Change We Can Believe In?

It has been less than a week since Barack Hussein Obama's remarkable victory at the polls. Despite a vicious Republican campaign built on hate, ignorance, McCarthyite fear-mongering, and voter disenfranchisement efforts, the junior senator from Illinois won the election by more than 7.5 million votes. He overturned months of speculation about the "Bradley effect" and the projected disapproval of white working-class voters by winning swing states and turning even reliably red states like Indiana, Virginia, Colorado, and North Carolina blue for the first time in decades.

People across the country took to the streets in droves to celebrate President-elect Obama's victory on November 4th. The thousands of volunteers who devoted time and energy to promote his campaign and the millions who donated, many less than $200, are ecstatic. To all those for whom America has represented generations of racial injustice—slavery, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, and the Jena Six—the election of America's first Black president marks the beginning of a new era. It's a moment of enormous possibility and the realization of a long-awaited dream that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. And everyone fed up with the past eight years of the Bush-Cheney nightmare (and two elections stolen from under the noses of Gore and Kerry) is overjoyed at the long-overdue prospect of change.

But is this really "change we can believe in?" That depends on whether we're willing to settle for another version of the Clinton years or demand something more. Obama won the election primarily on economic issues but unless his millions-strong grassroots constituency holds his feet to the fire, the banks and the corporations will be the only remaining believers in this brand of change. Obama's support of the Treasury's bailout plan, his failure to call for a complete moratorium on foreclosures until just last month, and the fact that Clinton-era champions of deregulation (like Lawrence Summers and Robert Rubin) are among those getting the President-elect's ear on economic issues are not encouraging signs. Nor are Vice-President elect Joe Biden's close ties to the credit card industry.

Obama secured the support many progressives because he was the only Democratic Presidential candidate (besides Dennis Kucinich) who did not vote for the war in Iraq. But his ideas on how to end this trillion-dollar war remain ambiguous at best and his stated commitment to pursuing the "war on terror" in Afghanistan and extending it into Pakistan should be alarming to many. He has repeatedly called for increasing US troops inside Afghanistan and said he supports unilateral attacks on "Al Qaeda targets" inside Pakistan—with or without Pakistan's permission. On Iran, to his credit, he has said he would talk to the leadership but has also argued for increased pressure and tightened sanctions to halt Iran's nuclear program, "before Israel feels like its back is to the wall."

Israel may well be the Achilles heel of Obama's progressive pretensions. It's particularly disheartening given the respect he once held for reputed Palestinian intellectuals like Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi. A day after winning the Democratic nomination, Obama told AIPAC that Jerusalem should be Israel's undivided capital. Now, just two days after being elected President, he named the hawkish pro-Israeli Rahm Emmanuel as his chief of staff, crushing any hopes that the coming administration might have a fairer policy on the Palestinian question. In another questionable appointment, Obama just named Sonal Shah to his transition team. A co-founder of Indicorps, Shah was also, until 2001, the National Coordinator of the deeply sectarian Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, tied to the Sangh Parivar in India.

On domestic issues of criminal justice and civil liberties, the Obama-Biden record is not very inspiring either. They both support the death penalty and Joe Biden is infamous for sponsoring some of the most punitive legislation in the war on drugs. Biden voted for the PATRIOT Act and Obama voted to reauthorize it. Equally shameful is the fact that Obama voted this July to cover up the Bush administration's illegal surveillance program. He supported Bush's expansion of warrantless wiretapping as well as retroactive immunity for telecom companies involved in the eavesdropping.

For eight years, people in the U.S. have endured an administration that has blatantly undermined the Constitution, rejected multilateralism and international law, launched illegal and inhumane wars, refused to believe in global warming, and engaged in unmatched lying, scheming, and corporate thieving. An Obama presidency will indeed be an improvement in many respects. But unless the inspired millions who brought him to power continue to believe their demands matter and insist on holding him accountable each step of the way, it will be Obama's corporate and hawkish friends who determine the domestic and foreign policies of the coming administration and our collective future.

"We will not be silent" became a popular slogan during the Bush years, signaling opposition to everything the Bush administration stood for. It is perhaps tempting to remain silent now, during this immediate after-glow of Obama's victory, to allow ourselves a moment of relief. While on the campaign trail Obama often quoted Dr. Martin Luther King to explain why he was running for President: because, he said, of the "fierce urgency of now," because "there is such a thing as being too late." Those words are from MLK's 1967 "Beyond Vietnam" speech, where Dr. King, unlike Obama, called for an unequivocal end to all American war-making and solidarity with people's struggles against injustice around the world. If we're serious about realizing the kind of change we actually do believe in, then it's worthwhile to remember the letter and spirit of MLK's words and speak up before its too late.

