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PORTSIDE  August 2012, Week 2

PORTSIDE August 2012, Week 2

Subject:

The Left and the Elections - 2012 Elections Have Little to do with Obama's Record - Bill Fletcher & Carl Davidson

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The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record -
Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him
	The 2012 election will be one of the most polarized
	and critical elections in recent history

by Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Carl Davidson

AlterNet
August 9, 2012

http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/2012-elections-have-little-do-obamas-record-which-why-we-are-voting-him


Let's cut to the chase. The November 2012 elections will be
unlike anything that any of us can remember.  It is not just
that this will be a close election.  It is also not just
that the direction of Congress hangs in the balance.
Rather, this will be one of the most polarized and critical
elections in recent history.

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.

The US electoral system is among the most undemocratic on
the planet.  Constructed in a manner so as to guarantee an
ongoing dominance of a two party duopoly, the US electoral
universe largely aims at reducing so-called legitimate
discussion to certain restricted parameters acceptable to
the ruling circles of the country. Almost all progressive
measures, such as Medicare for All or Full Employment, are
simply declared `off the table.' In that sense there is no
surprise that the Democratic and Republican parties are both
parties of the ruling circles, even though they are quite
distinct within that sphere.

The nature of the US electoral system--and specifically the
ballot restrictions and `winner-take-all' rules within it--
encourages or pressures various class fractions and
demographic constituency groups to establish elite-dominated
electoral coalitions.  The Democratic and Republican parties
are, in effect, electoral coalitions or party-blocs of this
sort, unrecognizable in most of the known universe as
political parties united around a program and a degree of
discipline to be accountable to it. We may want and fight
for another kind of system, but it would be foolish to
develop strategy and tactics not based on the one we
actually have.

The winner-take-all nature of the system discourages
independent political parties and candidacies on both the
right and the left.  For this reason the extreme right made
a strategic decision in the aftermath of the 1964 Goldwater
defeat to move into the Republican Party with a long-term
objective of taking it over.  This was approached at the
level of both mass movement building, e.g., anti-busing,
anti-abortion, as well as electoral candidacies.  The GOP
right's `Southern Strategy' beginning in 1968 largely
succeeded in chasing out most of the pro-New Deal
Republicans from the party itself, as well as drawing in
segregationist Democratic voters in the formerly `Solid
South.'

Efforts by progressives to realign or shift the Democratic
Party, on the other hand,  were blunted by the defeat of the
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964, and later the
defeat of the McGovern candidacy in 1972, during which time
key elements of the party's upper echelons were prepared to
lose the election rather than witness a McGovern victory.
In the 1980s a very different strategy was advanced by Rev.
Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow insurgencies that aimed at
building - at least initially - an independent, progressive
organization capable of fielding candidates within the
Democratic primaries.  This approach - albeit independent of
Jackson himself - had an important local victory with the
election of Mayor Harold Washington in Chicago.  At the
national level, however, it ran into a different set of
challenges by 1989.

In the absence of a comprehensive electoral strategy,
progressive forces fall into one of three cul-de-sacs: (1)
ad hoc electoralism, i.e., participating in the election
cycle but with no long-term plan other than tailing the
Democrats; (2) abandoning electoral politics altogether in
favor of modern-day anarcho-syndicalist `pressure politics
from below'; or (3) satisfying ourselves with far more
limited notions that we can best use the election period in
order to 'expose' the true nature of the capitalist system
in a massive way by attacking all of the mainstream
candidates.  We think all of these miss the key point.

Our elections are about money and the balance of power

Money is obvious, particularly in light of the Citizens
United Supreme Court decision.  The balance of power is
primarily at the level of the balance within the ruling
circles, as well as the level of grassroots power of the
various mass movements.  The party that wins will succeed on
the basis of the sort of electoral coalition that they are
able to assemble, co-opt or be pressured by, including but
not limited to the policy and interest conflicts playing out
within its own ranks.

The weakness of left and progressive forces means we have
been largely unable to participate, in our own name and
independent of the two party upper crust, in most national-
level elections with any hope of success.  In that sense
most left and progressive interventions in the electoral
arena at the national level, especially at the Presidential
level, are ineffective acts of symbolic opposition or simply
propaganda work aimed at uniting and recruiting far smaller
circles of militants.  They are not aimed at a serious
challenge for power but rather aim to demonstrate a point of
view, or to put it more crassly, to 'fly the flag.'  The
electoral arena is frequently not viewed as an effective
site for structural reforms or a more fundamental changing
of direction.

