those of us who are in the Civil Rights, Immigrant Rights, Women’s
Liberation, Environmental Justice, and Anti-War Movements, for those
of us on the Left, the election of Barack Obama is of the utmost
urgency. Voting for Barack Obama is not enough. Through November
4, 2008 we need to put all our energy into getting out the vote
to elect Obama and defeat McCain.
of his brilliant organizing, the possibility of an Obama victory
is palpable. Because of the racism of this country and the strong
reactionary elements of the general population, the threat of a
McCain victory is only too real.
stakes leave no room for passive support. The Republicans coalescing
against Obama are carrying out a calculated strategy to preserve
and extend the victories of Reagan and Bush. If it can be imagined,
they intend to take the country even further to the right.
They want to destroy what is left of democratic liberalism, destroy
the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements, destroy the Immigrant
Rights, Women’s Liberation, LGBT, Anti-War movements, to destroy
his credit, unlike Al Gore and John Kerry, Barack Obama is fighting
back against the Right. Whether or not he cedes too much to them,
which I believe he does, his election is a direct challenge to the
neo-cons, the racists, and bellicose fascists who have controlled
the White House, the media, and the political discourse in this
country for decades. For all of us who consider ourselves “on the
Left” and “organizers,” for those of us who have a base, for those
of us who are working in low-income Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific
Islander communities and doing anti-racist work in white working-class
communities—this is a turning point in history. We understand the
stakes of a racist McCain victory only too well, and we are the
ones who can be pivotal in turning the tide for Obama. It is time
for the antiracist Left to show the muscle of our community organizing
and put that energy into the Obama campaign for the next through
November 4, 2008.
some of us, we are already there. For others, you are needed. Obama
needs and deserves our full support. As a strategist and tactician,
you weigh all the arguments, all the options, but when the time
comes, you must go into battle with great energy and enthusiasm.
You must fight to win. Now is such a time.
have to work for Obama’s election and fight to win. Right now the
Obama campaign is calling for the most intense involvement by those
of us who support his candidacy. Our job is very straightforward.
The Obama campaign urgently needs us to contribute money, to phone
bank, to protect the vote at ballot boxes where the Republicans
will try to steal the election (that is, every ballot box), and
to hit the ground in aggressive door-to-door organizing in swing
states. For those of us who do not live in a swing state that means
traveling to Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia,
North Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Colorado and other
states where the margins are still too close to call.
am an organizer, that is what I do. In this election, reflecting
my own views on the subject, I am committed to working on two major
Strategy Center’s No on the Six Campaign.
is a state-wide campaign in California that opposes six reactionary
ballot initiatives. We are doing citywide lawn signs, on-the-bus
organizing, phone banking, and precinct walking to defeat The
Six. Two initiatives, Propositions 6 and 9, would further criminalize
Black and Latino youth. Two bond and sales tax proposals, Proposition
1A and Measure R in Los Angeles County, would pass regressive taxes
and bonds for pork-barrel, environmentally dangerous rail and highway
projects that would further attack the funding for a clean fuel
bus system, the centerpiece of our environmental plan. Two propositions
attack LGBT people and women. Prop 8 tries to overturn gay marriage,
and Prop 4 threatens women’s reproductive rights through the onerous
requirement of parental notification for minors. I work for this
campaign through the Strategy Center in a broad coalition with many
other progressive, grassroots groups. See www.noonthesix.org
am working to elect Barack Obama president of the United States.
I have attended a two-day training at Camp Obama along with 350
people in Long Beach, along with thousands throughout the state
and tens of thousands throughout the country at similar trainings.
Many people are going from California to Nevada, a neighboring swing
state with five electoral votes, to turn out the vote for Obama.
I am working with the phone bank team to make phone calls to Nevada
to elect Obama. I will be spending the last long weekend of this
month through Tuesday, November 4 splitting my time between the
No on the Six and the Obama phone bank teams.
Are Ten Reasons to Turn Out the Vote for Barack Obama
Because Barack Obama is Black and qualified, Black and liberal,
Black and can be elected the first Black president in the United
is a Black man running for president in a white settler state. Regardless
of how much or little he chooses to campaign on race or against
racism—and in my view it is far more than some of his critics think—Obama
is Black. Everyone knows he is Black and the Republicans are making
it a referendum against Blacks and for white supremacy.
election of a Black president in a country built on conquest and
slavery is almost unimaginable. And it cannot be imagined without
the foundational work of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, Marcus
Garvey and W.E.B. DuBois, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King,
Jr. Huey P. Newton, and Malcolm X. Obama is running as a Black
man at a time when one million Black people are in prison.