Comments

Unless the news media starts holding obama to the scrutiny that was largely absent during his campaign, we might just squander this opportunity. Here's a gonzo look at the press' ineptitude as they played into the hands of perhaps the most powerful campaign in presidential history. http://thussin.blogspot.com/2008/11/story-by-noah-hussin-scent-of-sterility.html
kudos Anjali... Great article!!!
Very well stated. The struggle is no where near over.
Anjali,this is very much how I felt about Obama at the time you wrote this article. Though some nay-said this article when it was written, the fullness of time shows it to be true in its intent, that is, to show that Obama is indeed a ringer working for the same interests that propelled Bush to the national stage. I know this sounds harsh, but I can find no other reason to explain the cover-up of Bush-Cheney's criminal actions, for one. I could go on. I
A nice article. a while ago I discovered this article that is very helpful. Hereby I like to share it here: http://democracyandsocialism.com/Articles/TheUSelectionsandchange.html
"The article reads: ""Obama secured the support many progressives because he was the only Democratic Presidential candidate (besides Dennis Kucinich) who did not vote for the war in Iraq."" Obama was not able to vote for or against the attack on Iraq because he was not sworn in as a senator until January 4, 2005. That was well after the vote to attack Iraq was held. The article implies Obama was in the senate at the time of the attack on Iraq. He was not. However, he has repeatedly voted for war appropriations since he's been in the senate and has talked about attacking Iran, Pakistan and a troop surge in Afghanistan, even though history has proven that wrong. No one has ever conquered Afghanistan, and probably never will."
"Wow. You must be a lousy gardener because you stick a seed in the ground and expect a cornucopia of produce the next day. As Senator Clinton said in deriding Senator Obama's slogan, ""change takes work"". How you can know on November 10th the future outcome of a Presidency that will not begin until January 20th is impressive. I would love to hear your predictions for the Superbowl. Barack Obama's election is merely a step in a long process as was every primary victory. He himself as said not to expect immediate results and that he wants everyone to continue to be involved and asking questions. Your analysis is reminiscent of the ""guilt by association"" practiced by the Right about William Ayers. If they were part of the Clinton Administration, well then they are tainted. Perhaps, but it is Obama's agenda that will be taken up. In addition, a person's past is not always a measure of his or her actions in the future. Sure, he is not enacting a full-blown left agenda as you would define. Surprise? No. He never said he was such. I think you may have deluded yourself into believing the Right's rhetoric that he was secretly something else. If the Left's agenda was so effective, it would reach people and they would respond. I would suggest this is a moment for the Left - whatever that is - to reflect upon their own strategy and tactics in order to ask ""What is to be done?"""
Thank you for this clear and sobering message, to which we say....AMEN. And thank you for leading the country in bringing clear and transformative information into the light.
"Does He Speak with ""Forked Tongue?"" By Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs, Ph.D., Ed.D. (Fielding Graduate University) Author: Unlearning the Language of Conquest (U of Texas Press) On June 2nd, 2008, Obama delivered a four minute speech over the airwaves to those attending the National Congress of American Indians in Reno, Nevada. His presentation was a substitute for a planned personal appearance. (see http://election08.videosift.com/video/Obamas-Message-To-American-Indians) He promised a new approach to government relations with America’s first nations, including “an appointment of an American Indian tribal advisor to my senior white house staff.” He also said, Few have been ignored by Washington as the American Indians…too often Washington pays lip service to working with tribes…. Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and tribal nations. Our government hasn’t always been honest and truthful in our dealings. And we’ve got to acknowledge that if we’re going to move forward in a fair and honest way. Indian nations have never asked much of the United States – only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made to their forebears. So let me be absolutely clear – I believe treaty commitments are paramount law, and I will fulfill those commitments as president of the United States. Many of us, who listened to these words with hope and joy in our hearts, wept. We don’t want to believe that all of this will wind up being more promises and lies. Yet there is reason for concern in a nation where Clinton was the first president to visit an Indian reservation since Franklin D. Roosevelt visited one on September 9, 1936, and where one of the two individuals that is celebrated in the U.S. with a federal holiday is Christopher Columbus. One concern is that, as of today, November 21st, with a number of appointments and speculations for cabinet positions being made by Obama who do not represent the best interests of Indigenous People (I’ll get to that in a minute), there is a remarkable absence of any reference to American Indians on his official website, in spite of his rhetoric. Sure, it is too soon to tell and there is still time. And perhaps some responsibility should go to the NCAI, whose staff is apparently working with Obama’s