Our politics, in this sense, can be placed in two broad
groupings - politics as self-expression and politics as
strategy. In an overall sense, the left needs both of these
- the audacity and energy of the former and the ability to
unite all who can be united of the latter. But it is also
important to know the difference between the two, and which
to emphasize and when in any given set of battles.

Consider, for a moment, the reform struggles with which many
of us are familiar.  Let's say that a community is being
organized to address a demand for jobs on a construction
site.  If the community is not entirely successful in this
struggle, it does not mean that the struggle was wrong or
inappropriate.  It means that the progressives were too weak
organizationally and the struggle must continue.  The same
is true in the electoral arena.  The fact that it is
generally difficult, in this period, to get progressives
elected or that liberal and progressive candidates may back
down on a commitment once elected, does not condemn the
arena of the struggle.  It does, however, say something
about how we might need to organize ourselves better in
order to win and enforce accountability.

In part due to justified suspicion of the electoral system
and a positive impulse for self-expression and making our
values explicit, too many progressives view the electoral
realm as simply a canvass upon which various pictures of the
ideal future are painted.  Instead of constructing a
strategy for power that involves a combination of electoral
and non-electoral activity, uniting both a militant minority
and a progressive majority, there is an impulsive tendency
to treat the electoral realm as an idea bazaar rather than
as one of the key sites on which the struggle for
progressive power unfolds.

The Shifts within the Right and the Rise of Irrationalism

Contrary to various myths, there was no 'golden age' in our
country where politicians of both parties got along and
politics was clean.  U. S. politics has always been dirty.
One can look at any number of elections in the 19th century,
for instance, with the Hayes-Tilden election of 1876 being
among the more notorious, to see examples of electoral
chicanery.   Elections have been bought and sold and there
has been wide-spread voter disenfranchisement. In the late
19th century and early 20th century massive voter
disenfranchisement unfolded as part of the rise of Jim Crow
segregation. Due to gains by both the populist and
socialists is this era, by the 1920s our election laws were
`reformed' - in all but a handful of states - to do away
with `fusion ballots' and other measures previously helpful
to new insurgent forces forming independent parties and
alliances.

What is significant about the current era has been the
steady move of the Republican Party toward the right, not
simply at the realm of neoliberal economics (which has also
been true of much of the Democratic Party establishment) but
also in other features of the `ideology' and program of the
Republicans.  For this reason we find it useful to
distinguish between conservatives and right-wing populists
(and within right-wing populism, to put a spotlight on
irrationalism).  Right-wing populism is actually a radical
critique of the existing system, but from the political
right with all that that entails.  Uniting with
irrationalism, it seeks to build program and direction based
largely upon myths, fears and prejudices.

Right-wing populism exists as the equivalent of the herpes
virus within the capitalist system.  It is always there--
sometimes latent, at other times active - and it does not go
away.  In periods of system distress, evidence of right-wing
populism erupts with more force.  Of particular importance
in understanding right-wing populism is the complex
intersection of race, anti-immigrant settler-ism,
`producerism,' homophobia and empire.

In the US, right-wing populism stands as the grassroots
defender of white racial supremacy.  It intertwines with the
traditional myths associated with the "American Dream" and
suggests that the US was always to be a white republic and
that no one, no people, and no organization should stand in
the way of such an understanding.  It seeks enemies, and
normally enemies based on demographics of `The Other'.
After all, right-wing populism sees itself in the legacy of
the likes of Andrew Jackson and other proponents of Manifest
Destiny, a view that saw no inconsistency between the notion
of a white democratic republic, ethnic cleansing, slavery,
and a continental (and later global) empire. `Jacksonian
Democracy' was primarily the complete codification and
nationalization of white supremacy in our country's
political life.