He is Black at a time when the Black community is on the defensive
and under siege, Black when many of its most gifted and dedicated
organizers are tired, not discouraged, but exhausted from the assaults
of the reactionary decades from Reagan to Clinton to Bush. Obama
is Black as opposed to white, as in white supremacy, white racism,
white chauvinism, white xenophobia, white fascism, white racist
mobs, white McCain and white Palin.
Obama is a Black Harvard graduate, a president of the Harvard Law
Review, married to Michelle Obama, a Princeton graduate. They gave
up jobs in corporate America to do work among the urban poor and
working class. He is charismatic, a great debater, and a man of
intellect. He is so much better qualified than John McCain that
it is a testament to the racism of the U.S. that McCain is still
in a close race. This is a white man who is clearly unhinged even
in a prepared debate and has nothing to run on but the “Abuse of
the Day” against Obama and his family.
Obama is a gifted organizer who deserves the support of every dedicated
organizer in the country. As a Black man in a white country, he
out organized Hillary and Bill Clinton and their ostensibly unbeatable
machine, a blow from which they may never recover. He is out organizing
the Democratic Leadership Council, the anti-liberal caucus of Bill
Clinton and Joe Lieberman that has dominated the Democratic Party
since the defeat of Mondale and Dukakis. Obama has a very good chance
of out organizing the entire white, Christian, conservative, aka
fascist clique that has run this country since Reagan rose, Gingrich
organized, Clinton capitulated, and Bush/Cheney took the dictatorship
to its highest levels.
a highly qualified, brilliant Black man against a Neanderthal white
man is a major step forward in history and a high stakes fight that
we need to be part of. It will be a major setback to the forces
of white racism in the country and a real encouragement of the broad
anti-racist coalition that is at the core of the Obama campaign.
Let’s turn out the vote for Obama. Now.
Because a Black man is being attacked by a white lynch mob and we
have to throw our bodies in front of them and beat them back.
McCain/Palin campaign rallies are becoming Klan rallies. Shouts
of “traitor,” “terrorist,” “treason,” “liar,” “Hussein” “kill him”
and “off with his head” have rung from the rabid racists at McCain
and Palin rallies. Palin whips them up and McCain sometimes doesn’t
challenge them and sometimes goes through the motions, all the while
praising them to the sky as “loyal Americans.” These are the very
kind of people who have populated lynch mobs in the past. They are
capable of carrying out their threats. What part of “off with his
head” do we not understand?
many in the Democratic Party in fact conciliate with this racism
by refusing to call it by name, preferring to use the vague term
“extremism,” Obama does not. At
the last national debate he told McCain that some of his supporters
have crossed a line by calling him a terrorist and proposing to
kill him. McCain responded by saying how great and patriotic his
supporters are. Do we really have to invoke King and Malcolm, Medgar
Evers and Emmett Till, the Birmingham children and Bobby Hutton
to understand that the assassination and lynching of Black people
is deep in the DNA of white and U.S. culture and is a clear and
present danger today?
Lewis, the civil rights veteran from SNCC and now a U.S. congressperson
from Atlanta saw it clearly,
I am seeing reminds me too much of another destructive period in
American history. Senator McCain and Governor Palin are sowing the
seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility
in our political discourse. George Wallace [the racist governor
of Alabama] never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created
the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against
innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional
rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were
killed on Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham,
cannot stand by while a rabid white mob attacks a Black man screaming
“Hussein, Hussein,” “the one over there,” “the F-ing
Harvard Graduate,” “the uppity one,” “terrorist” and—we must
take this very seriously—“kill him” and “off with his head.” The
McCain forces are the forces of evil and must be defeated.
and Palin should be under arrest for encouraging, inciting, aiding,
and abetting, racist hate crimes. Let’s turn out the Vote
for Barack Obama, Now.
