totally opposed to the Israel lobby, all of whose branches were fervidly pushing George Bush to start the war that freed Israel from a hostile regime.


And here comes Obama to crawl in the dust at the feet of AIPAC and go out of his way to justify a policy that completely negates his own ideas.


OK he promises to safeguard Israel's security at any cost. That is usual. OK he threatens darkly against Iran, even though he promised to meet their leaders and settle all problems peacefully. OK he promised to bring back our three captured soldiers (believing, mistakenly, that all three are held by Hizbullah - an error that shows, by the way, how sketchy is his knowledge of our affairs.)


But his declaration about Jerusalem breaks all bounds. It is no exaggeration to call it scandalous.


NO PALESTINIAN, no Arab, no Muslim will make peace with Israel if the Haram-al-Sharif compound (also called the Temple Mount), one of the three holiest places of Islam and the most outstanding symbol of Palestinian nationalism, is not transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. That is one of the core issues of the conflict.


On that very issue, the Camp David conference of 2000 broke up, even though the then Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, was willing to divide Jerusalem in some manner.


Along comes Obama and retrieves from the junkyard the outworn slogan "Undivided Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel for all Eternity". Since Camp David, all Israeli governments have understood that this mantra constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to any peace process. It has disappeared - quietly, almost secretly - from the arsenal of official slogans. Only the Israeli (and American-Jewish) Right sticks to it, and for the same reason: to smother at birth any chance for a peace that would necessitate the dismantling of the settlements.


In prior US presidential races, the pandering candidates thought that it was enough to promise that the US embassy would be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After being elected, not one of the candidates ever did anything about this promise. All were persuaded by the State Department that it would harm basic American interests.


Obama went much further. Quite possibly, this was only lip service and he was telling himself: OK, I must say this in order to get elected. After that, God is great.


But even so the fact cannot be ignored: the fear of AIPAC is so terrible, that even this candidate, who promises change in all matters, does not dare. In this matter he accepts the worst old-style Washington routine. He is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future - if and when he is elected president.   


SIXTY FIVE years ago, American Jewry stood by helplessly while Nazi Germany exterminated their brothers and sisters in Europe. They were unable to prevail on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to do anything significant to stop the Holocaust. (And at that same time, many Afro-Americans did not dare to go near the polling stations for fear of dogs being set on them.)

What has caused the dizzying ascent to power of the American Jewish establishment? Organizational talent? Money? Climbing the social ladder? Shame for their lack of zeal during the Holocaust?


The more I think about this wondrous phenomenon, the stronger becomes my conviction (about which I have already written in the past) that what really matters is the similarity between the American enterprise and the Zionist one, both in the spiritual and the practical sphere. Israel is a small America, the USA is a huge Israel.


The Mayflower passengers, much as the Zionists of the first and second aliya (immigration wave), fled from Europe, carrying in their hearts a messianic vision, either religious or utopian. (True, the early Zionists were mostly atheists, but religious traditions had a powerful influence on their vision.) The founders of American society were "pilgrims", the Zionists immigrants called themselves "olim" - short for olim beregel, pilgrims. Both sailed to a "promised land", believing themselves to be God's chosen people.


Both suffered a great deal in their new country. Both saw themselves as "pioneers", who make the wilderness bloom, a "people without land in a land without people". Both completely ignored the rights of the indigenous people, whom they considered sub-human savages and murderers. Both saw the natural resistance of the local peoples as evidence of their innate murderous character, which justified even the worst atrocities. Both expelled the natives and took possession of their land as the most natural thing to do, settling on every hill and under every tree, with one hand on the plow and the Bible in the other.


True, Israel did not commit anything approaching the genocide performed against the Native Americans, nor anything like the slavery that persisted for many generations in the US. But since the Americans have repressed these atrocities in their consciousness, there is nothing to prevent them from comparing themselves to the Israelis. It seems that in the unconscious mind of both nations there is a ferment of suppressed guilt feelings that express themselves in the denial of their past misdeeds, in aggressiveness and the worship of power.


HOW IS it that a man like Obama, the son of an African father, identifies so completely with the actions of former generations of American whites? It shows again the power of a myth to become rooted in the consciousness of a person, so that he identifies 100% with the imagined national narrative. To this may be added the unconscious urge to belong to the victors, if possible.

Therefore, I do not accept without reservation the speculation: "Well, he must talk like this in order to get elected. Once in the White House, he will return to himself."


I am not so sure about that. It may well turn out that these things have a surprisingly strong hold on his mental world.

Of one thing I am certain: Obama's declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for the world and bad for the Palestinian people.

If he sticks to them, once elected, he will be obliged to say, as far as peace between the two peoples of this country is concerned: "No, I can't!"

 permlink  http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1212871846/



Clinton's last stand

When all else seemed to fail, the Clinton campaign turned to racism in the hopes of pulling out a victory.

A 2007 Gallup poll showed 94 percent of U.S. respondents saying they would vote for a Black presidential candidate, while 88 percent indicated they would vote for a woman. A Newsweek poll released on May 26 showed roughly 70 percent of voters agreeing that the country is ready for a Black man to serve as president, up from just 37 percent in the 2000 election.

The political landscape has at long last shifted sharply away from the racist and sexist bigotry that have kept the popular majority so divided historically, ignoring their shared interests--and thereby allowing the political status quo to continue to flourish.

But this seismic shift in mass consciousness was nowhere to be seen in the Democratic primaries in recent months. On the contrary, as Hillary Clinton's quest for the Democratic nomination succumbed to the momentum of Barack Obama's, the multi-millionaire Clinton ludicrously posed as a populist spokesperson for that minority of stereotypical rural, racist whites who steadfastly refuse to vote for any Black candidate--complete with photo ops swilling shots of whiskey and posing on the back of pickup truck.

As New York Times columnist Bob Herbert noted, "There was a name for it when the Republicans were using that kind of lousy rhetoric to good effect: it was called the Southern strategy, although it was hardly limited to the South. Now the Clintons, in their desperation to find some way--any way--back to the White House, have leapt aboard that sorry train."

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THE CLINTONS' last-ditch effort was in full display at the Democratic National Committee showdown on Saturday, May 31 at a Washington, D.C. hotel. Hundreds of bitter Clinton supporters protested inside and outside while the DNC's rules committee attempted to forge a compromise on the contested delegations of Florida and Michigan, which violated party rules by holding early primaries.

As the rules committee met, tensions ran high. Jeering and cheering filled the hotel ballroom, while "one woman, wearing a blue 'Team Hillary' shirt, shoved a man in a suit and tie wearing a small Obama button on his lapel," according to the New York Times.

Clinton's supporters, whipped into a frenzied and desperate attempt to rescue her long-doomed campaign, couched their complaints as an attempt to restore "democracy" to the primary contests. But the racial overtones were hard to ignore. Harriet Christian, one of Clinton's more unruly supporters, was captured on YouTube calling Obama an "inadequate black male" exploiting the "white woman running for president," as she vowed to vote for McCain in November, rather than cast a vote for Obama.

Former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro had primed the pump for the angry Clinton mob just one day earlier, in a racist tirade that appeared as a Boston Globe op-ed piece. There, Ferraro clumsily fused the interests of feminists and white racists in an anti-Obama rant.

"Perhaps it's because neither the Barack Obama campaign nor the media seem to understand what is at the heart of the anger on the part of women who feel that Hillary Clinton was treated unfairly because she is a woman or what is fueling the concern of Reagan Democrats, for whom sexism isn't an issue, but reverse racism is," she wrote.

Ferraro made headlines in March when she told the Torrence, Calif., newspaper, the Daily Breeze, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position." She later defended her comments by stating angrily, "I will not be discriminated against because I'm white." She resigned from Clinton's finance committee afterward, but clearly reserves her right to articulate the clarion call of white racists--all in the name of feminism.

"If you're white, you can't open your mouth without being accused of being racist," she argued in the Globe. "They [racist whites] see Obama's playing the race card throughout the campaign, and no one calling him for it as frightening...[W]hen he said in South Carolina after his victory 'Our Time Has Come,' they believe he is telling them that their time has passed."

One of Hillary Clinton's scandal-ridden younger brothers, Tony Rodham, briefly escaped the DNC melee at a nearby Irish bar, where he seethed over a beer, as his pregnant wife and small children waited for him to finish. There, he told a Los Angeles Times reporter, "I'm just here to make sure Americans are represented by one vote for every person." (Rodham apparently does not appreciate that most democracies require more than one candidate to appear on the ballot, in contrast to Michigan's, where only Clinton's name was on offer among the major candidates.)

Rodham described himself as a "yellow-dog Democrat all my life," while threatening, "If my sister doesn't end up with the nomination, I gotta take a look at who I'm gonna vote for."

Lest there be any confusion about Rodham's political motives, his commitment to women's rights is highly suspect. His first wife, Nicole Boxer (daughter of California Sen. Barbara Boxer) was forced to sue him in court last year to retrieve $158,000 in back alimony and child support payments he had failed to deliver since they parted ways. Nevertheless, he played a prominent role in Clinton's fracas at the DNC, which consciously pitted the interests of '60s generation white feminists against the African-American candidate.

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HILLARY CLINTON'S entourage appeared to be above the fray on May 31, hundreds of miles away, relishing victory in the Puerto Rican primary. But the Clintons were the key architects of the thinly veiled race-based campaign strategy that escalated when Hillary Clinton's own presidential aspirations disintegrated after Iowa's caucuses delivered victory to Obama in January.

