Thursday, February 28, 2008


What the heck is going on with this whole Barack Obama thing? So many Americans are so excited they can hardly stand it. I admit I even find myself sometimes with chills as I listen to the guy talk, as I see a Black man with a serious chance of being our next President.

Then five minutes later, I say to myself, "huh?"

Let's face it comrades, Sen Obama is a mainstream Democrat who supports nuclear power as a good option, who is ready to send the troops back into Iraq, who proclaims his readiness to unilateral action if he finds it necessary, who is not interested in a mortgage moratorium or any other real answers for people in the process of losing their homes, who makes very clear that although he happens to be Black he is not a Black candidate (god forbid) and which maybe is why he couldn't find time to attend the State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans this month , who although proud of his talk against the Iraq War never votes to cut off funds (which even his party finally found the courage to do during the Vietnam War), who calls himself a "movement," who runs an Oprah like campaign, whose wife warned us many long months ago that this would be our only chance to elect her husband President because they had other things to do then run for office (like make sure the kids get to ballet), who surrounds himself with a slightly different batch of Bill Clinton's advisers then does Hillary Clinton, who listens to the voice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, who endorsed George I (and who brilliantly, you may remember, armed the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to fight against its communist government and who led the U.S. toward a new arms buildup - a policy that is more generally associated with Ronald Reagan now), who just like Hillary Clinton voted for an extension of the corporate-neoliberal North American Free Trade Agreement to Peru, and who despite what he keeps saying does not offer a plan for universal health care.

And here is one for you...

I'll just bet you didn't know during the primary campaign in South Carolina, as pointed out by Glenn Greenwald at Salon, the good Sen. Obama distributed a brochure which seem to include religious appeals at least as overt and explicit as anything Rev. Huckabee has done. The center page of the brochure proclaims -- in the largest letters on the page -- that Obama is a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and includes three pictures of Obama, all of which show him praying or preaching in a Church, and also includes a fourth picture: of the interior of a Church with a large cross lurking in the background. The page also says that Obama is "guided by his Christian faith" and quotes Obama saying: "We do what we do because God is with us."

That same page prints Obama's views "on the power of prayer," and -- using the same language George Bush has frequently used as a signifier to evangelical voters -- says that Obama is "Called to Christ," "Called to Bring Change" and "Called to Serve."

Similarly,Greenwald reports, the front page of the brochure shows Obama in a chin-on-hand contemplative posture and underneath, it reads: "Answering the Call." The last page shows two more pictures of Obama in Church, proclaims him again in large letters to be a "COMMITTED CHRISTIAN," and describes how he "felt a beckoning and accepted Jesus Christ into [his] life."

Now, I know, as a Jew, maybe I'm overly sensitive to this sort of thing, but as a left winger from way back I think we all should be.

I've got to say this, okay, so don't yell at me. What really irks me about Sen. Obama is that he seems to think we, you and me, are all so lucky to have the opportunity to hear him, to see him, to support him (maybe because he is "called"). And it bothers me that he gets so prickly about any criticism of him (for which he always has an answer anyway). I mean, do you remember what he said if he could think of some major fault of his. He started talking about a messy desk.

But, my friends (as John McCain always says - I feel like calling McCain to let him know I'm not his friend), I'm not here trying to tell you that Sen. Obama is worse than anyone else currently trying to move into the White House, just that he isn't one of us...and he isn't better than us either.

Wouldn't it be nice, my fellow Americans, if we really, just once in a Presidential election, could vote for a real progressive, someone truly on the left, for someone who would really shake things up and really make those changes every candidate for President since George Washington has been promising?

Oh well, that isn't going to happen in my lifetime. And I've known that all of my lifetime.

So I'll vote for Obama (whom I'm presuming will be the candidate) in November and be very happy he isn't George Bush or John McCain. That's something anyway.

Now check out below my proof that I'm not the only one and that despite what Sen. Obama seems to think it is okay from time to time to be critical of him.

The following two commentaries are taken from
Black Agenda Report.

Obamarama: Is it a Movement? Or is it Marketing? And What Should We Be Doing?
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce Dixon

"The Obama 'movement' demands nothing from the candidate except to get elected."

When you visit on the web, the button in the lower left corner says “join the movement”. The Obama campaign frankly claims to be the direct successor to and the current incarnation of the movement for justice and human rights which won Black voting rights and an end to Jim Crow. Unprecedented numbers of young people have been put in motion, the corporate media breathlessly tell us, by “the Obama movement” and Hillary Clinton's staffers have publicly wrung their hands in dismay at the futility of running against, not a rival campaign, but against a “movement.”

While there many similarities between a well-executed twenty-first century US presidential campaign, and a successful multimedia and viral marketing campaign, there are many important differences between both of these and a transformative movement for social change.

All three, to be successful, must tap into widespread, deeply held beliefs in their target audiences, and take full advantage of horizontal, person to person communications inside those audiences to push their message, a process marketers call “viral marketing.” But the content of marketing and political campaign messaging is dictated from the top. Though the masses are passive consumers and sometimes the transmitters of marketing and partisan political messaging, they are seldom or never its originators.

By contrast the goals, the messages, the plans, and the tactics of the mid twentieth century movements for civil and human rights did not come from the top down, they came from the bottom up. They came from union halls, student dormitories and church basements. They came from meetings in the back rooms of restaurants and at kitchen tables across the South and around the country.

"Mass social movements aim to alter relations of power. They are impolite and sometimes operate outside of or in defiance of the law."

The greatest difference between the top-down messaging of marketing and political campaigns and the messages of mass movements for change is in the scope of what they demand, and who they demand it from, and how those demands are backed up.