Because there are differences of life and death significance to
our communities between Barack Obama and John McCain.
is advocating many positions that are conservative, and some, like
his proposals to expand the war in Afghanistan and violate the sovereignty
of Pakistan, that are reactionary. But there is still a profound
Left/Right battle going, albeit within the confines of U.S. electoral
politics and the two-party system in 2008. While he does not have
a comprehensive progressive program, there are some key issues on
which the difference between Obama and McCain are Black and white.
look at some of the real choices Obama is making.·
Crisis, Housing Crisis. Obama has supported the $750 billion
bail out for U.S. financial markets. This is a major setback for
working people. He is now arguing, however, that now it is time
to bail out not “Wall Street” but “Main Street.” He is calling
for a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures by any bank or company
that receives any U.S. government aid. Is that enough? Of
course not, but he is the only candidate even talking about helping
people losing their homes in the foreclosure tsunami. If such
a moratorium is imposed, it can lead to far more stringent demands
to extend and expand that moratorium. By contrast, McCain is talking
about letting the free market run its course.
Right to Choose. Obama vigorously defends a woman’s right
to choose. When asked in the last debate if they would make Roe
v. Wade a “litmus test” in the selection of Supreme Court
justices, both Obama and McCain, after considerable dancing, said
yes. McCain said that he could not imagine a qualified candidate
who would not want to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obama said
he could not imagine a qualified candidate who would not defend
a woman’s right to privacy—making abortion a right.
Third World. McCain said free trade was great and accused
Obama of holding up trade with Columbia. Columbia is governed
by one of the worst military dictatorships in world, propped up
by the CIA, the U.S. military, and cocaine traffickers. At this
time, I do not assume Obama wants to dismantle Plan Columbia.
If he does not, that will be a major post-election confrontation
with him we will have to have. But Obama did say that he
could not support trade with Columbia while its government was
imprisoning and murdering trade unionists. This is significant.
Obama has campaigned for the right to organize unions for workers
in the U.S. and proposed laws to encourage those rights. While
that in itself is major, there is no history I know of for a U.S.
presidential candidate to openly expose the murder of trade union
organizers in a country that is allied with the United
States and to call for their right to organize against U.S. transnationals.
In the middle of a high-profile nationally televised event, just
the mention of trade unionists existing and being under attack
in the Third World is a moment of rupture in the imperialist ideological
sphere. By contrast, McCain is a union buster at home and a supporter
of terror, torture, and the suppression of unions and the Left
Pay for Equal Work. Obama defends equal pay for equal work
and McCain opposes it. In the final debate, Obama raised the example
of a lawsuit filed by Lily Ledbetter, a woman who tried to sue
her employer for paying her less for the same job that a male
employee was getting paid more to do. Obama talked of working
in Congress to extend the statute of limitations in Congress on
her case so that it wouldn’t be dismissed. McCain snickered, What
do we want to do, keep these cases going 20 or 30 years after
Relations. Obama talks about American exceptionalism, American
power, and the “responsibility” of the United States throughout
the world. In short, his view is imperialist and his objective
is still U.S. world domination. But we should not underestimate
what is at stake in his proposal for “unconditional conversations”
with heads of states that the Bush administration has named in
the “Axis of Evil.” Obama has held his ground on the importance
of “conversations and negotiations” and has challenged the policy
of sanctions and invasions. This is a clear signal to people in
the Third World, and the European nations who disagree with the
Bush doctrine. Under an Obama administration, there may be alternatives
for people in the Third World to the decades of napalm, blockades,
shock and awe, and invasions that they have suffered under Republicans
and Democrats alike. Obama recognizes that the U.S. is a declining
empire and is trying to signal that it can’t continue to throw
its weight around in the failed policies, as he calls them, of
Bush and McCain. Obama’s argument for greater use of negotiations
and discussions—as well as some of his reservations about massive
military deployments—is likely to reflect a tactical debate between
pragmatic imperialism on his side versus neo-con messianic imperialism
on that of McCain. Again, both share the imperialist goal of U.S.
world domination and the control of the politics and economy of
Third World nations.
that is a split in the ruling class that is of great importance
to anti-war, anti-imperialist organizers in the U.S. and to governments
and movements in the Third World. Let’s be clear. McCain supports
“the surge” and future unilateral military aggression. He talks
always about the hard line and views the solution of every problem
through a military lens. We cannot allow his unstable hand anywhere
near the nuclear button.
think that most Blacks, women, and trade unionists would argue there
is a profound benefit for an Obama victory and a profound danger
in a McCain election. I do not think that those who are working
to overturn the rightwing clique controlling the Supreme Court that
is ruling out of order every civil rights and civil liberties case
will argue there is little difference between Obama and McCain.