The Clintons appeared unable to gracefully relinquish control over the party apparatus that they have so ruthlessly abused over the last 20-odd years. Indeed, they were barely able to conceal their outrage that the First Lady of the so-called "first Black president" could be so easily upstaged by an actual Black presidential candidate.

Before embracing a classic "Southern strategy," the Clintons seem to have paid close attention to polls, such as one conducted by the Los Angeles Times in 2006 that reported only 34 percent of respondents said they could vote for a Muslim for president. Even prior to the January Iowa caucuses, at least two Clinton staffers forwarded an email reading, "Let us all remain alert concerning Obama's expected presidential Candidacy. Please forward to everyone you know. The Muslims have said they plan on destroying the US from the inside out, what better way to start than at the highest level."

Clinton summarily fired the two staffers, yet the campaign theme remained, even as right-wing bloggers circulated rumors, as the Washington Post reported, claiming that Obama is "a 'Muslim plant' in a conspiracy against America, and that, if elected president, he would take the oath of office using a Koran, rather than a Bible."

Indeed, when Clinton was asked on March 2 in an interview on CBS's 60 Minutes whether she believes Obama is a Muslim, she replied, "No, no, why would I--there's nothing to base that on," while adding suggestively, "as far as I know." In contrast, John McCain chastised a radio host for repeatedly referring to "Barack Hussein Obama" during an interview.

Clinton's campaign denied leaking a widely circulated photo of Obama wearing a turban and also denied leaking a rumor that the young Obama had "spent at least four years in a so-called madrassa, or Muslim seminary, in Indonesia" to Insight, an online conservative magazine. Insight editors insist their source was the Clinton campaign.

Opinion polls have reported in recent months that roughly one in 10 U.S. voters erroneously believe that Obama is a practicing Muslim. Moreover, a Pew Research Center survey released on March 27 showed that, while Obama has a highly favorable image among Democratic voters of all races, the breakdown shows his clear areas of demographic weakness.

The report noted that "white Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely than those who have favorable opinions of him to say that equal rights for minorities have been pushed too far; they also are more likely to disapprove of interracial dating, and are more concerned about the threat that immigrants may pose to American values. In addition, nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim."

In early May, Hillary Clinton ventured into territory once limited to the likes of white supremacist George Wallace, telling USA Today that Obama's support has been weak among "hard-working Americans, white Americans"--invoking the racist stereotype of "lazy" African-Americans embraced by the most reactionary section of the voting population.

"There's a pattern emerging here," Clinton added, reinventing her waning campaign as a crusade for whites unable to stomach the prospect of voting for a Black presidential candidate.

In this process, Clinton has shifted the parameters of election-year politics backwards by several decades--away from the most urgent issues facing voters, which include falling living standards, lack of health care and the Iraq war--to a debate over whether a Black person has a democratic right to become president over the persistent opposition of a minority of white racists who happen to be "swing voters." She has deliberately stoked the mistaken and racist fear that Muslims threaten the principles of democracy.

Those pockets of racism are undeniable, and they continue to flourish in both so-called "blue" and "red" states. And the Clintons have courted all of them, from Boston to West Virginia.

While Hillary Clinton has undoubtedly been subjected to virulent sexism as she seeks to become president, the Obama campaign has played no role in contributing to it. In contrast, the Clintons must bear tremendous responsibility for embracing society's most backward elements in their cold-blooded quest to move back into the White House.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IN A rare report on the uglier encounters faced by Obama campaigners, the Washington Post described on May 13:

For all the hope and excitement Obama's candidacy is generating, some of his field workers, phone-bank volunteers and campaign surrogates are encountering a raw racism and hostility that have gone largely unnoticed--and unreported--this election season. Doors have been slammed in their faces. They've been called racially derogatory names (including the white volunteers). And they've endured malicious rants and ugly stereotyping from people who can't fathom that the senator from Illinois could become the first African American president.

Tunkhannock Borough, Ind., Mayor Norm Ball wrote a letter to a local newspaper explaining his opposition to Obama with anti-Muslim racial stereotypes. "Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country," he wrote. "There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim, and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him. No, I want a president that will salute our flag, and put their hand on the Bible when they take the oath of office."

Obama supporters in Kokomo, Ind., (a historic bulwark for the KKK) have been chased by dogs and treated to a steady stream of racist invective. Obama's Vincennes office was vandalized on the eve of the Indiana primary, spray-painted with slogans such as "Hamas votes BHO" and "We don't cling to guns or religion--Goddamn Wright," as they proved otherwise.

Obama supporter Ray McCormick, who is white, arrived at the crime scene and took photos. "I thought, this is a big deal," he told the Washington Post. But when he notified the Obama campaign, he was told that the incident was not newsworthy.

All told, Obama's Indiana campaign offices received three bomb threats from disgruntled locals, but the campaign chose not to raise these as a campaign issue. Likewise, Obama's response to claims that he is a practicing Muslim has been reduced to repeated denial, rather than a defense of one of the world's largest religions, which is currently so disparaged in mainstream Western discourse. "Barack has never been a Muslim or practiced any other faith besides Christianity," states one of his fact sheets.

Obama is innocent of Ferraro's charge that he has played the "race card" during the primary season, but this is unfortunate. Obama's reluctance to forcefully challenge racism on the campaign trail has allowed the Clinton campaign to make the "Southern strategy" respectable once again, emboldening the racist white minority--in stark contrast to majority opinion in this changing political climate.

To be sure, there has been an anti-racist backlash against Clinton's white supremacist supporters. Even in Indiana, Clinton barely scored a victory, with an unimpressive 51 to 49 percent, while Obama attracted a strong percentage of white voters.

Now, as Clinton faces the inevitability of failure in her quest for the presidency, she is floating the possibility of being vice president on Obama's ticket. He should give her a middle finger, after surveying the wreckage the Clinton campaign has left behind.

U.S. politics are at a potential turning point, in which a nation founded upon slavery, with racism ingrained in its very foundation, could finally begin to correct its hideous past. This process is long overdue.

But realizing it requires a candidate willing to wage a frontal assault on the minority of white Americans from all social classes who still cling to racism--who the Clintons have consciously emboldened--while championing the civil rights of African Americans, Muslims, Latinos and Asians victimized by the system.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Columnist: Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith Sharon Smith is the author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States, a historical account of the American working-class movement, and Women and Socialism, a collection of essays on women’s oppression and the struggle against it. She is also on the board of Haymarket Books.


I agree with your conclusion. I would be more specific as to the reason Obama's nomination is historic. It is historic because of the large number of White people voting for a Black candidate. The end to racism will be a change in the conduct of white people ( not Black , Brown , Red or Yellow people) This vote is an historic anti-racist event therefore.


Weekend Edition
June 7 / 8, 2008

CounterPunch Diary
Obama Goes Over the Top


Only two people have ever defeated a Clinton in electoral combat. The first was a Republican, Frank White who evicted Bill for a couple of years from the Arkansas governor’s mansion in 1980 and – a man of principle – used this window to try to install creationism as a palatable option in high schools. The second is Barack Obama who went over the top in the delegate count last Tuesday night, prompting Hillary Clinton to slouch sulkily to the brink of a formal concession, while she continued to maneuver for everything from an offer of the nomination for vice president, to a big role at the convention in Denver to help in paying off her campaign debts.

To have persuaded enough Democrats that a black man can be their champion in November and have a passable chance of winning the Oval Office is a tremendous achievement, even if Obama’s campaign has flagged badly in recent weeks. But by then Obama was cantering through the final straight. The battle was won in the first two months, when Obama ambushed Mrs Clinton’s slow-moving phalanx. He crushed Mrs Clinton in grassroots organizing and in fundraising which eventually left her campaign, top-heavy with consultants extorting huge salaries, deeply in debt. Meanwhile Obama banked millions both from big Wall Street institutions and small contributors.

Obama survived the uproar over his radical pastor, Jeremiah Wright who surely helped his former congregant. If the accusation was that Obama is a closet Black Panther plotting to enslave the white race, it was better he got this charge hurled at him in the spring than in the fall. Mrs Clinton was not so agile in separating herself from her husband who spent what he described as probably his last day on the campaign trail cursing a New York Times reporter, Tod Purdom, for a nasty piece in Vanity Fair charging him with greed and lechery, cavorting uncouthly with nymphets and billionaires. This provided an appropriate campaign trail bookend to one first coming to prominence in New Hampshire in January 1992 with charges of adultery – the greed was yet to come, at least in the later tumid proportions – with Gennifer / Flowers, made by the National Inquirer in 1992.

Obama inspires young people who flock to his rallies. He promises not only to “create a new kind of politics” but to “transform this country,” “change the world”, “create a Kingdom right here on earth.” Comingled with these doses of uplift are the familiar coarse pledges to crucial interest groups, such as the Miami Cubans. Obama’s speech to them on May 25 was an dismal exercise in right-wing demagoguery.

Take his speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami on May 23,: “Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. … This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century—of elections that are anything but free or fair.… I won’t stand for this injustice, you won’t stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba,… I will maintain the embargo.”

Obama had words of specific comfort for the Uribe regime in Colombia: “When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders.” Note the endorsement of Columbia’s foray into Ecuador to. assassinate a FARC leader.

After invoking hope and change in St Paul Obama rushed the next day to Washington for some ritual groveling to the AIPAC:

“We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything and I mean everything.”

Israel should get whatever it wants and an undivided Jerusalem should be its capital.