transition team member, John Podesta, to submit resumes of qualified candidates. But still, how could there be NO speculation about his appointment of an American Indian to any position on the blogs and NO reference to American Indians or Indian policy on his website? For example, I spent several hours searching Obama’s website at change.gov. First of all, I found nothing in the headings that relates to American Indians. Then I inserted “American Indian” into the search function and got “We found 52 results for ‘American Indian.” I did the same for “Native American” and got 35 hits. I looked at most of the items and found not a single reference to this topic, nor to issues relating to the poverty and other problems facing Indian people. Yet there are categories for supporting a number of other causes. One of the hits was “Policy Working Groups.” This is a description of the people he has appointed to develop priority policy plans in the economy, energy and environment, health care, immigration, national security, and Technology, Innovation & Government Reform.” Not a single American Indian or reference to American Indian issues here either. There was, however, a listing for Sonal Shah, an “Indian-American” and former Vice President at Goldman, Sachs and Co. who is co-founder of a non-profit offering fellowships to Indian-Americans for work on development projects in India. OK, what about the staffing positions and short-lists already in play? Janet Napolitano, as a top contender for Homeland Security, has generally been an ally to Indian country. Tom Daschle, a probable for Secretary of Health and Human Services, also has been a friend to the Lakota in South Dakota. And a top contender for Secretary of the Interior, Raul Grijalva, has supported Indian rights and health care bills. However, a number of appointments and possibilities thus far seem to have been either complicit in or unaware of the U.S. policies that have directly or indirectly allowed for genocide of Indigenous Peoples around the world. No administration is going to be able to understand or mitigate the United States treatment of American Indians, past or present, with people in key positions who can rationalize any policy that leads to the killing of Indigenous peoples. As far as I know, there are at least three of Obama’s possible selections whose record is typical of the “white washing” of such activities as are described in my book, Unlearning the Language of Conquest. For example, consider his former associate, Samantha Power, his current foreign policy advisor. Her scholarship is typical of the adventures in denial that many Ivy league academics practice. Here is what Edward S. Herman says about her published writings in his article, ""Richard Holbrooke, Samantha Power, and the 'Worthy-Genocide' Establishment"" (Kafka Era Studies Number 5), ZNet, March 24, 2007: Power never departs from the selectivity dictated by the establishment party line. That requires, first and foremost, simply ignoring cases of direct U.S. or U.S.-sponsored (or otherwise approved) genocide. Thus the Vietnam war, in which millions were directly killed by U.S. forces, does not show up in Power's index or text. Guatemala, where there was a mass killing of as many as 100,000 Mayan Indians between 1978 and 1985, in what Amnesty International called ""A Government Program of Political Murder,"" but by a government installed and supported by the United States, also does not show up in Power's index. A major U.S.-encouraged and supported genocide occurred in Indonesia in 1965-66 in which over 700,000 people were murdered. This genocide is not mentioned by Samantha Power and the names Indonesia and Suharto do not appear in her index. Interestingly, today I found a reference to Herman’s article at MySimmons blog in a piece entitled, “First Stop on the Tour of Complicity.” Notice the last sentence and see that I am not the only one making these connections! As Herman amply argues, Power’s scholarship on genocide clearly and systematically avoids any uncomfortable mention of the massive slaughterhouses created by the US in Southeast Asia or Central America, such as the 30-year long bloodbath in East Timor that witnessed the killing of nearly one third of the entire population of the Timorese by the Indonesian military - all the while fully armed and trained by the U.S., which actually gave the green light to the invasion of tiny East Timor in 1975. Genocide is always something that “they” do, not us. Tell that to the Indians, Samantha! Another influential academic, also from Harvard, is Sarah Sewall who is leading the transition’s national security team and is a likely future appointee. She is the director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She is known for her unique interest in a sort of partnership between human rights and military force. She recently authored The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual and one of her Center’s conferences, held in January 2005, was held at the School of Assassins, which is linked to acts of political repression in Latin America. According to Tom Hayden in his 2007 piece entitled “Harvard’s Humanitarian Hawks” that mentions this fact in The Nation (http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070730/hayden),“ She goes on to make an ambiguous comment about the dirty war supported by US Special Forces in El Salvador, now known as the ""El Salvador option."" Tom quotes her as having said, “Military annals today tally that effort as a success, but others cannot get past the shame of America's indirect role in fostering death squads."" Of course, both she and Power are only academics who might