I think trade unionists in Columbia, militants and governments in
Venezuela, Cuba, and South Africa, as well as those governments
and NGOs who witness the daily bullying and dictatorial practices
of the U.S. at the United Nations—all see a profound difference
between the candidates and are deeply invested in an Obama victory
and a McCain defeat.
turn out the vote for Obama, Now.
Because John McCain is a war criminal.
do you think McCain ended up in a POW camp in North Vietnam in the
first place? Did the North Vietnamese come to the Naval Academy
to kidnap him? No, he was flying a mission over North Vietnamese
territory, violating their sovereignty, dropping bombs on civilian
populations in an attempt to destroy their power plants and utilities,
impose terror from the air, and knowingly cause civilian illness,
starvation, death and destruction.
was part of a group of air pirates who flew missions of destruction
over Vietnam. After already having bombed North Vietnam, as the
L.A. Times reports, “In August 1967 the squadron he joined
had destroyed a power plant in Hanoi. Two months later, the plant
had been rebuilt and was back on the Navy’s sites. McCain begged
for the mission. ‘The earlier raid was the pride and joy of the
squadron. I wanted to destroy it again. I was feeling pretty cocky
as well.’” He flew the mission and was shot down in his efforts
to kill. He wasn’t feeling as cocky at that point. He was captured
by the North Vietnamese. McCain is a war criminal for his actions;
for he admits he begged for his mission and felt destroying the
power plants of another country to be his “pride and joy.”
actions stand in profound contrast to the millions of people in
the U.S. who dedicated and, in some cases, gave their lives to end
the war in Vietnam. He is a disgrace to the many GI’s who refused
to kill civilians, to those who resisted the draft and risked exile
and imprisonment, to those who joined the Vietnam Veterans Against
the War and who testified in the Winter Soldier hearings (see Clay
Claiborne’s film Vietnam: American Holocaust), and to the
courageous veterans today who are speaking out against the war in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
actions of the United States government, the U.S. Navy, and pilots
of death and destruction like McCain led to the murder of three
million Vietnamese civilians and one million combatants all trying
to protect their country from a U.S. invasion. McCain was part of
the force that inflicted poison gas, assassination squads, napalm,
Agent Orange, rape, and premeditated murder against the people of
Vietnam. The U.S. systematically committed crimes against humanity
in Vietnam and John McCain was a willing, enthusiastic perpetrator.
John McCain should be tried for war crimes in violation of the Nuremburg
turn out the vote for Obama, Now.
Because Sarah Palin’s election would turn the women’s movement on
its head—Palin is a fascist, a racist, a white separatist, and a
is nothing funny about Sarah Palin. (Tina Fey’s brilliant parodies
are the exception.) But do not laugh at Palin any more than
you should laugh at Bush. She is not stupid. She is deadly serious,
armed and dangerous. She is tied to extreme vigilante groups who
want to secede from the United States because they feel it is too
liberal and too multi-racial. She uses oil revenues to buy
the loyalties of people in Alaska, tying their futures to the global
warming that will in fact destroy Alaska and the planet.
and McCain will cut social services, already hanging by a thread.
They will ramp up the police state and the war on terror. She has
broken with John McCain by proposing a constitutional amendment
against gay marriage and is moving ever further to his right. Some
speculate she is doing this out of a lack of discipline. Others
think she wants to position herself even more strongly with the
extreme Right base in case McCain loses and she wants to pursue
other national elected positions.
has drawn the fascist mobs to the campaign and operates in the tradition
of reactionary demagogues Father Coughlin and Lou Dobbs. She is
the hit person against Obama, the warm-up act for McCain that gets
the white mob into a racist rage. She will support a police state
and will lock us up without a second thought. And the talk of her
being one 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from the presidency is not
a joke. She may be a future president of the United States if we
don’t defeat McCain.
Palin believes a woman who chooses to have an abortion is a sinner,
period. She believes that such is the case even if the woman chooses
to terminate a pregnancy forced on her through rape or incest. She
is an enemy of the movement for reproductive rights. Her message
to desperate, working class women is that being a loyal wife is
a woman’s best chance for escaping poverty, your subjugation is
liberation. She appeals to misogynist men and assures them that
their domination of the family is God’s will. While she has
been able to get out of the house with five children to pursue a
professional career, her gender politics will prevent most women
from doing the same—locking women in the home as single parents
or prisoners of their husbands—as she leads choruses of “Stand by
Your Man.” Her election will be an attack of Roe v. Wade,
women’s reproductive rights, and women’s liberation.
turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Now.
Because the McCain campaign is an attack on the Left.