We can look ahead to months of Obama deflecting McCain’s onslaughts on him as a starry eyed peacenik by insisting that what the beleagured Empire above all needs is efficiency, ruthless if necessary. “The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians.” He reassured one of his fans, the neoconservative New York Times columnist, David Brooks. “They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”

Can a black man get elected president in 2008? Hillary Clinton said No. In the last weeks she ran up some impressive totals of white voters agreeing with her, as in West Virginia where Obama scarcely campaigned, just as he remained invisible to voters in Kentucky and South Dakota.

Obama right now has an edge in electoral college votes, though this somewhat depends which faction of number crunchers you believe. By almost every yardstick, except the wild card of his skin color, he’ll win. It should be inconceivable for a Republican to capture the White House for the third time in a row when the price of gasoline is headed towards $5 a gallon, food prices are soaring and most Americans reckon things are going to get a lot worse.

At least for now, the Clinton dynasty is headed for the retirement home. None too soon, I say, however Obama turns out.
Blacks and Obama

“Give a listen to the corporate media, and it’s pretty clear what tune black voices are supposed to be singing. Obama is constantly called on to swear allegiance to America – to prove he isn’t swearing allegiance to blacks. The other way to say that is he’s supposed to swear allegiance to white, not black, America. Meanwhile, the back end of that deal is that black Americans are required to substitute Obama for real structural racial progress. As in, “You got your nominee. See, we’re not so racist or bad after all. Now shut up!”

“Wright was Obama’s “fish.” Or that’s what we called it when I was coming up. It’s the “bad nigger” that all “good blacks” would be wise to avoid: the latest Sistah Souljah or Willie Horton. Farrakhan didn’t take the bait, so Wright got the hook. Before Wright, Chris Matthews and his cohorts dangled Jesse Jackson out there, often repeating the line that Obama “is not like Jesse Jackson,” so as to make Jackson’s name (and his politics, importance, “style” and period) a pejorative.

“Who knows who will be the next black bogeyman?”

This is a short extract from the south Carolina political organizer Kevin Gray’s excellent piece in our latest newsletter, to which I strongly recommend you subscribe.


June 5, 2008

Is This Change?
Obama Woos AIPAC


I have tired of reading cyptic Obama endorsements, masquerading as attacks on “illogical” women feminists. Clearly Hillary’s sins are legion, but Obama is making it clearer by the day that he is eager to follow in her bloody footsteps. And the Left? It is running after Obama in the “hope” that he can be pressured “like FDR” into responding to a “real grass roots movement.” That simply does not cut the mustard for any rational being. Obama beat Hillary Clinton by taking on the mantle of the “antiwar candidate” who ceaselessly pointed out she voted for the war. Obama of course was not yet in the Senate for that vote. But once a Senator Obama voted for each and every appropriation for the brutal Iraq war and occupation – hundreds of billions of dollars to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and lay waste that ill-starred nation. In fact his votes were not different from hers in this crucial area.

Meanwhile, the Left remains completely silent about the Nader/Gonzalez candidacy. Want to see what Nader/Gonzalez offers compared to Obama? I quote from today’s message on the VoteNader.org web site:
“There is one clear choice this year for peace in the Middle East. Nader/Gonzalez. Only Nader/Gonzalez stands with the courageous Israeli and Palestinian peace movements. Only Nader/Gonzalez stands with the majority of Jewish Americans and Arab Americans which polls repeatedly show support a two-state solution as a way for peace in the Middle East. Only Nader/Gonzalez would reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East.

“Doubt it? Then just listen to Barack Obama's speech from this morning to the militarist and right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“Did Obama make one mention of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza's 1.5 million people and the UN-documented resulting humanitarian disaster there? He did not.Instead, Obama talked about ‘a Gaza controlled by Hamas with rockets raining down on Israel.’ Did Obama mention U.S. government supplied Israeli firepower resulting in Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza at a ratio of 400 to 1 (Palestinian to Israeli). He did not.

“Many peace loving Israelis and Jewish Americans will be disgusted by Obama's speech today. Like the editor at the Israeli newspaper Haaretz who wrote that the Israeli government has ‘lost its reason’ through the brutal incarceration, devastation and deprivation of the innocent people in Gaza.

“Obama told AIPAC today that ‘we must isolate Hamas.’ (In its current form.) Did he mention that a March 2008 Haaretz poll showed that 64 percent of the Israeli people want direct negotiations for peace between Israel and Hamas, while only 28% oppose it? He did not.

“Instead, Obama said this morning that ‘Egypt must cut off the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.’ Did he say that Israel must stop bombing the people of Gaza? He did not.

“Obama this morning told AIPAC that ‘Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.’ Did Obama mention that this pledge undermines the widespread international consensus two-state solution peace plan? He did not.

“So, in a nutshell: In this critical election year, Nader/Gonzalez stands on these issues with the majority of Israelis, Palestinians, Jewish-Americans and Arab Americans. Obama/McCain stand with the hard-line minority position of AIPAC.”

The “Left” (and the Libertarians) should stop pretending that the Nader/Gonzalez candidacy is not there. The worst lies as Obama himself shows are those of omission.

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com


Statement by Cynthia McKinney, Power to the People Candidate for US President, on the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's Presidential Candidate in 2008

(statement issued June 9, 2008)

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton announced that
her 2008 presidential bid is over, making Barack Obama the
first-ever Black presidential nominee of a major party in
the history of the United States.

Congratulations to Senator Obama for achieving such a feat!

When I was growing up in the U.S. South in the racially
turbulent 1960s, it would have been impossible for a Black
politician to become a viable Presidential contender.
Nothing a Black candidate could have done or said would
have prevented him (or her) from being excluded on the
basis of skin color alone. Many of us never thought we
would see in our lifetime a Black person with a real
possibility of becoming President of the United States.

The fact that this is now possible is a sign of some racial
progress in this country, more than 40 years after the
Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. But it is also a sign
of the deep discontent among the American people, and
particularly among African Americans, with the
corporate-dominated, business-as-usual politics that has
prevailed in Washington for too many years.

Coming from Barack Obama, the word "change" did not appear
as just another empty campaign slogan. It galvanized
millions of people --mostly young people--to register to
vote and to get active in the political system. The U.S.
political system needs the energy and vision of all is
citizens participating in the political process. Citizen
participation is always the answer.

Senator Obama called for healing the wounds inflicted on
working people and the poor in our country after eights
years of a corrupt and criminal Bush-Cheney Administration.
Just as in November 2006, people full of an expectation for
change, including those the system has purposefully left
out and left behind, flocked to the polls to vote for
Senator Obama. Across a broad swath of the people of this
country, and from those who are impacted by U.S. foreign
policy, there is a real expectation, a real desire, for

While congratulating Senator Obama for a feat well done,
I would also like to bring home the very real need for change
and a few of the issues that must be addressed for the
change needed in this country to be real. First of all, a
few of the more obvious facts:

United for a Fair Economy (UFE) produces studies each year
on the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King,
Jr. entitled, State of the Dream reports. UFE has found
that on some indices the racial disparities that exist
today are worse than at the time of the murder of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. For example, infant mortality,
where the overall U.S. world ranking falls below Cuba,
Israel, and Canada. They also have found that, without a
public policy intervention, it would take over 5,000 years
to close the home ownership gap between blacks and whites
in this country, especially exacerbated because of the
foreclosure crisis disproportionately facing Blacks and
Latinos today. They have found that it would take 581
years, without a public policy intervention, to close the
racial gap in income in this country. UFE has found
unacceptable racial disparities extant on economic,
justice, and security issues. After analyzing the impact of
the Democratic Party's "First 100 Hours" agenda upon taking
the Congressional majority, UFE concluded in its 2007
report that Blacks vote in the Blue (meaning, they support
Democrats in the voting booth), but live in the Red (they
do not get the public policy results that those votes
merit). And UFE noted that Hurricane Katrina was not even
mentioned at all in the Congressional Democratic majority's
2007 First 100 hours agenda.

United for a Fair Economy is not the only organization to
find such dismal statistics, reflecting life for far too
many in this country. In a study not too long ago, Dr.
David Satcher found that over 83,000 blacks died
unnecessarily, due to racial disparities in access to
health care and because of the disparate treatment blacks
receive after access. A Hull House study found that the
racial disparity in the quality of life of black Chicagoans
and white Chicagoans would take 200 years to be eliminated
without a public policy intervention. The National Urban
League in its annual "State of Black America" publication
basically concludes that the United States has not done
enough to close long-existing and unacceptable racial
disparities. The United Nations Rapporteur for Special
Forms of Racism, Mr. Doudou Diene of Senegal, just left
this country in an unprecedented fact-finding mission to
monitor human rights violations in the United States. Dr.
Jared Ball submitted to Diene on my behalf, my statement
after the Sean Bell police verdict. The United Nations has
already cited its concern for the treatment of Hurricanes
Katrina and Rita survivors and the extrajudicial killings
taking place across our country, that especially target
Black and Latino males, and especially at the hands of law
enforcement authorities.

I hope it is clear that the desire for change is so deeply
felt because it is deeply needed. Politics, through public
policy, can address all these issues and more in the favor
of the people. We do not have to accept or tolerate such
glaring disparities in our society. We do not have to
accept or tolerate bloated Pentagon spending, unfair tax
cuts, attacks on our civil liberties, and on workers'
rights to unionize. We don't have to accept or tolerate our
children dropping out of high school, college education
unreachable because tuition is so high, or our country
steeped in debt.

The 21st Century statistics for our country reflect a
country that can still be characterized as Dr. King did so
many years ago: the greatest purveyor of violence on the

It doesn't have to be that way. And the people know it.

