While I do not believe that a Democratic POTUS will behave that much differently than a Republican one, I am encouraged that millions of US voters could overcome a racist history and elect a black President. There is jubilation tonight in many parts of the United States because of this, and deservedly so.
The fact remains, though, that however much President-elect Obama promises change, his record, his platform and the system he has been elected to administer point to a reaffirmation of the status quo.
It only stands to reason that a candidate who could raise $454 million for his Presidential primary and election contests owes a huge debt of gratitude to the interests that bankrolled his campaign. Obama raised twice as much money as his rival, John McCain, and he will have to make good on that debt.
How will the American people respond to their new President as the economy collapses around them and scarce resources are spent on interminable war and Wall Street swindlers? It’s perhaps to early to say. But there are early signs that the American Left (yes, Virginia, there is an American Left and no, Obama is not a socialist) is moving in two different directions.
Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader appears to be the first off the mark. In an open letter to Obama, Nader writes
In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.
Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?
I think we can count on Nader (who at this point has polled over half a million votes) to continue to point out that the Emperor has no clothes.
Nader’s make-no-concessions approach is in sharp contrast to the soft cop stylings of Avaaz.org. In an email that I (and bazillions of others) received tonight, Avaaz’s Rick Patel exclaimed (almost breathlessly)
After 8 long years of Bush – finally a fresh start!
Obama’s victory brings a chance for the US to finally join with the world community to take on pressing challenges on climate change, human rights, and peace.
After years, even decades of distrust, let’s seize this moment of unity, reconciliation and hope to send a message of warm congratulations and invitation to work together to the new President and the American people.
We’ve built a huge wall near the White House in Washington DC where the number of signatures on our message and personal messages from around the world will grow over the next several hours. We’ve also asked Obama to personally receive our petition from a group of Avaaz members. Let’s get to 1 million signers and messages to Obama! Sign on at the link below and forward this email to others:
While the email goes on to outline some of the major, progressive-sounding commitments Obama made to Americans, nowhere does it mention that Obama intends to beef up the US military and send more troops to the Land Where Empires Go To Die, aka Afghanistan.
In a country where the public political discourse is so narrow that “liberals” are the far left and Wall Street bailouts are “socialism” it will be difficult for the Real Left to find its voice, much less make itself heard. This will be doubly difficult if outfits like Avaaz, who have developed a substantial Internet reach, continue to avoid some inconvenient truths about Obama’s politics and his corporate friends.