Irrationalism is rising as an endemic virus in our political
landscape

Largely in times of crisis and uncertainty, virulent forms
of irrationalism make an appearance.  The threat to white
racial supremacy that emerged in the 1960s, for instance,
brought forward a backlash that included an irrationalist
view of history, e.g., that the great early civilizations on
Earth couldn't have arisen from peoples with darker skins,
but instead were founded by creatures from other planets.
Irrationalism, moreover, was not limited to the racial
realm. Challenges to scientific theories such as evolution
and climate change are currently on the rise.  Irrationalism
cries for a return to the past, and within that a mythical
past.  A component of various right-wing ideologies,
especially fascism, irrationalism exists as a form of
sophistry, and even worse. It often does not even pretend to
hold to any degree of logic, but rather simply requires the
acceptance of a series of non sequitur assertions.

Right-wing populism and irrationalism have received
nationwide reach anchored in institutions such as the Fox
network, but also right-wing religious institutions.  Along
with right-wing talk radio and websites, a virtual community
of millions of voters has been founded whose views refuse
critique from within.  Worse, well-financed and well-endowed
walls are established to ensure that the views are not
challenged from without.  In the 2008 campaign and its
immediate aftermath, we witnessed segments of this community
in the rise of the `birther' movement and its backing by the
likes of Donald Trump.  Like many other cults there were no
facts that adherents of the `birthers' would accept except
those `facts' which they, themselves, had established.
Information contrary to their assertions was swept away.
It didn't matter that we could prove Obama was born in the
US, because their real point, the he was a Black man, was
true.

The 2012 Republican primaries demonstrated the extent to
which irrationalism and right-wing populism, in various
incarnations, have captured the Republican Party.  That
approximately 60% of self-identified Republicans would
continue to believe that President Obama is not a legitimate
citizen of the USA points to the magnitude of self-delusion.

The Obama campaign of 2008 at the grassroots was nothing
short of a mass revolt

The energy for the Obama campaign was aimed against eight
years of Bush, long wars, neoliberal austerity and collapse,
and Republican domination of the US government.  It took the
form of a movement-like embrace of the candidacy of Barack
Obama.  The nature of this embrace, however, set the stage
for a series of both strategic and tactical problems that
have befallen progressive forces since Election Day 2008.

The mis-analysis of Obama in 2007 and 2008 by so many people
led to an overwhelming tendency to misread his candidacy.
In that period, we - the authors of this essay - offered
critical support and urged independent organization for the
Obama candidacy in 2008 through the independent
`Progressives for Obama' project. We were frequently
chastised by some allies at the time for being too critical,
too idealistic, too `left', and not willing to give Obama a
chance to succeed.  Yet our measured skepticism, and call
for independence and initiative in a broader front, was not
based on some naïve impatience. Instead, it was based on an
assessment of who Obama was and the nature of his campaign
for the Presidency.

Obama was and is a corporate liberal

Obama is an eloquent speaker who rose to the heights of US
politics after a very difficult upbringing and some success
in Chicago politics.  But as a national figure, he always
positioned himself not so much as a fighter for the
disenfranchised but more as a mediator of conflict, as
someone pained by the growth of irrationalism in the USA and
the grotesque image of the USA that much of the world had
come to see.  To say that he was a reformer does not
adequately describe either his character or his objectives.
He was cast as the representative, wittingly or not, of the
ill-conceived `post-Black politics era' at a moment when
much of white America wanted to believe that we had become
`post-racial.'  He was a political leader and candidate
trying to speak to the center, in search of a safe harbor.
He was the person to save US capitalism at a point where
everything appeared to be imploding.

For millions, who Obama actually was, came to be secondary
to what he represented for them.  This was the result of a
combination of wishful thinking, on the one hand, and
strongly held progressive aspirations, on the other.  In
other words, masses of people wanted change that they could
believe in. They saw in Obama the representative of that
change and rallied to him.  While it is quite likely that
Hillary Clinton, had she received the nomination, would also
have defeated McCain/Palin, it was the Obama ticket and
campaign that actually inspired so many to believe that not
only could there be an historical breakthrough at the level
of racial symbolism - a Black person in the White House -
but that other progressive changes could also unfold.  With
these aspirations, masses of people, including countless
numbers of left and progressive activists, were prepared to
ignore uncomfortable realities about candidate Obama and
later President Obama.

There are two examples that are worth mentioning here.  One,
the matter of race.  Two, the matter of war.  With regard to
race, Obama never pretended that he was anything other than
Black.  Ironically, in the early stages of his campaign many
African Americans were far from certain how `Black' he
actually was.  Yet the matter of race was less about who
Obama was - except for the white supremacists - and more
about race and racism in US history and current reality.