I have accepted as the platform of the Power to the People
Campaign, the 10-Point Draft Manifesto of the
Reconstruction Movement, a grouping of Black activists who
came together in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita to advocate for public policy initiatives that address
the plight of Blacks and other oppressed peoples in this

Among its many specific public policy planks, the Draft
Manifesto calls for:

* election integrity, if our vote is to mean anything at
all, all political parties must defend the integrity of the
votes cast by the American people, something neither of the
major parties has done effectively in the past two
Presidential elections;

* funding a massive infrastructure improvement program that
is also a jobs program that greens our economy and puts
people to work, and especially in New Orleans and the Gulf
Coast, Hurricane survivors, treated as internally displaced
persons whose right to vote and right of return are
protected, play a meaningful role in the rebuilding of
their communities;

* recognizing affordable housing as a fundamental human
right, and putting a halt to the senseless destruction of
public housing in New Orleans;

* enacting Reparations for African Americans, so that the
enduring racial disparities which reflect the U.S.
government's failure to address the reality and the
vestiges of slavery and unjust laws enacted can be ended
and recognition of the plight of Black Farmers whose issues
are still not being adequately addressed by USDA and
court-appointed mediators despite a US government admission
of guilt for systematic discrimination;

* acknowledging COINTELPRO and other government spying and
destabilization programs from the 1960s to today and
disclosing the role of the US government in the harassment
and false imprisonment of political activists in this
country, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, the San Francisco 8,
Leonard Peltier, including restitution to victims of
government abuse and their families for the suffering they
have long endured;

* ending prisons for profit and the "war on drugs," which
fuels the criminalization of Black and Latino youth at home
and provides cover for U.S. military intervention in
foreign countries, particularly to our south, which is used
to put down all social protest movements in countries like
Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere;

* creating a universal access, single-payer, health care
system and enacting a livable wage, equal pay for equal
work, repealing the Bush tax cuts, and making corporations
and the rich pay their fair share of taxes;

* establishing public funding for higher education--no
student should graduate from college or university tens or
hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt;

* ensuring workers' rights by 1) repealing Taft-Hartley to
stop the unjust firing of union organizers, ban scabbing,
and enable workers to exercise their voices at work and 2)
enacting laws for U.S. corporations that keep labor
standards high at home and raise them abroad, which would
require the repeal of NAFTA, CAFTA, the Caribbean FTA, and
the U.S.-Peru FTA;

* justice for immigrant workers, including real immigration
reform that provides amnesty for all undocumented

* creating a Department of Peace that would put forward
projects for peace all over the world, deploying our
diplomats to help resolve conflicts through peaceful means
and overseeing the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from
the more than 100 countries around the world where they are
stationed, and an immediate end to all wars and occupations
by U.S. forces, beginning in Iraq and Afghanistan, and
slashing the budget for the Pentagon.

The Power to the People Campaign has visited 24 states and
I believe there is already broad support across our country
for these policy positions. The people deserve an open and
honest debate on these issues and more. I encourage the
Democratic Party and its new presumptive nominee, Senator
Obama, to embrace these important suggestions for policy

Seven Reasons Not to Get Overly Excited About the Fact That Obama is Black
Wednesday, 11 June 2008

by Paul Street

Although much of Black public opinion considers Barack Obama's primary wins as collective victories for African Americans, the fact remains that white voters made his success possible. They found him acceptable; he passed the white test. Activist and author Paul Street offers seven reasons that Blacks and progressives shouldn't be in such a celebratory mood. The bottom line: "The Democratic Party's centrist presidential nominee Barack Obama is a corporate and militarist politician who can be expected to instantly and coldly betray his democratic campaign promises when and if he becomes president."

Seven Reasons Not to Get Overly Excited About the Fact That Obama is Black

by Paul Street

"Superpower needs new clothes and Obama is just the man to model them."


Recently I had a conversation with a radical intellectual and activist who agrees with me that the Democratic Party's centrist presidential nominee Barack Obama is a corporate and militarist politician who can be expected to instantly and coldly betray his democratic campaign promises when and if he becomes president.

The radical in question acknowledges all this and more but still thinks I should be excited about the fact that the corporate-sponsored Obama might be president. .

The main reason he gives for thinking this is quite simply that Obama is black.

The fact that the nation is ready to elect a black guy, my correspondent thinks, is a sign of real progress in the United States.

But is it? In and of itself, it is of course an outwardly positive development that droves of whites are willing to embrace a black presidential candidate. Forty one years ago, as the United States entered the racially turbulent summer of 1967 and the movie "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" disturbed conventional racial norms by portraying a black doctor (played by Sidney Poitier) dating a white woman (Joanna Drayton), it would have been impossible for a black politician to become a viable presidential contender. Nothing a black candidate could have done or said would have prevented him from being excluded simply on the basis of the color of his or her skin. The fact that this is no longer true is a sign of some racial progress more than fifty years after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

"In 1967 it would have been impossible for a black politician to become a viable presidential contender."

Too bad much of this is countered and I think overwhelmed by the following seven interrelated reasons NOT to get very excited - from a Left perspective, including (as any decent Left perspective would) a racial justice perspective - about the fact that Barack Obama happens to be black.

1 Not All that Black. A significant part of Obama's appeal to white America has to do with the widespread Caucasian sense that Obama "isn't all that black." Many whites who roll their eyes at the mention of the names of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton - former presidential candidates who behave in ways that many whites find too African-American - are calmed and "impressed" by the cool, underplayed blackness and ponderous, quasi-academic tone of the half-white, Harvard-educated Obama. Obama doesn't shout, chant, holler or drawl. He doesn't rail against injustice, bring the parishioners to their feet and threaten delicate white suburban and middle-class sensibilities. He stays away from catchy slogans like Jackson's "Keep Hope Alive" and from emotive "truth"-speaking confrontations with power.

To use Joe Biden's unfortunate terminology, Obama strikes many whites as "clean" and "articulate" - something different from their unfortunately persistent image of blacks as dirty, dangerous, irrational and unintelligible. "Among the factors contributing to Obama's rise," Washington Post writer Liz Mundy noted in the summer of 2007, was the interesting fact that "his appearance, his voice, and his life story are particularly well suited to attract white votes." "We'd probably like it better if he talked like Jesse Jackson," the black political commentator Debra Dickerson told Mundy, "but ya'll wouldn't" (Liza Mundy, "A Series of Fortunate Events: Barack Obama Needed More Than Talent and Ambition to Rocket From Obscure State Senator to Presidential Contender in Three Years," Washington Post Magazine (August 12, 2007).

Obama has no moral or political obligation to shed his biracial identity, "multicultural" background and elite, private-school education to "act [more classically and stereotypically] black." But whites' racial attitudes are less progressive than might be assumed when their willingness to embrace a black candidate is conditioned by their requirement that his or her "blackness" be qualified.

"Obama strikes many whites as ‘clean' and ‘articulate.'"

When ingrained gender sensibilities lead you (all other things equal) to prefer your "straight-acting" gay uncle over your outwardly "effeminate" gay nephew, your tolerance for non-traditional sexual orientations might be less enlightened than you think.

The perceptive mixed-race journalist Don Terry was understandably perturbed when a middle-aged white filmmaker said to the following to him in early 2004: "I love Barack. He's smart. He's handsome. He's charismatic...I don't think of him as black" (Don Terry, "The Skin Game: Do White Voters Like Barack Obama Because ‘He's Not Really Black?," Chicago Tribune Magazine [October 24, 2004], p.16).

2. "Race Neutral" Obama. Thanks in part to the fact that his technical blackness triggers white racial fears and animosities, Obama has been if anything more conservative on racial justice than Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. Terrible racist attitudes and dread relating to the stereotype of the "angry black man" make it particularly difficult for a black politician or officeholder to function as a fighter for people on the wrong sides of the nation's overlapping structures of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Eagerly accommodating mainstream white attitudes, the "deeply conservative" (according to Larissa MacFarquhar) Obama (Larissa MacFarquhar, "The Conciliator: Where is Barack Obama Coming From?," The New Yorker, May 7, 2007) has gone to extraordinary lengths to distance himself from the cause of equality. He has run a remarkably "race neutral" campaign that accepts dominant false American concepts proclaiming the essentially "past" nature of racial oppression and blacks' personal and cultural responsibility for their disproportionate presence at the bottom of the nation's institutional hierarchies.

3. Burying Institutional Racism Deeper. Obama's ascendancy - like the earlier and related ones of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Oprah Winfrey - reinforces the widespread majority white post-Civil Rights sentiment that racism no longer poses serious barriers to black advancement and equality. The other night on the Conan O'Brien Show, the white-pleasing black comedienne Wanda Sykes received uproarious laughter and applause from a predominantly white studio audience when she said that Obama being in the White House would mean that black people have no more "excuses" for their inferior status and would now have to take personal responsibility for being disproportionately locked up in the nation's prisons. No joke.

"Conservative" commentators like George Will and William Bennett have long been applauding the Obama phenomenon for putting an end to "obsolete" complaints about the "over" problem of racism.

"Obama accepts dominant false American concepts proclaiming the essentially ‘past' nature of racial oppression."

Last March the "liberal" white Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter voiced an interesting racist pinion on what he called "the Obama Dividend. While "Obama's unique assets" [a reference to the Senator's blackness and multiculturalism, P.S.] have been viewed in international terms," Alter argued, the presidential candidate's "most exciting potential for moral leadership could be in the African-American community." Alter praised Obama for being a potentially "important president" simply on the grounds that the Senator would tell and inspire "black adults and children" to behave better and thereby to stop sabotaging themselves and alienating culturally superior whites. Obama could mishandle U.S. foreign or economic policy, and fail in his tepid efforts to address social problems at home, but he would leave a powerful and important legacy, Alter argued, if he could just get "black adults and children" - a category that technically includes every single African-American human being - to think and act in a more positive and productive fashion (Jonathan Alter, "The Obama Dividend," Newsweek, March 31, 2008, p. 37).