McCain campaign wants to kill the Left in the U.S. and internationally,
kill social security, the social safety net, and anything “social”
including even the hope of social-ism. Obama is being attacked as
an enemy because he is Black and because he is a moderate liberal.
The attack on the Left broadly defined must be met by a counter-attack
against McCain and for Obama through November 4, 2008.
at McCain’s targets:
Ayers, billed a “terrorist” by the McCain camp, worked against
the war in Vietnam in which four million people were killed. Ayers
is a symbol of the anti-war movement and its most militant wing.
Wright. Reverend Wright is a respected theologian whose “crime”
was saying that racism is “endemic” to the United States and that
the U.S. sees the world through the eyes of an empire.
is being attacked by the McCain campaign for registering Democratic-leaning
voters. ACORN may have gotten some bad names in the voter
registration process but none of those people could vote or be
counted. By contrast, the Republicans prevent people from voting
who are registered to vote, deny valid signatures and voters,
and close down polling places in Black and heavily Democratic
districts. They defy the electoral process and have stolen state
and national elections.
McCain has begun attacking as “socialist” Obama’s efforts to make
income taxes more progressive and to use some of the wealth to
help the poor. McCain said, “At least in Europe the Socialist
leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives.
They use real numbers and honest language.” McCain proposes
cutting capital gains taxes and giving more subsidies to the rich.
ties to Ayers were minimal and nothing to apologize for. His ties
to Reverend Wright were profound and his disassociation from his
mentor deplorable. Obama’s distancing himself from ACORN reflects
weakness. But, as Reverend Wright pointed out, Obama is a politician
running for office; he makes his tactical moves according to his
strategic aim of getting elected. I wish that Obama would defend
socialism but he is not a socialist and if he were, he would not
be the Democratic nominee for president.
or not Obama chooses to disassociate, denounce, or distance himself
from the anti-Vietnam war movement, from the rhetoric and analyses
of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movements, from grassroots
voter registration, and from socialism—those of us on the Left have
our own interests in this election that include but also go beyond
Obama chooses to identify with or to renounce these connections,
we on the Left need to grasp that these attacks from McCain are
against us, not just Obama. If McCain is elected, what do we think
he will do to those of us who fought against the war in Vietnam
and are fighting to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq? What will he
do to those who will continue to speak and act against the endemic
racism of the United States, or to those of us who would study and
advocate socialist alternatives to capitalism? I fear for those
on the Left who do not see the writing on the wall.
turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Now.
Because an Obama victory will be a defeat for the Clintons.
and Bill Clinton have been treacherous opponents of Obama. They
are threatened by his possible victory and are doing very little
to help him. At a white tie dinner John McCain told a great joke.
He brought down the house when he observed, "Even in this room
full of proud Manhattan Democrats, I can't shake that feeling that
some people here are pulling for me. I'm delighted to see you here
tonight, Hillary!" Obama understood only too well the truth
of that statement.
Clinton’s opened up the floodgates of racism against Obama during
the Democratic primaries. I made the argument then that Hillary
Clinton was forming a white bloc with John McCain to defeat Barack
Obama. I wrote an article that documented this in great detail:
Hillary and John: The White Bloc That Must Be Stopped.
Hillary’s campaign she argued that only she and McCain were qualified
to be president and Obama was not. She ran that ridiculous ad campaign,
“Who do you want to answer the phone at 3 in the morning?”
She told the press that she and John McCain had the standing to
be commander and chief and Obama did not. As she realized her dreams
of victory were slipping away, her campaign reached its moral nadir.
She told voters in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and throughout the
country that she did not think that “working, hard-working Americans,
white Americans” would vote for Obama. Hillary and Bill Clinton
have opened up the door for the racism of the McCain/Palin campaign,
aiding and abetting their “dear friend” John McCain.
also made continued false claims that Obama was not supportive of
women (meaning her). Only when it was absolutely clear she was losing
did she come out as a born-again feminist, a white feminist, attacking
Obama. In so doing she set the conditions for “her friend” John
McCain to pick Sarah Palin to mine the anti-Obama sentiment Hillary
had agitated among Democratic white women voters. Fortunately, Obama
is winning more and more women voters. Needless to say these
women include the Black, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Indigenous
women among whom he is also polling strongly. Women recognize how
important is his defense of choice and his support for equal pay,
and they are impressed with the way he relates to the women in his
life, a strong Black partner and his daughters.