Nothing exemplified this better than the controversy
surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright, followed by Obama's
historic speech on race in Philadelphia.  Wright, a
liberation theologian and progressive activist, became a
target for the political right as a way of 'smearing' Obama.
Obama chose to distance himself from Wright, but in a very
interesting way.  He upheld much of Wright's basic views of
US history while at the same time acting as if racist
oppression was largely a matter of the past.  In that sense
he suggested that Wright's critique was outdated.

Wright's critique was far from being outdated.  Yet in his
famous speech on race, Obama said much more of substance
than few mainstream politicians had ever done. In so doing,
he opened the door to the perception that something quite
new and innovative might appear in the White House.  He made
no promises, though, which is precisely why suggestions of
betrayal are misplaced.  There was no such commitment in the
first place.

With regard to war, there was something similar.  Obama came
out against the Iraq War early, before it started. He
opposed it at another rally after it was underway. To his
credit, US troops have been withdrawn from Iraq.  He never,
however, came out against war in general, or certainly
against imperialist war.  In fact, he made it clear that
there were wars that he supported, including but not limited
to the Afghanistan war.  Further, he suggested that if need
be he would carry out bombings in Pakistan.  Despite this,
much of the antiwar movement and many other supporters
assumed that Obama was the antiwar candidate in a wider
sense than his opposition to the war in Iraq.  Perhaps
`assumed' is not quite correct; they wanted him to be the
antiwar candidate who was more in tune with their own views.

With Obama's election, the wishful thinking played itself
out, to some degree, in the form of inaction and
demobilization.  Contrary to the complaints of some on the
Left, Obama and his administration cannot actually be blamed
for this.  There were decisions made in important social
movements and constituencies to (1) assume that Obama would
do the 'right thing,' and, (2) provide Obama 'space' rather
than place pressure on him and his administration. This was
a strategic mistake. And when combined with a relative lack
of consolidating grassroots campaign work into ongoing
independent organization at the grassroots, with the
exception of a few groups, such as the Progressive Democrats
of America, it was an important opportunity largely lost.

There is one other point that is worth adding here.  Many
people failed to understand that the Obama administration
was not and is not the same as Obama the individual, and
occupying the Oval Office is not the same as an unrestricted
ability to wield state power.  `Team Obama' is certainly
chaired by Obama, but it remains a grouping of establishment
forces that share a common framework - and common
restrictive boundaries.  It operates under different
pressures and is responsive--or not--to various specific
constituencies.  For instance, in 2009, when President
Zelaya of Honduras was overthrown in a coup, President Obama
responded--initially--with a criticism of the coup.  At the
end of the day, however, the Obama administration did
nothing to overturn the coup and to ensure that Honduras
regained democracy.  Instead the administration supported
the 'coup people.'  Did this mean that President Obama
supported the coup?  It does not really matter.  What
matters is that his administration backtracked on its
alleged opposition to the coup and then did everything in
their power to ensure that President Zelaya could not
return.  This is why the focus on Obama the personality is
misleading and unhelpful.

No Struggle, No Progress

President Obama turned out not to be the progressive
reformer that many people had hoped.  At the same time,
however, he touched off enough sore points for the political
Right that he became a lightning rod for everything that
they hated and feared.  This is what helps us understand the
circumstances under which the November 2012 election is
taking place.

As a corporate liberal, Obama's strategy was quite rational
in those terms.  First, stabilize the economy.  Second, move
on health insurance.  Third, move on jobs.  Fourth, attempt
a foreign policy breakthrough.   Contrary to the hopes of
much of his base, Obama proceeded to tackle each of these
narrowly as a corporate `bipartisan' reformer rather than as
a wider progressive champion of the underdog.  That does not
mean that grassroots people gained nothing.  Certainly
preserving General Motors was to the benefit of countless
auto workers and workers in related industries.  Yet Obama's
approach in each case was to make his determinations by
first reading Wall Street and the corporate world and then
extending the olive branch of bi-partisanship to his
adversaries on the right.  This, of course, led to endless
and largely useless compromises, thereby demoralizing his
base in the progressive grassroots.

While Obama's base was becoming demoralized, the political
right was becoming energized

It did not matter that Obama was working to preserve
capitalism. As far as the right was concerned, there were
two sins under which he was operating:  some small degree of
economic re-distributionism and the fact that Obama was
Black.  The combination of both made Obama a demon, as far
as the right was concerned, who personified Black power,
anti-colonialism and socialism, all at the same time.