The problem with such commentaries -widely emblematic of mainstream white sentiment in the post-Civil Rights Era (PCRE) - is that institutional racism remains alive and well in every area of American society, providing the essential explanation (the supposed "excuse") for a savage racial wealth gap that grants the median black household seven cents on the white median household dollar. More than merely persisting into the PCRE, the deeper structures and practices of institutional white supremacy are cloaked by regular rituals of Caucasian self-congratulations over white America's increased willingness to embrace "good" and bourgeois, business and power-elite-approved and not all that blacks like the corporate mass-marketing icon Oprah Winfrey and the mendacious imperialists and Iraq War agents Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and Obama.

4. Race and Progressive Illusion. The fact that the "deeply conservative" Obama is black has helped deepen his appeal to certain vaguely progressive voters by making him seem more left than he really is. According to researchers studying the political psychology of race, voters asked to compare a black and a white candidate with similar political positions will tend to see the black candidate as "more liberal."

"Many voters were identifying Obama as more liberal at least in part because of his race."

During the recently concluded primary race, Obama did much better than the also centrist and militarist Hillary Clinton with Democratic primary voters who identified themselves as "very liberal." Clinton, by contrast, did better with the large number and percentage of Democrats who called themselves "moderates." Since Obama's actual policy agenda was generally no more liberal than Clinton's - and his health care plan was considerably more conservative - it seems likely that many voters were identifying Obama as more liberal at least in part because of his race. There were other factors besides race in that identification (the Iraq War especially), but the simple fact of his skin color has given Obama no small measure of deceptive rebel's clothing he does not deserve given his clear presence (documented at some length in my forthcoming book "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics") on the wrong/right-wing side of each of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called "the triple evils that are interrelated:" racism (deeply understood); economic exploitation (capitalism), and militarism/imperialism.

5. Inhibiting Resistance. The fact that the (not-so) "progressive" Obama is black will inhibit certain left-leaning Americans from engaging in the sorts of action that will be required to pressure the White House to behave decently if he wins the election. John Pilger recently wrote something that rings very true with me on the basis of numerous discussions I have had with "progressive" youth and activists in recent months: "By offering a ‘new,' young and apparently progressive face of the Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell's role as Bush's secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent." (John Pilger, "After Bobby Kennedy (There Was Barack Obama)," Common Dreams (May 31, 2008.)

6. Emperor's Clothes Change. Obama's race and ethno-cultural nomenclature - his full name is Barack Hussein Obama help make him useful to the architects of an American Empire that Obama strongly and openly supports. These attributes have enhanced his attractiveness to a considerable section of Superpower's foreign policy elite, who sense a need for the U.S. to seem to be dramatically changing the face of power in the wake of George W. Bush's shockingly clumsy, provocative, and (by the way) richly racist imperialism. As Meg Hirshberg, an influential New Hampshire political donor, told Mundy last year, "His election would do more to restore peoples' faith and belief in the U.S. around the world. Can you imagine [Barack and Michelle Obama] being president and first lady? It knocks me out as far as what we would be saying to ourselves and the world. He's not a descendant of slaves, but Michelle is. I think it would be a remarkable moment in history." Obama's technically Muslim name and his three years living as a young boy in Indonesia hold special promise, many U.S. foreign policy elites hope, in the oil-rich Middle East and across the Muslim world - areas of special concern and danger for U.S. globalists. By Mundy's account, "in the wake of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo...part of Obama's appeal is the opportunity to send the world a different message about racial tolerance at a moment when this seems more important than ever."

John Kerry, who ran for the presidency four years earlier largely on the claim that he would be a more effective manager of Empire (and the Iraq War) than Bush II, was certainly thinking of these critical imperial "soft power" assets when he recently praised Obama as someone who could "reinvent America's image abroad." So was Obama himself when he said the following to reporters abroad his campaign plane in the fall of 2007:

"If I am the face of American foreign policy and American power, as long as we are making prudent strategic decisions, handling emergences, crises, and opportunities in the world in an intelligent and sober way....I think that if you can tell people, ‘We have a president in the White House who still has a grandmother living in a hut on the shores of Lake Victoria and has a sister who's half-Indonesian, married to a Chinese-Canadian,' then they're going to think that he may have a better sense of what's going on in our lives and country. And they'd be right."

Obama's distinctive ethno-cultural and geographic biography is one of his great attractions to the foreign policy elite in a majority non-white world that has been deeply alienated by U.S. behavior (and truthfully before) the post-9/11 era. Call it "the identity politics of foreign policy." Superpower needs new clothes and Obama is just the man to model them."

"What better gift to the empire than JFK in sepia?"

The black Seattle-based Left poet and activist Michael Hureax is on solid ground when he says that an Obama would be about "restor[ing] faith in the imperial project" by putting an eloquent black leader at its nominal head, to function as a "JFK in sepia." As Hureaux observed in the comments section attached to a haunting Dissident Voice essay by Juan Santos, titled "Barack Obama and the End of Racism" ( Dissident Voice, February 13, 2008): .

I'm watching all kinds of people who I'd previously thought had some critical thinking skills cave under this Obamania business. I had a hunch this was coming when I watched his speech at the convention four years ago, my wife and I both sat and took it in and looked at each other and said, almost word for word, "He's good, he's very good." The rakish JFK style jabs, the clearly studied rhetorical grace. What better gift to the empire than JFK in sepia? All last year, numerous discussions with people from the old new left who told us, "He'll never get a shot at it because of racist US etc.," to which we maintained, "But what better figure to have out there than one to restore faith in the imperial project, but someone with a black face? They managed to live with Powell and Rice, why not Obama?"

7. An Opportunity for the Proto-Fascist GOP. The fact that Obama is black may contribute to the extremist and dangerously messianic-militaristic and arch-plutocratic, proto-fascistic Republican Party keeping the White House. Obama's claim to reporters last April that "if I lose, it would not be because of race but because of mistakes I made on the campaign trail," was certainly largely incorrect. If he fails to defeat Republican John McCain despite critical trends favoring a Democratic candidate (economic recession, rising prices, and a failed foreign policy in Iraq, above all) in November, 2008, it will be largely and perhaps mainly because of race. As John Judis noted in The New Republic at the end of May 2008, the racial voting trends are a real cause for Democratic Party concern:

"The United States has not ‘transcended race' - something that should be obvious from the exit polls."

Clearly Obama gained some votes in the early primaries from college-educated [white] Democrats who liked the idea of an African American transcending the historic conflict over race. And, if he had not been running against a popular female candidate, he might have won more support among white women. But Obama also lost voters to racial prejudice.

The percentage of voters who backed Hillary Clinton (or, earlier, John Edwards) while saying that the "race of the candidates" was "important" in deciding their vote is a fair proxy for the percentage of primary voters who were disinclined to support Obama because he is black [emphasis added]. That number topped 9 percent in New Jersey; in Ohio and Pennsylvania, two crucial swing states, it was more than 11 percent. And that's among Democratic primary voters, who are, on average, more liberal than the Democrats who vote in general elections.

The simple fact of being African American could well cost Obama the general election votes of 15 to 20 percent of the nation's Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents (John Judis, "The Big Race," The New Republic, May 28, 2008, p.24).

It's terrible and ugly that prejudice-fueled racial bloc voting - widely evident in the last two months of the primary season - is likely to be a factor in the general election, but it's also a strategic fact of American political life. Maybe Obama can overcome it. Maybe he can't. Either way, the United States has not "transcended race" - something that should be obvious from the exit polls in the last two months of the Democratic primary.

Veteran radical historian Paul Street (paulstreet99@yahoo.com -- This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm), Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (New York: Routledge, 2005); Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007); and Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (forthcoming in summer of 2008).



Obama the hawk?

Lee Sustar explains that Barack Obama's hard-line speech at the AIPAC conference wasn't just pandering to the pro-Israel lobby, but a statement of his real position on foreign policy issues.

IS BARACK Obama to the right of George W. Bush on Israel-Palestine?

That was the question across the Arab and Muslim world following Obama's declaration of support for an "undivided" Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the main pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington.

As Obama said to a meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on June 4:

Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

This hawkish statement contradicts official U.S. policy. Under the U.S.-brokered Oslo Accords of 1993 that launched an Israeli-Palestinian "peace process," the fate of Arab and mainly Muslim East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war, is to be decided through "permanent status" negotiations between Israel and Palestinian leaders. Since then, the Palestinian Authority has insisted that East Jerusalem must be the capital of the Palestinian mini-state envisioned under the Oslo agreement.

By appeasing the Israeli--and U.S.--right wing with his comments on Jerusalem, Obama was signaling that his administration wouldn't change the course set by George Bush.

That means further construction of the apartheid wall in the West Bank to Palestinians into ghettos, more carve-ups of the West Bank to consolidate Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands, and continued support for the genocidal combination of sanctions and military strikes aimed at Gaza, one of the world's most densely populated areas.

This isn't speculation. Obama spelled it out for the AIPAC audience:

I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security. That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat--from Gaza to Tehran.

Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As president, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade--investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation.

Obama's blank check for Israel is part of a plan to ensure that the Middle East remains thoroughly militarized under U.S. domination, even if some U.S. troops are shifted out of Iraq.