Clinton’s, when they were in office, brought us the end of welfare,
the Anti-Terrorism Act, the Effective Death Penalty Act, and the
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. They
typify cynicism and opportunism.
Bill Clinton was on David Letterman, Chris Rock was also a guest.
During Clinton’s interview with Letterman he barely could say anything
good about Obama and kept referring to McCain as “my friend” and
“a war hero.” After Clinton left, Rock went off on him, “Is
it me or does Clinton have a problem saying the name Barack Obama?
He doesn’t get it, he keeps talking about Hillary. Hillary lost!
Hillary lost. It wasn’t sexism. She ran against a Black guy nobody
ever heard of and he beat her. She lost.”
Obama wins in spite of the Clintons’ treachery it will strengthen
his hand against the Democratic Leadership Council that they control—the
hard core of conservative center-right Democrats. It is good to
see Hillary Clinton campaigning for Obama. She has no other choice.
She too fears eight years of a McCain/Palin ticket and fears her
own isolation in the Democratic Party. The Clintons are a Trojan
Horse inside the Obama campaign. But Obama is beating the Clintons,
Yes He Can. An Obama victory would weaken the Clinton oligarchy.
turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Now.
A victory for Barack Obama will usher in a revolution of rising
Obama is elected he will do so with the support of 95% of the Black
vote and the highest Black vote in U.S. history, along with enormous
numbers of white, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous peoples. He will
attract a very large and energetic white vote with a strong anti-racist
orientation. He will win over the majority of young people who are
more influenced by the victories of the Civil Rights Movement than
the crimes of the Klan and the White Citizens Councils.
to how in every talk, besides his recitation of the obligatory “the
American people” a dozen times, he goes out of his way to say, “My
election is for everybody. The red states and blue, for the middle
class, for Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Islander, and
Indigenous peoples.” The mentioning of specific oppressed nationality
peoples and cultures is in itself a major breakthrough in the public
discourse of race in the country. Notice that the Republicans and
most Democrats will never acknowledge that those communities even
exist because to do so creates a momentary awareness that whiteness
is not the norm, that whites are not the boss. It also creates support
for group-specific demand development among oppressed nationality
an Obama election the entire field of “community organizing” will
get a major boost. I was there when Kennedy was elected and Johnson
beat Goldwater. Those elections raised hopes that helped the Civil
Rights Movement and the New Left and later the Black Liberation,
Women’s, LGBT, and Environmental Justice Movements. Obama will have
to decide, after he is elected, what policies he wants to carry
out. If he betrays his best promises or carries out his worst, I
believe he will receive significant organized opposition with demands
that he change his policies.
was also there when John F. Kennedy moved to invade Cuba at the
Bay of Pigs and tried to assassinate Castro. I was there when
Lyndon B. Johnson initiated and then tried to disband the poverty
programs, when Johnson escalated a genocidal war in Vietnam. These
actions by Kennedy and Johnson led to more protests, not less.
They led to the emergence of some very principled left liberal Democrats,
and the radicalization of many formerly Democratic liberal students
who came to see that more radical, structural, revolutionary change
hope that Barack Obama understands that the U.S. is a declining
superpower in a multi-polar world. I think he knows full well
the economic crisis facing U.S. and world imperialism. I think he
may propose a less bellicose and a less aggressive foreign policy
if only to protect the system itself. Regardless, my argument is
not that we work to elect Obama based on an ability to predict all
of his actions or choices.
think every successful organizer has to have an independent program
and an independent grassroots base. I am part of the Labor/Community
Strategy Center, and the Bus Riders Union. I work in alliance with
thousands of grassroots groups reflected, in one instance, by the
12,000 social movement organizers who attended the first U.S. Social
Forum in Atlanta in 2007.
hope that Obama, as a former community organizer, will understand
pressure from his left. Even if he does not always respond to our
specific demands, it will be the job of the movements to assess
his response and figure out our best tactics to win our demands.
hope that we can make sure that Obama respects the civil rights
and civil liberties of protestors and reigns in the campaign of
terror against protestors by local police, the National Guard, and
the U.S. military. An Obama administration cannot sanction the level
of brutality and repression against demonstrators that the Bush
police state has perfected. Under pressure from the Left,
I believe he could expand civil rights and civil liberties and expand
the rights of protest and demonstration, which in turn would help
the movement further. Can I guarantee that? Of course not, but I
do believe that the entire climate for anti-racist, anti-poverty,
environmental justice, immigrant rights, anti-police state, anti-war
organizing will be radically improved by an Obama victory.
turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Now.
