At the start of September, I’ll be embarking on a two month journey to campaign for Barack Obama as an Organising Fellow based in Boston.
There’s no doubt that supporting Obama’s re-election is the right thing to do. Despite the many failings of the Obama administration (as Maurice Blackburn lawyer Lizzie O’Shea pointed out to me recently, he’s let us down on Gitmo, drone assassinations, climate change, whistleblower protections, worker’s rights, etc), the alternative is so much worse.
Obama has also achieved some important milestones. The step forward to universal health care, albeit, in a compromised semi-privatised form is a big improvement over the previous system. Obama has started down the road to nuclear disarmament, a massive international achievement. The Obama administration, although unable to introduce an emissions trading system, has invested enormously in renewable energy technology and fuel efficiency — important for moving to a clean energy future.
In Boston, the Obama campaign is likely to win by double digits. However, there is an important Senate election in Massachusetts, with the liberal Democrat Elizabeth Warren fighting to win back Ted Kennedy’s seat against Tea Party candidate Scott Brown. Many of the political problems in the US are exacerbated by ultra-conservative politicians who block consensus and progressive legislative reform. Getting Elizabeth Warren in the Senate is an important step to increasing the number of progressives in law making roles. We’ve seen how destructive a Republican controlled Congress can be — and it would only be worse if the Republicans also had a majority in the Senate.
The US political situation is a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma. It is a matter of choosing the lesser evil. I‘ve previously defended parliamentarism. Despite the dire situation, and Obama’s failings as a progressive candidate (he’s decidedly centrist), no progressive activist can sit idly by and let the likes of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan win.
Thanks to Don Sutherland, for pointing me to this interesting article about Obama and the progressive left in the USA. Here’s an excerpt:
Unfortunately what too few leftists and progressives have been prepared to accept is that the polarization is to a great extent centered on a revenge-seeking white supremacy; on race and the racial implications of the moves to the right in the US political system. It is also focused on a re-subjugation of women, harsh burdens on youth and the elderly, increased war dangers, and reaction all along the line for labor and the working class. No one on the left with any good sense should remain indifferent or stand idly by in the critical need to defeat Republicans this year.
U.S. Presidential elections are not what progressives want them to be
A large segment of what we will call the ‘progressive forces’ in US politics approach US elections generally, and Presidential elections in particular, as if: (1) we have more power on the ground than we actually possess, and (2) the elections are about expressing our political outrage at the system. Both get us off on the wrong foot.
I think the author, Bill Fletcher, makes some good points (especially the point that Obama is a “corporate liberal” and mediator rather than a transformer of society), but the repeated references to the “irrationalism” of the extreme right misses the point that George Lakoff was trying to make.
The larger point though from Fletcher is that just because Obama and the US political process is not particularly progressive and does not align with left-wing principles of democracy, etc, does not excuse progressives and lefties from actively participating in the electoral process. There’s no doubt that Romney and the Tea Party would be worse.