The primary target is to be Iran, which Obama accused of accelerating a nuclear weapons program. "Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran--it is precisely what has strengthened it," he said. "It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in."

In other words, very, very slowly.

The U.S. certainly wouldn't pull back from the region under an Obama administration. "The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat," Obama said, echoing Hillary Clinton's notorious comment that the U.S. would "obliterate" Iran if it attacked Israel. He added: "Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes, there are no alternatives to confrontation."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THAT'S A lot of saber-rattling from a man often billed as an "antiwar" candidate. Apologists for Obama claim that he "had" to throw out red meat to AIPAC in order to appease the Israel lobby and shore up Jewish votes for the November election.

But Obama didn't have to go nearly so far in order to curry favor with AIPAC. While Obama certainly wants to bury memories of his once-friendly relationship with people like Palestinian activist Ali Abunimah and Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi, he could have accomplished that by other means--as he showed in his disposal of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his former church.

No, the explanation for Obama's hard-line stance lies elsewhere. He's running to become the leader of the world's most powerful and vicious imperial power, and he must demonstrate that--despite his past as a community organizer--he's sufficiently ruthless for the job. His audience isn't AIPAC, but the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Thus, Obama has staked out a right-wing stance not only on Israel, but against Cuba. As historian Greg Grandin pointed out, Obama recently met with right-wing Cubans in Miami and denounced Bush for neglecting Latin America and allowing "demagogues like Hugo Chávez" to step "into the vacuum."

"He even raised the specter of Iranian influence in the region, pointing out that 'just the other day, Tehran and Caracas launched a joint bank with their windfall oil profits,'" Grandin wrote.

Obama also made it clear that he would continue the U.S. policy of building up Colombia's right-wing government as a militaristic agent of the U.S. in the region. He pledged to "support Colombia's right to strike terrorists who seek safe havens across its borders," endorsing Colombia's deadly attack on rebels in Ecuador's territory in March, an action that was condemned by virtually all Latin American governments.

So much for "change." If elected, Obama may try to downsize and repackage the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But when it comes to aggressively pursuing U.S. imperial interests, there'll be no retreat unless resistance at home and abroad compels it.



OPEN LETTER: Barack Obama, wherefore art thou?
By Dolores Cox

Published Jun 14, 2008 7:46 AM

Dolores Cox, at NYC rally, demands justice for Sean Bell, May 1.

You’re my guy; don’t get me wrong. But did you have to be so adamant
and vociferous when you addressed the Cuban American National
Foundation on May 23 during the commemoration of Cuban Independence
Week regarding Fidel Castro and the Cuban government?

The issue of Cuba could play a significant role, since Florida could
be critical to you winning in the November election. But you almost
came across sounding like some preacher in the pulpit (pun intended)
or like one of those right-wing hate mongers. You could’ve toned it
down a bit and still have gotten your message across.

You’re willing to meet with the likes of Fidel, and now Raúl Castro,
and talk with other “enemies” at any time and place of your choosing.
You say it’s “time to pursue diplomacy with friends and foe alike
without preconditions.” Current U.S. policy, it should be noted, is
that there can be no negotiations whatsoever with Cuba’s leaders. And
this influential and powerful anti-Castro exile group does not share
your willingness to talk to Cuba.

You also said you’ll immediately ease restrictions on travel and
limits on the amount of money relatives here can send back home to
Cuba if and when you become president. Let’s hope you mean it (and
can do it). And while you’re at it, how about lifting the travel ban
completely for everyone?

At the same time that you talk about opening up diplomatic relations
with Cuba, though, you say that you’re committed to maintaining the
nearly fifty-year-old economic embargo, as a way to force regime
change and reforms in Cuba.

And you speak about needing to see “significant steps toward
democracy there.” What are these steps you allude to that must be
taken? Do you mean conversion to a capitalist system? Or allowing
domination and control by the U.S. of their island, instead of

We know you’re worried about committing political suicide and all
that, but are the votes of that group in Miami and their sympathizers
really more important than a sense of decency? Are dishonest ways of
currying favor also more important? Do Cuba and Castro really inspire
so much vehemence in you and arouse your ire? And if so, are you
conveniently forgetting certain facts?

Facts like the U.S.’s numerous assassination attempts on Castro? Like
the Bay of Pigs operation? Like U.S. support and installation of
numerous dictators and monarchies worldwide and conducting daily
business with them, etc.?

What’s next? Another assassination attempt? Bombing or another
invasion attempt? More poisoning of Cuba’s tobacco crops? More
punishing of countries that do business with Cuba? More spying on
Cuba? More vicious propaganda?

When will enough be enough? (We also remember the U.S. bombing of the
tiny Caribbean island of Grenada in an effort to root out communism
everywhere on this planet, by any means necessary.)

Or does the U. S. have something in mind similar to the guise of
bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq as justification
for invading their country, destroying their economy and
infrastructure, arrests of its citizens, theft of their treasury,
deposing and engineering the murder of their leader, and causing the
death and displacement of thousands of innocent civilians? Are you
content to see the United States government and its people continue
to be viewed as bullies and pariahs, conducting despicable acts of
terrorism and imperialism worldwide?

And Obama, why did you speak so passionately about “dissidents in
Cuba who are locked away in dark cells for the crime of speaking the
truth” as you describe them? Especially when the U.S. government
continues to incarcerate hundreds of political prisoners unjustly?
You went on to say, “Never in the lives of two generations of Cubans
have the people of Cuba known democracy; this is the terrible and
tragic status quo.” And you added that “for half a century elections
in Cuba have been anything but free and fair.” You ended your speech
by promising the Cuban people that you “won’t stand for this
injustice” and you’ll “stand up for their freedom,” if elected

Ironically, your message of condemnation is given at the same time
that the U.S. continues to exploit, oppress and commit human rights
crimes all over the world, moving from one target to the next. And,
needless to say, the government has been violating the civil and
human rights of its own people here at home for hundreds of years
(Post-Katrina, especially New Orleans, shows us who the government
really cares about in this so-called great democracy.) Come on now,
Obama. Let’s clean up our own backyard before pointing fingers
elsewhere. To coin a phrase, “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.”

We understand that you have allegiance to the powers that be. And
that you’ve probably been selected based on the Jackie Robinson
principle with regard to temperament, obedience and acceptability,
sort of a “test case.” But you also need to have allegiance to us,
the people. Continuing sanctions against Cuba is not the will of the
people, except for those who have something vindictive to gain.

Imagine the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world picking
on and punishing this small island in the Caribbean just because it
can’t have its way with it, because it refuses and resists U.S.
imperialism. What a disgrace. How about putting petty and hateful
punitive behavior behind? It’s time to give the Cuban people a break.

If you’re really about “Change,” Obama, you must include more
extensive policy changes regarding Cuba. As an agent of change in the
U.S., you’ll need to give the people what they want. To be sure,
it’ll definitely be an uphill battle because the powers that be will
exercise every resistance at their disposal, and fight you tooth and
nail. But if you’re sincere and have integrity about making change,
the people will have your back.

The writer was part of a delegation that attended the 8th annual
Latin America Hemispheric Free Trade Agreement Conference in Havana,
Cuba, this past April.


Commentary No. 235, June 15, 2008

"Obama's Victory? How Big? How Far?"

Immanuel Wallerstein

Let no one underestimate it. Barack Obama has won big. He has not only won the Democratic nomination for president. He is going to sweep the elections with a large majority of the Electoral College and a considerable increase in Democratic strength in both houses of the Congress. Before we analyze how far he will go, can go - that is, how much of a change this will actually mean - we must spell out how real is his electoral triumph.

In the long drawn-out contest between him and Hillary Clinton, both the polls and the results showed that each was stronger in certain categories of voters. Obama had greater strength among the younger, the more educated, the African-Americans of course, and the politically further left. But he also seemed more attractive to independent and Republican crossover voters. Clinton had greater strength among the older, the less educated voters, the women of course, the Latinos, and the politically more centrist.

However, the real decision was made by the superdelegates. And they voted on a quite different basis. They seemed convinced that he would be a stronger candidate, and could actually win in some traditionally Republican areas. Or even if he couldn't win a majority in these states, he could help Democratic candidates for Congress to win. It is quite striking that he drew strong support from superdelegates in precisely these states, many of whom were individually among the more centrist, least left-oriented Democratic leaders. Since these superdelegates were anchored in their local situations, they are telling us something of U.S. political realities of 2008.

I have just done an analysis comparing McCain's state by state strength in the latest polls and Bush's proportion of the actual votes in 2004. In 45 of the 50 states, McCain is weaker, often much weaker, than Bush was. And in the other five, he is about the same. Of course, if Bush had won a state by a large margin, McCain will still win it albeit by a smaller one. But in the states that were close in 2004, the tide is in Obama's favor.

Furthermore, we have to realize that McCain is currently at the top of his strength. The Democratic Party is now reunifying and hungry for winning. Obama will lose almost none of the traditional Democratic percentages among women and Jews. He will increase the national percentage among Latinos and will bring in a very large number of young people and African-Americans who otherwise would not have voted. He will also get the votes of the considerable number of independents and Republicans disillusioned with Bush. The people who will vote against Obama because he is African-American were almost all already going to vote Republican. This issue is behind him, not in front of him.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are still deeply divided and quite morose. The Christian right still doesn't trust McCain, and so far is dragging its feet. And we forget too easily the defection of the libertarians. Ron Paul is planning on a convention fight. And while he will of course lose it, his supporters are already disgruntled. With Bob Barr running on a Libertarian Party slate, many of Paul's supporters will vote for him. Barr may be to McCain in 2008 what Nader was to Gore in 2000 - just strong enough to deny him a few states. And in general, McCain's line on the plunging U.S. economy is going to lose him a lot of the support he counts on obtaining among so-called Reagan Democrats.