be persuasive for policy, perhaps like the academic heroes of the Bush administration who inspired the authors of the “Century for a New America.” But others have a more direct history. Take Lee Hamilton who is in the running for the Obama team. When chairman of the House task force studying the Iran-Contra affair that was responsible for killing tens of thousands of Indigenous People in Guatamala, he was instrumental in white-washing the October Surprise and other investigations into wrong-doings of the Republican party in preparation for the new Clinton regime. Then there is Eric Holder, Jr., a possible choice being considered for Attorney General. He is an attorney whose law firm is representing Chiquita Brands, a corporation alleged to have paid Columbian death squads to murder labor leaders? And Tom Vilsack, a possibility for Secretary of Agriculture who has been a supporter of genetically engineered crops that are destroying Indigenous peoples lives around the world. If I had the time and did not think the reader has already gotten my point, I’m afraid more research into the names likely to be running things for the next four year might uncover similar stories that are an anathema to a progressive vision for giving due recognition and fair treatment to First Nations who continue to struggle in these United States. Personally, I still have hope that Obama somehow knows what he is doing; that he is continuing to placate the powers that be until he is positioned to implement the policies many of us put him into office to actualize. Yet it is naïve to think that his cabinet and advisors, if they follow the current trend, will not have the power to prevent him from walking his talk. In his scholarly text, A Time Before Deception: Truth in Communication, Culture and Ethics, Thomas Cooper acknowledges the historical integrity of Indigenous Peoples and their ancient belief that people who do not tell the truth must have a mental illness that prevents them from understanding reality. Hollywood’s cliché about “White man speaks with forked tongue” not withstanding, the history of deceit used against American Indians is infamous, although, as I say in Unlearning the Language of Conquest, too few Americans really know the extent to which this is true. In any case, Obama, who was given the name “Black Eagle” by the Crow and means “one who helps the people throughout the land,” may be our last chance for actualizing the renewed hope that honesty and integrity have a chance to reassert their vibrations once again into the American landscape. Four Arrows (Wahinkpe Topa) ""I believe it is time to think indigenous and act authentic even at the price of rejection. To disagree with mainstream expectations is to wake up, to understand what is happening, to be of service to a larger whole. You may even begin to work on behalf of our lands, water and air."" –Manulani Aluli-Meyer in Four Arrows, aka Don Trent Jacobs (2008) The Authentic Dissertation: Alternative ways of knowing, research and representation (London: Routledge) Generosity is the highest expression of courage."
"About time someone at Democracy Now points out the discrepancies between Obama's rhetoric and actions. Obama has a history of reversing himself whenever expediant; i.e., FISA asnd campaign financing. The only way that Obama will even begin to measure up to to our expectations is if we insist on it. Otherwise tomorrow he'll say; "" change? what change?"""
moncler outlet manufactured a grand entry while in the Chinese marketplace together with the guidance of Adrienne moncler accessory uk, who is the daughter of your renowned Joyce Ma. They moncler vest uk the inaugural retailer within the city of Hong Kong and the retailer was sold out inside of no time. Some from the jackets have a moncler coats uk hood and also have felted pockets. The jackets are also stitched inside a specific fashion which provides much more durability for the use of moncler jackets uk.
"Partha Banerjee The US is a plutocracy, not a democracy. Obama is not a democratically elected President. He is a product of the ruling classes that has been vetted groomed and bankrolled by big business, who swept their media monolith in behind him, as they believe he was best placed to carry on the agenda of the Bush administration. The US administration is in a serious dilemma, with the war opposed by the majority of Americans and the destruction of democratic norms and wages and condition domestically. It was no coincidence that the Democrats ran a woman and a Blackman as presidential candidates, as a cynical ploy to give the election the flavour of a change in direction of US policy by having the first female or African American president. The fact that Obama supports the ""bogus war on terror"", from which all the crimes of the Bush administration found there justification, is a stark warning of what can be expected from an Obama administration. • The use of torture • Domestic wire tapping • Drumhead military commissions • The war expansion of the in Afghanistan and strikes against Pakistan and Iran-Obama’s only objection to the war in Iraq is that it is the wrong war. • The introduction of the draft • An increase of 100,000 uniformed troops • The patriot act that removes the most basic of democratic rights • The rewarding of parasitic bankers with billions of dollars of ordinary working peoples tax dollars. He approves of every one of these criminal and undemocratic breaches of civil liberties and of domestic and international law."