The Upset Right and November 2012

We stress the need to understand that Obama represents an
irrational symbol for the political right, and a potent
symbol that goes way beyond what Obama actually stands for
and practices.  The right, while taking aim at Obama, also
seeks, quite methodically and rationally, to use him to turn
back the clock.  They have created a common front based on
white revanchism (a little used but accurate term for an
ideology of revenge), on political misogynism, on
anti-`freeloader' themes aimed at youth, people of color and
immigrants, and a partial defense of the so-called 1%.
Rightwing populism asserts a `producer' vs. `parasites'
outlook aimed at the unemployed and immigrants below them
and `Jewish bankers and Jewish media elites' above them. Let
us emphasize that this is a front rather than one coherent
organization or platform.  It is an amalgam, but an amalgam
of ingredients that produces a particularly nasty US-
flavored stew of right-wing populism.

Reports of declining Obama support among white workers is a
good jumping off point in terms of understanding white
revanchism.  Obama never had a majority among them as a
whole, although he did win a majority among younger white
workers. White workers have been economically declining
since the mid-1970s.  This segment of a larger multinational
and multiracial working class is in search of potential
allies, but largely due to a combination of race and low
unionization rates finds itself being swayed by right-wing
populism.  Along with other workers it is insecure and
deeply distressed economically, but also finds itself in
fear - psychologically - for its own existence as the
demographics of the USA undergoes significant changes.  They
take note of projections that the US, by 2050, will be a
majority of minorities of people of color. They perceive
that they have gotten little from Obama, but more
importantly they are deeply suspicious as to whether a Black
leader can deliver anything at all to anyone.

Political misogynism - currently dubbed `the war on
women'---has been on the rise in the US for some time.  The
`New Right' in the 1970s built its base in right-wing
churches around the issue in the battles over abortion and
reproduction rights, setting the stage for Reagan's victory.
In the case of 2012, the attacks on Planned Parenthood along
with the elitist dismissal of working mothers have been
representative of the assertion of male supremacy, even when
articulated by women.  This in turn is part of a global
assault on women based in various religious fundamentalisms
that have become a refuge for economically displaced men and
for gender-uncomfortable people across the board.

The attack on `slacker,'  `criminal' and `over-privileged'
youth, especially among minorities, is actually part of what
started to unfold in the anti-healthcare antics of the Tea
Party.  Studies of the Tea Party movement have indicated
that they have a conceptualization based on the "deserving"
and "undeserving" populations.   They and many others on the
right are deeply suspicious, if not in outright opposition,
to anything that they see as distributing away from them any
of their hard-won gains.  They believe that they earned and
deserve what they have and that there is an undeserving
population, to a great extent youth (but also including
other groups), who are looking for handouts. This helps us
understand that much of the right-wing populist movement is
a generational movement of white baby-boomers and older who
see the ship of empire foundering and wish to ensure that
they have life preservers, if not life-boats.

The defenders of the 1% are an odd breed.  Obviously that
includes the upper crust, but it also includes a social base
that believes that the upper crust earned their standing.
Further, this social base believes or wishes to believe that
they, too, will end up in that echelon.  Adhering to
variations of Reaganism, `bootstrapping' or other such
ideologies, they wish to believe that so-called free market
capitalism is the eternal solution to all economic problems.
Despite the fact that the Republican economic program is
nothing more or less than a retreading of George W. Bush's
failed approach, they believe that it can be done
differently.

Empire, balance of forces and the lesser of two evils

The choice in November 2012 does not come down to empire vs.
no-empire.  While anyone can choose to vote for the Greens
or other non-traditional political parties, the critical
choice and battleground continues to exist in the context of
a two-party system within the declining US empire.  The
balance of forces in 2012 is such that those who are arrayed
against the empire are in no position to mount a significant
electoral challenge on an anti-imperialist platform.