If one analyzes the situation in detail, state by state, the only state that voted Democratic in 2004 in which McCain seems to be competitive today is Michigan. The states that Bush won in 2004 in which Obama is competitive are numerous - Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Virginia, and maybe Nevada, North Carolina, and Montana. He's even doing well enough in Mississippi that Republicans will have to invest money and time campaigning there. If Obama won all the competitive states except Michigan, he'd have 310-333 electoral votes. He needs 270.

The picture looks even better in senatorial races, where Democrats might win in some states in which Obama cannot quite make it - for example, Kentucky, where the Republican minority leader in the Senate is in serious trouble in this very Republican state.

Now what will this mean? Obama is not planning some revolutionary turnabout in U.S. politics. He is surrounded by a lot of conventional Democratic politicians and advisors. But he will be swept into power by a wave of enthusiasm for change that the United States has not seen since Kennedy's election. True, there is only so much he can do on the world scene, despite the fact that he will be cheered on by the entire rest of the world. The global geopolitical anarchy is far beyond the control of any American president today.

But he will be pushed to make important changes within the United States. Of course, the very election of an African-American will represent a remarkable cultural change, and cannot fail to have a great impact. His electors will expect him to launch the equivalent of another New Deal internally - health care coverage, tax restructuring, job creation, salvaging the pensions. How much he can do depends in part on the global recession, which is largely beyond his control, but even so forceful leadership can play an important role up to a point. The example of Roosevelt shows us that.

The biggest unknown is how far he will go to dismantle the quasi-police state structures that the Bush regime has instituted under the umbrella of a war against terrorism. This involves far more than appointing better judges. It means a radical revising of both legislation and executive policies and exposing the ultra-secret rules and practices to the light of day. Much can be done, as we know from what was accomplished in the 1970s, reining in the CIA and the FBI. But the situation is worse now and requires more. History may well judge Obama most of all on what he does in this domain. Up to now, he has been quite silent about this arena.

Obama has won big. His election will mark - mark, not cause - the end of the counterrevolution of the world right of the 1980s. He has rekindled hope, and created space for a more progressive world. But this space is structurally cramped by the constraints of an ever more anarchic world-system. The basic question is not whether he will transform the world and/or restore U.S. leadership in the world-system - he will do neither - but whether he will do as much as it is possible to do in allowing us all to push our way forward. Even if this is less than the world might wish he could do.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact: rights@agenceglobal.com, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write: immanuel.wallerstein@yale.edu.

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]


Doug Henwood

Delivered at the Brecht Forum, New York, June 19, 2008

I must say, I thought I'd have to do some work to assemble an updated
indictment of Barack Obama (the only presidential candidate in this long
campaign whose name my 2-year-old seems interested in saying, whatever
that means). But the candidate has done most of my work for me in the
past couple of weeks. There's something about the shift from primary to
general that brings out the worst in a Democrat.

First, there was the appointment of Jason Furman as a top economic
advisor. Furman, as I assume almost everyone knows by now, is famous for
having done some apologetics for Wal-Mart. He actually argued that
raising Wal-Mart's wage levels would force Wal-Mart to raise prices, and
thereby hurting the working class as a whole more than helping it.
"Hurting those it aims to help" is almost pathognomonic, as they say in
medical science to describe a symptom that is almost a definitive
diagnosis of a disease, of orthodox center-right thinking, much like
using the phrase "law of unintended consequences." That's not to say
Furman's a right-winger. It is to say, though, that he's sort of a
DLC-style Democrat, someone out of the Clinton/Rubin/Summers mold. I'm
not so sectarian that I think that that mold isn't a little less moldy
than the Bush/Paulson/Feldstein mold, but it's nothing to get passionate

And remember that Furman joins Austan Goolsbee, the DLC's top economist,
on the Obama economic team. Goolsbee, opponent of a mortgage foreclosure
moratorium and eulogist of Milton Friedman.

Then Obama appointed a gang of foreign policy advisors. Among that
collection of ghouls: Madeleine Albright, perhaps most famous for saying
that the half a million Iraqi children killed by the Clinton
administration's sanctions was a price worth paying—not, of course, that
she was paying it; Lee Hamilton and David Boren, two Congresspeople
noted for their protective attitude towards the CIA; Tony Lake,
Clinton's national security advisor; William Perry, who resume includes,
along with a stint as Defense Secretary under Clinton, jobs with Boeing,
Martin-Marietta, and the Carlyle Group; and Susan Rice, another Clinton
leftover, and a cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq.

I can't say I'm surprised by this, since I never doubted that Obama
would be anything but a loyal servant of empire, but it should give
pause to anyone who thought he'd represent some sort of fresh start. If
the AIPAC speech didn't convince you, this probably won't either.

Oh, and there's his statement to Joe Klein, reported in Time magazine,
that he'd love to have some Republicans in his cabinet, especially in
national security positions. He likes people who push him out of his
comfort zone, he says. But only when they're pushing him to the right,
it seems.

And I haven't yet mentioned his meeting last week with Franklin Graham,
son of Billy, who famously denounced Islam as a wicked religion. No
wonder his TV people insisted that no women with headscarves would be
allowed to sit behind the candidate—it'd convey the wrong image, you
know. It's sorta like a few months ago, when one of his media people
issued a call for "more white people" on the set.

Today, he announced that he was foregoing public financing because he's
been able to raise so much money on his own. Sorry, that's not the
reason. The stated reason is that his supporters have allowed him to
declare independence from a broken system. Isn't that rather
conservative, that appeal to invididual initiative as opposed to public
funding? Yes, he's been able to raise gobs of money from small
contributions over the web—but he's also been raising gobs of money from
Wall Street. I see no reason why that won't continue.

I'm guessing that in the coming weeks and months, Obama's rightward
flirtations will inspire some extravagantly generous interpretations
from his fans on the left—interpretations so baroque that Talmudic
scholars will turn green with envy.



The Democratic nominee has a team of veteran warriors advising him on foreign policy issues.

DURING HIS campaign to win the Democratic nomination for president, Barack Obama used a line that never failed to draw applause from the largely antiwar crowds that turned out to hear him.

"I don't want to just end the war, but I want to end the mindset that got us into war in the first place," he said. "That's the kind of leadership that I think we need from the next president of the United States. That's what I intend to provide."

Yet only days after clinching the nomination, here was the same Barack Obama performing one of the biggest rituals of conventional foreign policy thinking.

On June 4, Obama addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, pledging his fealty to the Zionist regime and even calling for an "undivided Jerusalem" as Israel's capital. In other words, he endorsed the annexation of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian capital--a position that no government, including George Bush's, supports.

In an earlier appearance before that other favored foreign policy lobby, the far-right Cuban American National Foundation, Obama pledged to support the U.S. embargo on the island--a position that the Republican House of Representatives voted to rescind in 2005.

Some may be tempted to write off these appeals to the right as political pandering to insulate him from the Republicans' planned assault on him as "weak on defense." But the people who believe this are burying their heads in the sand.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

LET'S STIPULATE a couple of points at the top. First, Obama is running to be the commander of the world's biggest imperial power. He will fill that role--and not that of anti-warrior in the White House.

Second, aside from his well-publicized opposition to "the wrong war at the wrong time" in Iraq, there is nothing in his record to suggest that he plans any radical departures from the mainstream of the American foreign policy establishment.

To survey Obama's positions, it's well worth reviewing his almost year-old Foreign Affairs article, "Renewing American Leadership."

The main aim of Obama's presidency, it seems from this article, will be to regain the leadership of the world that George Bush's reckless and dumb foreign policy has squandered. "In the wake of Iraq and Abu Ghraib, the world has lost trust in our purposes and our principles," Obama writes. "We must lead the world, by deed and by example."

There's no disputing that the U.S. is more widely hated today than before Bush took office, and Obama's message recognizes that. And it's not surprising that Obama would urge "renewing American leadership," because "leading the world" has been the overriding U.S. foreign policy aim since at least the end of the Second World War.

"This century's threats," he writes, "are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past," including "weapons that can kill on a mass scale," "global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism," "rogue states," "rising powers," "weak states that cannot control their territory" and global warming.

Leaving aside the question of whether al-Qaeda is really the equal of Nazi Germany or thermonuclear holocaust--the last century's major threats--this is the standard issue from all sectors of the political establishment, including Bush.

"We must become better prepared to put boots on the ground in order to take on foes that fight asymmetrical and highly adaptive campaigns on a global scale," Obama writes. "I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened."

In other words, it seems that the Bush Doctrine of endless war and unilateral intervention would not disappear under an Obama administration. It will simply be "repurposed" and given more lofty-sounding justifications.

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LEST ANYONE think that this kind of interventionism is just campaign rhetoric, one should consider who Obama's chief foreign policy advisers (and likely authors of the Foreign Affairs article) are.

They include Anthony Lake, a one-time protégé of Henry Kissinger. As Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Lake devised the main strategy for U.S. intervention in the Balkans, including the NATO bombings of Serbia and aiding Croatia's ethnic cleansing of Serbs, which ultimately led to the 1999 NATO war.

Lake and another ex-Clintonite, Susan Rice, co-authored a Washington Post op-ed in which they argued for unilateral U.S. intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan: "The United States acted without UN blessing in 1999 in Kosovo to confront a lesser humanitarian crisis (perhaps 10,000 killed) and a more formidable adversary."