Because I have faith in the Obama supporters, faith in the Black
community, faith in the grassroots Left.
spent a weekend at a Camp Obama training program in Long Beach and
have since been going to phone bank at the local Obama headquarters.
They are a wide variety of folk coming from many different points
on the political spectrum. They are decent, hard working, motivated,
and wonderful people. There is a movement atmosphere among the group.
I was deeply moved by the 350 of us who came to the Obama training.
We worked together from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
in a very intensive organizer training program. On every break I
asked people, What is the most important thing about an Obama victory
for you? I was surprised by the number and diversity of answers.
“Because he is so intelligent. I am sick of having a stupid president.”
“He is the most ethical, the most humane.” “He will defeat Karl
Rove.” “He is the most qualified Black man.” “Because he will help
me not be ashamed to be an American.” “Because I was involved in
the Civil Rights Movement and had lost hope. This brings me from
‘We Shall Overcome’ to ‘Yes We Can.’” “Because I want my children
to see we can elect a Black president.”
the 350 people who attended, 100 were Black, 15 were Asian/Pacific
Islander, 15 were Latino, and more than 200 were white. This election
is drawing a line of demarcation among white people that is very
profound—a civil war within a larger civil war, the anti-racist
whites versus the racist whites. Just as in the Civil Rights Movement,
a large anti-racist white bloc is consolidating itself as a critical
ally of communities of color. Remember, these are white folk voting
for a Black man for president of the United States. We should not
underestimate the good intentions and high levels of activism and
sacrifice of the Obama camp and their critical role in history in
the years ahead.
Black community is driven like nothing I have seen since the March
on Washington, the fight against segregation in the South, the fight
against racism and police brutality in the North. The Obama campaign
has a mass character to it that is unprecedented in U.S. politics,
having sprung from the traditions of Black protest, Black rebellion
and Black organizing. In the past months I have spoken with many
Black members of the Obama Campaign and the Bus Riders Union. Having
grown up in Jim Crow segregation, many say how hard it is to believe
that Black people could come from slavery to the possibility of
electing the first Black president of the United States. While that
makes them very hopeful, in the same sentence they also talk of
wanting it so badly they cannot acknowledge it. They do not want
to get their hopes up and let the white racist voters crush them.
They fear something bad happening to Obama. They fear the white
backlash and fear another set of hopes dashed against the rocks
of racism by this country. They are working with all their heart
and soul for Obama but do not want to acknowledge how much this
election means to them because, if he loses, they don’t know if
they can bear the pain.
is no community stronger and tougher than the Black community. It
has suffered more pain in America than at times is humanly imaginable.
Today more than a million Black men are in prison and millions more
are being hunted down by the police as we speak. And yet, the Black
community has a power and resilience that is legendary, a long history
of leading the anti-racist and Left movements in this country.
Its capacity to recover and fight back is admired by friend and
foe alike. Still, we cannot let a McCain victory happen, we just
cannot. An Obama victory will raise the spirits and fighting capacity
of the Black community.
are some who worry that Obama will co-opt the Black community. They
think that Black people who are against the growing police state
or the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan will look the other way
if those policies are carried out by Obama. Some have expressed
a fear that Black people will protect and defend Obama in a way
that brooks no criticism, giving him a free pass at a time of crisis.
But while that is possible, it would contradict everything I have
seen in 40 years of organizing. My experience says that it
all depends on how you organize and how well you grasp and assert
your own independence and initiative in the united front.
have been in social movements that helped elect and then challenge
mayor of Newark Kenneth Gibson, and Los Angeles mayors Tom Bradley
and Antonio Villaraigosa. Obama is a brilliant organizer, a brilliant
politician. He has his own program, his own priorities, and he will
fight to win support for them. Cooptation is not the most helpful
concept, taking the focus off our own role. Obama will do what he
has to do. It is for those of us who are organizing in low-income
communities of color, those of us who consider ourselves good strategists,
good tacticians and organizers—it is for those of us who have a
grassroots base to drive our own programs, our own demands, and
to develop the tactical plans to win those demands.
the election thousands of grassroots groups that have been working
on life and death issues for decades will be in the much stronger
position of being able to place their demands on a more receptive
Obama presidency. As just a few key examples of structural demands
we must raise:
cut the $400-billion military budget. Massively expand social
services and direct transfers of money to the unemployed, the
poor, and those facing foreclosures and evictions.