To assume that the November elections are a moment to
display our antipathy toward empire, moreover, misses
entirely what is unfolding.  This is not a referendum on the
"America of Empire":  it is a referendum pitting the
"America of Popular Democracy" - the progressive majority
representing the changing demographics of the US and the
increasing demands for broad equality and economic relief,
especially the unemployed and the elderly - against the
forces of unfettered neoliberalism and far right
irrationalism.  Obama is the face on the political right's
bull's eye, and stands as the key immediate obstacle to
their deeper ambitions.  We, on the left side of the aisle,
recognize that he is not our advocate for the 99%.  Yet and
quite paradoxically, he is the face that the right is using
to mobilize its base behind irrationalism and regression.

That's why we argue that Obama's record is really not what
is at stake in this election

Had the progressive social movements mobilized to push Obama
for major changes we could celebrate; had there been
progressive electoral challenges in the 2010 mid-term
elections and even in the lead up to 2012 (such as Norman
Solomon's congressional challenge in California, which lost
very narrowly), there might be something very different at
stake this year.  Instead what we have is the face of open
reaction vs. the face of corporate liberalism, of `austerity
and war on steroids' vs. `austerity and war in slow motion.'

This raises an interesting question about the matter of the
"lesser of two evils," something which has become, over the
years, a major concern for many progressives.  Regularly in
election cycles some progressives will dismiss supporting
any Democratic Party candidate because of a perceived need
to reject "lesser evil-ism", meaning that Democrats will
always strike a pose as somewhat better than the GOP, but
remain no different in substance. In using the anti-`lesser
evil-ism' phraseology, the suggestion is that it really does
not matter who wins because they are both bad.  Eugene Debs
is often quoted - better to vote for what you want and not
get it, than to vote for what you oppose and get it. While
this may make for strong and compelling rhetoric and
assertions, it makes for a bad argument and bad politics.

In elections progressives need to be looking very coldly at
a few questions:

    Are progressive social movements strong enough to
    supersede or bypass the electoral arena altogether? Is
    there a progressive candidate who can outshine both a
    reactionary and a mundane liberal, and win? What would
    we seek to do in achieving victory? What is at stake in
    that particular election?

In thinking through these questions, we think the matter of
a lesser of two evils is a tactical question of simply
voting for one candidate to defeat another, rather than a
matter of principle.  Politics is frequently about the
lesser of two evils.  World War II for the USA, Britain and
the USSR was all about the lesser of two evils.  Britain and
the USA certainly viewed the USSR as a lesser evil compared
with the Nazi Germany, and the USSR came to view the USA and
Britain as the lesser evils.  Neither side trusted the
other, yet they found common cause against a particular
enemy.  There are many less dramatic examples, but the point
is that it happens all the time. It's part of `politics as
strategy' mentioned earlier.

It is for these reasons that upholding the dismissal of the
'lesser evil-ism' is unhelpful.  Yes, in this case, Obama is
aptly described as the lesser of two evils.  He certainly
represents a contending faction of empire.  He has continued
the drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  His
healthcare plan is nowhere near as helpful as would be
Medicare for All.  He has sidelined the Employee Free Choice
Act that would promote unionization. What this tells us is
that Obama is not a progressive.  What it does not tell us
is how to approach the elections.

Approaching November

The political right, more than anything, wishes to turn
November 2012 into a repudiation of the changing
demographics of the US and an opportunity to reaffirm not
only the empire, but also white racial supremacy.  In
addition to focusing on Obama they have been making what are
now well-publicized moves toward voter suppression, with a
special emphasis on denying the ballot to minority, young,
formerly incarcerated and elderly voters.  This latter fact
is what makes ridiculous the suggestion by some progressives
that they will stay home and not vote at all.

The political right seeks an electoral turn-around
reminiscent of the elections at the end of the 19th century
in the South that disenfranchised African Americans and many
poor whites.  This will be their way of holding back the
demographic and political clocks.  And, much like the
disenfranchisement efforts at the end of the 19th century,
the efforts in 2012 are playing on racial fears among
whites, including the paranoid notion that there has been
significant voter fraud carried out by the poor and people
of color (despite all of the research that demonstrates the
contrary!).

Furthermore, this is part of a larger move toward greater
repression, a move that began prior to Obama and has
continued under him.  It is a move away from democracy as
neo-liberal capitalism faces greater resistance and the
privileges of the "1%" are threatened.  Specifically, the
objective is to narrow the franchise in very practical
terms.  The political right wishes to eliminate from voting
whole segments of the population, including the poor.  Some
right-wingers have even been so bold as to suggest that the
poor should not be entitled to vote.