The goal of marketing campaigns is to get large numbers of people to change or affirm habits of consumption. Political campaigns need to get out their vote and win the election for their candidates. The objectives of marketing and political campaigns are time-limited, respectful of authority and strictly inside the bounds of law and decorum, whether shopping, registering voters, canvassing, calling house meetings, or getting out the vote.

Mass social movements aim to alter relations of power. They are impolite and sometimes operate outside of or in defiance of the law. They make impossible, reckless, irresponsible demands, like respect, human rights and the vote to people who didn't have them - like stopping an unjust war, halting foreclosures and gentrification, like guaranteeing the absolute right to organize a union, to strike and to win a living wage. But the Obama “movement” demands nothing from the candidate except to get elected. There are no yardsticks, no demands placed upon Obama by his constituents, no goals that have come from independently organized meetings or other processes in Black America.

Activists are saying that Obama can and will be held accountable eventually - after he is elected. But how realistic is that?

Unless activists both inside and outside the Obama campaign are organizing their own meetings, raising their own demands, and building their own networks apart from those of the campaign's they won't even have the names, or the phone numbers or the email addresses of the thousands of young and old people eager for change who have come forward to work on the campaign. The day after the election the “Obama movement” will be just like those “movements” that elected Black mayors in cities across the land. Over. And another precious organizing opportunity will have been missed.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon.

BAR managing editor Bruce Dixon can be contacted at Bruce.Dixon(@)

Freedom Rider: Progressives Cave to Obama
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley

"There is no movement left to speak up or fight back."

The progressive movement is on its death bed, in critical condition for many reasons. Activists are demoralized after George W. Bush cheated his way into office, committed crimes against humanity, and subverted the constitution without punishment or even serious risk of political damage. Eight years of evil doing have taken their toll on activists' willingness to take action.

The Democrats are not blameless. The prospect of a Hillary Clinton nomination was another slap in the face to the most loyal Democratic voters. The Yale educated lawyer claimed she didn't know the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq was just what it said. The sorry excuses went on forever and the disgust only grew. Her vaunted inevitability silenced Democrats, who prepared to hold their noses and support the lesser of two evils.

The prospect of more humiliation from yet another Clinton put restless Democrats in the mood to look for other options. Barrack Obama scored points because he expressed opposition to invading Iraq back in 2003 when the crime was first committed. It doesn't seem to matter that as a United States Senator his votes on Iraq are the same as Hillary Clinton's. It doesn't matter that he once opposed establishing a deadline for withdrawal. It doesn't matter that he parrots the words of Republicans when he speaks of "the excesses of the 60s and 70s." None of what he says matters, because speaking up would mean fighting back, and there is no movement left to do that.

"MoveOn never bothered to make demands of Obama."

The end of movement politics has infected nearly everyone, like a mysterious illness in a science fiction film. If a movement still existed, MoveOn would not have made an Obama endorsement via popularity contest. They never bothered to make demands of him, to ask questions before giving him their support. Their endorsement is worthless because it gives Obama cover and asks nothing in return.

MoveOn spreads the conventional wisdom that super delegates are more likely to be pro-Clinton and are willing to subvert the popular will on her behalf. They have even circulated a petition to prevent super delegates from choosing the nominee. What MoveOn doesn't say is that both Clinton and Obama have used their political action committees to make contributions to super delegate campaign funds. They also fail to mention that Obama leads in making these contributions.

His PAC has given $698,200 to super delegates. Hillary Clinton has made $205,500 in contributions to super delegate coffers. In other words, Obama is more adept at buying votes than Clinton. "Yes we can" indeed.

"Obama is more adept at buying super delegate votes than Clinton."

MoveOn is not alone. It is incomprehensible that The Nation magazine endorsed Obama after making the following statement. "This magazine has been critical of the senator from Illinois for his closeness to Wall Street; his unwillingness to lay out an ambitious progressive agenda on healthcare, housing and other domestic policy issues; and for post-partisan rhetoric that seems to ignore the manifest failure of conservatism over these past seven years."

If The Nation has so many qualms about Obama, why endorse him at all? The editors could have simply made a statement of non-support for Obama or Clinton. The sad plight of progressives is all too obvious. "While his rhetoric about ‘unity' can be troubling, it also embodies a savvy strategy to redefine the center of American politics and build a coalition by reaching out to independent and Republican voters disgruntled and disgusted with what the Bush era has wrought." The Nation should explain to readers why Democrats ought to "redefine the center" with independents and Republicans instead of having their own agenda and fighting to make it a reality.

If even The Nation bows down in thrall of the over hyped "center," then all hope for true change is gone. In other words, capitulation is the order of the day, and Obama makes it more palatable than Hillary Clinton does.

"Capitulation is the order of the day."

After eight years of Clintonian triangulation, and another eight years of Bush lawlessness, the center isn't what is used to be. The center will accept an occupation of Iraq, as long as there is pretense that it will end. The center will not undo the Bush attacks on the Constitution. The center will tell black people that they are "90% of the way" towards equality. Actually, Obama already declared that "there is no black America" so the fight for equality will become irrelevant.

Black voters are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. Now supposedly anti-war and progressive organizations have also thrown in the towel. Race pride, however misguided in this case, explains Obama's appeal to black Americans. White progressives have no such excuse. Nevertheless they have chosen to suspend disbelief and jump on the winning bandwagon.

The stampede to Obama reveals the emptiness of the Democratic left. They are every bit as cynical as the man they support. They want a seat at the table. They don't really care what is decided at that table as long as they are included. Pro-war, anti-war, who cares? Just spell the name right on the White House invitation and let the triangulation begin.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.

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