The present crisis in human culture is the crisis in the proletarian leadership. The advanced workers, united in the Fourth International, show their class the way out of the crisis. They offer a program based on international experience in the struggle of the proletariat and of all the oppressed of the world for liberation. They offer a spotless banner. Workers – men and women – of all countries, place yourselves under the banner of the Fourth International. It is the banner of your approaching victory!
It is legitimate to recognize that the vote for Obama would not have been possible were it not for the fact that social attitudes in America have changed profoundly over the past 50 years—something that was for all practical purposes denied by (NYT Columnist Frank) Rich and his fellow liberals. Nor is there any doubt that the movement to the left of broad sections of the working class overcame any hesitations linked to the lingering influence of racial attitudes. But there is a disturbing undercurrent in the response of Rich and other liberal and “left” commentators to the election. For them, it is all about race, and not about the social sentiments, policy questions and class issues that actually determined the outcome. They define the election as the victory of a black man, not the result of a wave of popular opposition to Bush and a Republican administration that lifted a candidate into the White House who happens to be black. This indicates that Rich and others of his political stripe will be prepared to tolerate policies that they considered unacceptable under Bush when they are carried out by Obama—which was precisely the point of the promotion of Obama by his establishment backers. To the extent that Obama is able to exploit his identity to politically disarm workers, his administration becomes all the more dangerous to the social interests of the working class. What happens when the working class begins to fight for its social interests and comes into conflict with an Obama administration, when the class nature of the Obama administration is revealed and workers come forward to oppose it? Then the class basis of liberalism as a political standpoint of a section of the bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeoisie will be revealed, and its fundamentally reactionary nature exposed. Whatever the initial exhilaration over Obama’s victory, the deepening economic crisis will sooner rather than later make itself felt in the lives of tens of millions of Americans and begin to clarify the class interests that underlie the new administration. This will set the stage for a new period of class struggle in the United States. http://www.wsws.org/articles/2008/nov2008/pers-n11.shtml
"We MUST NOT BE SILENT, Fredrick Douglas once said ""Power concedes NOTHING without a DEMAND""! That statement is true now more than ever. While I feel Obama is a better choice than McCain, that will only continue to remain true if Pres Obama lends his ear to THE PEOPLE and end the policies of secrecy, fear and terror created in part by the Bush Administration. I encourage everyone to be PROACTIVE that is a position of power and one that is needed to fight for this fragile democracy."
This sounds identicle to Nader's website. I dont have high excpectations of Barack. Will he work for labor groups? I doubt it, he has stated that he will not try to over turn the Taft-Hartley law...(most anti peice of legislation in the western world) has adopted virtualy the same forieghn policy as bush or at least Clinton. Hopefully he will summon some courage and push for the reform that those who voted for him really need. Eric
"I might also direct you to Ralph Nader's ""An Open Letter to Barack Obama"" here: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10809 calling President Elect Obama out on a number of anti-left positions including his stance on Israel/Palestine, his snubbing of Muslims in the U.S., his lack of attention on working class Americans, and a few more items. People should have held their votes until Obama pledged to take just action on these issues. Unfortunately now, it seems like he'll have a blank check to do as he pledged, since he so handedly defeated the opposition. That being said, here's to working for real change..."
"Nice article. Thank you. However, the left and the progressive also have a serious responsibility to make the change happen. It would be a major mistake to disengage from the Obama initiatives at every little twists and turns of his action: a mistake that makes the self-righteous left more and more fringe. Let's not have too much of an expectation from the new administration; let's also assume that there will be Rahm Emmanuels', Robert Gates', Lawrence Summers' and a whole host of Clintonian neoliberals. One quick observation, if I may. During my campaign months in New York, D.C., New Jersey and Pennsylvania, I did not come across a lot of ""hardcore"" lefty's on the ground. In fact, it was quite a pronounced absence. On the other hand, organized labor and not-so-organized left-of-center, mostly-white volunteers worked round the clock for a Barack Obama presidency, even when it seemed improbable, back in 2007. It would be unreasonable to believe that the disengaged factions of the left, and not the not-so-left, would now get a piece of the pie in terms of policies and measures. It would only happen if we keep involved, and work strategically to move the Obama agenda to our side -- in areas of economics, war, education, health care or immigration. Thanks, SAMAR, for the opportunity to talk. Partha Banerjee Brooklyn, New York http://www.geocities.com/chokmoki"

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <b> <blockquote>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
5 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.