Beyond them are a number of ex-Clinton advisers, including Gregory Craig, who oversaw State Department policy planning around the expansion of NATO and the decision by the Clinton administration to endorse "regime change" in Iraq.

Another Obama adviser was Samantha Power, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard history professor who is a leading advocate of "humanitarian intervention" around the world. Power was what liberal blogger Joshua Micah Marshall called Obama's "Condi Rice"--that is, she played the same role in schooling Obama on foreign policy that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice played in training candidate George Bush in 1999 and 2000. Although she was forced to resign from the campaign after calling Sen. Hillary Clinton a "monster" in print, Power's influence is still heavy.

A second Harvard academic in the Obama brain trust is Sarah Sewell, who collaborated with Gen. David Petreaus in updating the army's counterinsurgency manual. Sewell advised Petreaus on human rights in counterinsurgency.

"Her impact on the thinking about the war and the conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been significant, and not without cost," Army counterinsurgency expert Lt. Col. John Nagl told American Prospect. "She has shown, in my eyes, great moral courage. I think Senator Obama is listening to someone who has thought long and hard about the use of force, and who understands the kinds of wars we're fighting today."

Besides these bureaucrats and intellectuals are a coterie of generals and other ex-military types who have lent their names to the Obama campaign. One is Jonathan Scott Gration, a two-star Air Force general who commanded a task force in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

While Gration has endorsed Obama's stated support for withdrawing troops from Iraq, he has also hedged on this position. "If it's very clear that the al-Maliki government is making significant progress, that we're turning the tide, it would be crazy not to re-adjust" the plan to withdraw, he told the New York Sun.

As Anthony Arnove pointed out in a recent Socialist Worker interview, "People who believe Barack Obama will end the occupation of Iraq are likely in for a rude awakening. Despite talking about withdrawal from Iraq, his plan would keep troops in the country for years to come, likely well beyond his potential first term.

"Obama has also left open the possibility that if he reduces the overall troop levels in Iraq--something that from a military standpoint is very likely, given how overstretched the United States is now--he would increase the number of mercenaries in Iraq."

As media speculation about Obama's vice presidential short list began, Team Obama made sure that the name of Ret. Gen. James Jones--one-time Marine Corps commandant and Supreme Allied Commander in NATO--was thrown into the mix. Jones, like Obama, has called for the U.S. to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Finally, if Obama's Middle East policy remains fairly conventional, that might be because one of the most conventional Middle East foreign policy hands in the U.S. establishment is advising him. Dennis Ross, special Middle East adviser to both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, is encouraging Obama to pursue diplomatic interactions with Iran and Syria.

But this is hardly the "path to peace" in the Middle East that Obama's supporters might hope for.

According to the Wall Street Journal's Jay Solomon, "Members of Sen. Obama's Middle East team, however, said they believed Damascus should be tested diplomatically because success could undermine Syria's military alliance with Iran. They said such a development could drastically shift the power balance in the Middle East while stanching the flow of arms to Hezbollah and Hamas. Syria also could become a partner in stabilizing Iraq, they say."

In the Middle East, as in the rest of the world, Obama's foreign policy might mark a change from the disastrous and incompetent policies that the Bush administration has pursued. But the change will be one of style and form, not one of substance and content.

Commenting on Obama's "fawning" speech before AIPAC, Israeli analyst Uri Avnery wrote that Obama's "dizzying success in the primaries was entirely due to his promise to bring about a change, to put an end to the rotten practices of Washington and to replace the old cynics with a young, brave person who does not compromise his principles. And lo and behold, the very first thing he does after securing the nomination of his party is to compromise his principles."

Avnery is only partly right. Obama isn't betraying his principles. Those are his principles.

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Columnist: Lance Selfa

Lance Selfa Lance Selfa is the author of the forthcoming The Democrats: A Critical History [2], a socialist analysis of the Democratic Party, and editor of The Struggle for Palestine [3], a collection of essays by leading solidarity activists. He is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review [4].

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Warning: This candidate makes wide right turns


Alan Maass looks at the record of the man who Barack Obama tapped to be the head of his team of economic advisers.

BACK IN January, at one of the Democratic presidential candidates' debates, Barack Obama took one of his few open shots at Hillary Clinton's past as a shill for shady corporations. "While I was working [as a community organizer in Chicago]...watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas," Obama said, "you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart."

It was a point that deserved to be made more often. Clinton's remade campaign image as a populist fighting for the "little guy" was in stark contrast to her long history as a fixture of the Democratic Party establishment and defender of corporations like Wal-Mart.

But maybe Obama had his reasons for keeping quiet about the Beast of Bentonville.

With the nomination finally in hand, Obama announced he was adding a team of political advisers straight out of the pro-corporate, pro-military mainstream of Clintonism.

And to head his economic team, he chose Jason Furman--best known to labor activists for writing a 2005 article defending Wal-Mart as a "progressive success story" and denouncing the efforts of union-backed groups like Wal-Mart Watch to expose the retail giant.

Furman's appointment was consistent with a series of right turns by Obama. The day after he claimed victory following the last Democratic primaries on June 3, Obama appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where he committed himself to an undivided Jerusalem, which isn't even the position of the Bush administration. At a Father's Day speech, he renewed his blame-the-victim criticisms of Black men as being responsible for the problems of the Black community.

Of course, it's the common wisdom of Democratic Party leaders that their presidential candidate needs to move toward the "center" as a general election gets underway. But Obama--who did say, once upon a time, that he would be a different kind of Democrat--is seeming more and more like a car whose steering wheel is stuck in one direction: turning right.

Obama's latest lurch came after the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-4 decision barring executions of those convicted of child rape. Obama criticized the ruling--which meant lining up with the right-wing extremist wing of the court: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

On the issue of the death penalty, Obama likes to associate himself with the Illinois moratorium on executions declared by former Gov. George Ryan while Obama was still a state senator. At one Democratic debate, for instance, he talked about the "broken system" that "had sent 13 innocent men to death row."

There is no reason to believe that the justice system is any less broken when it comes to crimes other than murder--and Obama knows it. But he and his advisers apparently thought it was more strategic to sign up with the absurd attack on the Supreme Court for committing "abuse of judicial authority," in the words of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

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THE CHOICE of Furman to lead his economic team underlines just how far Obama is from the progressive icon his supporters believe him to be.

Furman is a protégé of Robert Rubin, the Wall Street banker who shaped Clintonomics in the 1990s to serve the pro-business, neoliberal agenda.

In 2006, Furman was selected to head the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, a think tank founded by Rubin to press for free trade and balanced budget policies. On the advisory council of the Hamilton Project are Rubin and fellow Citigroup executives, as well as prominent hedge fund bosses like Eric Mindich of Eton Park Capital Management and Thomas Steyer of Farallon Capital.

Obama was the keynote speaker at the ceremony launching the Hamilton Project. He praised its leaders for their willingness to "experiment with policies that weren't necessarily partisan or ideological."

No one would confuse Furman with a radical. In a Washington Post op-ed last year, he argued for a decrease in the tax rate on corporations, provided loopholes in the tax code are closed. "We should consider," he wrote, "tax reform in the classic 1986 mode"--that is, tax policy as defined under Ronald Reagan.

But Furman went above and beyond the call in a 2005 paper, titled "Wal-Mart: A Progressive Success Story," where he argued that the low-wage, no-benefit jobs created by the aggressively anti-union Wal-Mart were the price to pay so low-income Americans could have a place to buy goods at low prices.

As if the example set by Wal-Mart and emulated by other corporations wasn't one of the main reasons why U.S. workers have to scramble to find bargain-basement prices. By Furman's logic, every strike for better wages is a blow to the interests of the working class as a whole--and an injury to one must be a victory for all.

In a Slate.com debate about the tactics of groups organizing against Wal-Mart's abuses of workers and customers alike, Furman clearly delighted in using the same smears against liberals employed by the likes of Karl Rove.

"The collateral damage from these efforts to get Wal-Mart to raise its wages and benefits is way too enormous and damaging to working people and the economy more broadly for me to sit by idly and sing 'Kum-Ba-Ya' in the interests of progressive harmony," Furman wrote.

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FURMAN ISN'T the exception, but the rule on a team of economic advisers to Obama that comes from, as author Naomi Klein puts it, "the left side of a spectrum that stops at the center-right."

For example, there's Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago economics department--though he's better known these days for having met with Canadian government officials to assure them that the Obama campaign's previous anti-NAFTA rhetoric "should be viewed as more political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans."

The UC economics department, of course, is notorious as the home of Milton Friedman and the high priests of neoliberalism and corporate globalization. Goolsbee comes from the Democratic wing of the department, but he still worships the free market, and expects the same of the presidential candidate he supports. "If you look at his platform, at his advisers, at his temperament," Goolsbe said of Obama to one reporter, "the guy's got a healthy respect for markets."

As Klein pointed out in the Nation, the neoliberal dogmas of the "Chicago school" are increasingly discredited because of the damage they have caused--to the extent that "Friedman's name is seen as a liability even at his own alma mater. So why has Obama chosen this moment, when all illusions of a consensus have dropped away, to go Chicago retro?"

The question is the answer. For all his talk about change, Obama is showing in such actions his commitment to an economic program that is acceptable to Wall Street and Corporate America.

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The (possible) Obama presidency is not just historic about what it says for black men. The possibility of a black first lady is going to be a monumental event for black women, and indeed, women in general. Michelle Obama lawyer, career woman, mother and wife will shatter stereotypes about what women can do. And during times when women are struggling with the balance between motherhood and career, it's more salient than ever.