``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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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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Bush-Cheney policies have isolated the US from many countries in the
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.
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
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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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.
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
What it doesn’t mean
success has its limitations in terms of what it means for African Americans’
future, and for all working people.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
aim is to engage and embrace; it is to help move those activists towards
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.
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).
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
Obama’s next step
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.
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.
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
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).
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
Miah is an editor of Against The Current magazine and a San Francisco supporter of the socialist