November 2012 becomes not a statement about the Obama
presidency, but a defensive move by progressive forces to
hold back the `Caligulas' on the political right.  It is
about creating space and using mass campaigning to build new
grassroots organization of our own.  It is not about
endorsing the Obama presidency or defending the official
Democratic platform. But it is about resisting white
revanchism and political misogynism by defeating Republicans
and pressing Democrats with a grassroots insurgency, while
advancing a platform of our own, one based on the `People's
Budget' and antiwar measures of the Congressional
Progressive Caucus. In short, we need to do a little
`triangulating' of our own.

Why do we keep getting ourselves into this hole?

Our answer to this question is fairly straight forward.  In
the absence of a long-term progressive electoral strategy
that is focused on winning power, we will find ourselves in
this "Groundhog Day" scenario again and again.  Such a
strategy cannot be limited to the running of symbolic
candidates time and again as a way of rallying the troops.
Such an approach may feel good or help build socialist
recruitment, but it does not win power.  Nor can we simply
tail the Democrats.

The central lesson we draw from the last four years has less
to do with the Obama administration and more to do with the
degree of effective organization of social movements and
their relationship to the White House, Congress and other
centers of power.  The failure to put significant pressure
on the Obama administration--combined with the lack of
attention to the development of an independent progressive
strategy, program and organizational base--has created a
situation whereby frustration with a neo-liberal Democratic
president could lead to a major demobilization. At bottom
this means further rightward drift and the entry into power
of the forces of irrationalism.

Crying over this situation or expressing our frustration
with Obama is of little help at this point. While we will
continue to push for more class struggle approaches in the
campaign's messages, the choice that we actually face in the
immediate battle revolves around who would we rather fight
after November 2012:  Obama or Romney?  Under what
administration are progressives more likely to have more
room to operate?  Under what administration is there a
better chance of winning improvements in the conditions of
the progressive majority of this country?  These are the
questions that we need to ask.  Making a list of all of the
things that Obama has not done and the fact that he was not
a champion of the progressive movement misses a significant
point:  he was never the progressive champion.  He became,
however, the demon for the political right and the way in
which they could focus their intense hatred of the reality
of a changing US, and, indeed, a changing world.

We urge all progressives to deal with the reality of this
political moment rather than the moment we wish that we were
experiencing.  In order to engage in politics, we need the
organizations to do politics with, organizations that belong
to us at the grassroots. That ball is in our court, not
Obama's. In 2008 and its aftermath, too many of us let that
ball slip out of our hands, reducing us to sideline critics,
reducing our politics to so much café chatter rather than
real clout. Let's not make that mistake again.

[Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and
international writer and activist.  He is a Senior Scholar
with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past
president of TransAfrica Forum, an editorial board member of
BlackCommentator.com, the co-author of Solidarity Divided,
and the author of the forthcoming "They're Bankrupting Us" -
And Twenty other myths about unions.  He can be reached at
[log in to unmask]

Carl Davidson is a political organizer, writer and public
speaker. He is currently co-chair of Committees of
Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a board member
of the US Solidarity Economy Network, and a member of
Steelworker Associates in Western Pennsylvania. His most
recent book is `New Paths to Socialism: Essays on the
Mondragon Cooperatives, Workplace Democracy and the Politics
of Transition.' He can be reached at [log in to unmask] ]

==========

An important analysis and worthy read, even if long.

The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama's Record -
Which Is Why We Are Voting For Him 
	The 2012 election will be one of the most polarized
	and critical elections in recent history

by Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Carl Davidson

AlterNet
August 9, 2012

http://www.alternet.org/election-2012/2012-elections-have-little-do-obamas-record-which-why-we-are-voting-him


"Let's cut to the chase. The November 2012 elections will be unlike anything that any of us can remember.  It is not just
that this will be a close election.  It is also not just
that the direction of Congress hangs in the balance.
Rather, this will be one of the most polarized and critical
elections in recent history.

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...

We urge all progressives to deal with the reality of this
political moment rather than the moment we wish that we were
experiencing.  In order to engage in politics, we need the
organizations to do politics with, organizations that belong
to us at the grassroots. That ball is in our court, not
Obama's. In 2008 and its aftermath, too many of us let that
ball slip out of our hands, reducing us to sideline critics,
reducing our politics to so much café chatter rather than
real clout. Let's not make that mistake again."

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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