the vast majority of the one million Black and 500,000 Latino
prisoners incarcerated in the U.S. gulag. Provide humane treatment
for those who remain, including plans for parole and rehabilitation.
all combat and occupation forces from Iraq and provide support
for the self-determination of the Iraqi people. End the U.S. occupation
of Afghanistan. End the military threats against Iran, and Pakistan.
free, safe, and legal abortions for women. Do not impose
parental notification. Provide U.S. funds for birth control and
sex education in the U.S. and Third World.
a new provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, strengthening Title
VI, that will allow grassroots parties to sue government agencies
over racial discrimination and to block federal funding to racially
discriminatory projects based on disparate racial impacts.
the environmental disaster of “clean coal” ethanol and nuclear
power. Dramatically expand clean fuel bus transportation and dramatically
restrict the auto.
the ICE raids and surveillance on the 12 million immigrants in
the U.S. Offer them amnesty. Take down the wall with Mexico.End
the blockade of Cuba and stop U.S. subversion of the Venezuelan
self-determination for the Palestinian people and protect their
right to a viable homeland.
of us who see ourselves in a united front alliance with Obama and
with his millions of supporters should carry out a policy of simultaneous
alliance and challenge, defending his candidacy and challenging
some of its key policies. The Right is like a pack of attack dogs.
They will not stop even after Obama is elected. If they lose
the election, they will begin attacking Obama’s the day he takes
office. They will try to subvert his presidency at every turn. We
want to build an alliance with Obama against the Right, a united
front against racism and fascism that never loses sight of our unities
with him and with our stand against the barbarians at the gate.
At the same time, we want to build stronger grassroots movements
to his left that can carry out their own independent programs and
tactical plans. As grassroots organizers we are working with millions
of other Obama supporters who can be won to a broader progressive
and Left agenda in the process of fighting for an Obama presidency.
We need organizers who do not sit on the sidelines of history but
see their participation in this historical battle as a major development
that can expand the chances for more radical and revolutionary changes
in U.S. society.
us be able to rejoice in an Obama victory and then face the inevitable
challenges together. I am convinced that many of the people who
are working so hard for Obama—who are making millions of phone calls,
contributing their money, and going door to door for his election—will
expect the most of him. They will not go quietly into the night
if he betrays their trust. Obama has argued to his supporters that
he expects us to keep up the organizing to keep him on track, that
the role of those who work to elect him will be to organize to push
him once he is elected. There are millions of people working their
heart out for his election who will be there to take him up on his
turn out the vote for Barack Obama, Now.
Because it’s time to act. Here is what you can do.
are at least four major ways you can take positive action through
November 4, 2008 to elect Obama and defeat McCain:
funds to the Obama Campaign. Over three million people have
donated already. Obama raised $150 million in September from 632,000
people, an average of $86 per contribution. My wife Lian and I
have contributed to his campaign and plan to do so again in the
next few days. Whether you give $25, $50 or $100, consider that
another 600,000 people will be doing the same. If we each do this,
we can raise more money to elect Obama and defeat McCain. Last
minute ads to counter last minute attack ads from McCain are needed
and funds are essential. Every McCain ad is an ad against liberals,
against the Left, against Black civil rights leaders, against
socialism, against any progressive future.
you are in a swing state, plug into the Obama Campaign now.
Through November 4, 2008 get involved with phone banking and precinct
walking. On the weekend before the election and on
Election Day, volunteer with Get Out The Vote (GOTV) operations.
you are not in a swing state, phone bank into swing states
with your local branch of the Obama Campaign. Also consider volunteering
to travel to your nearest swing state the last weekend before
the election or whenever you can to go door to door turning out
voters. The more experience you have, the better, but the Obama
campaign is good at plugging you in.
a poll worker. There are millions of people who will vote
for the first time or vote after years of absence. The polls will
be jammed. The Republicans will commit any crime under the books
to deter voters in Democratic districts and Black voters in particular.
We need election protection. People who have signed up as poll
workers in L.A. are already saying that South L.A. and East L.A.
are under-staffed. We can assume that communities of color will
need special attention and that this is a critical job.
is work to be done, and it is great to be an organizer, not a bystander.
Obama is making history and so should we. It our job to be part
of this historic movement and to come home with a victory in hand.
* * *
respectful acknowledgment of the historic presidential campaign
of Congressperson Cynthia McKinney.
candidate with whose views I most agree is former Congressperson
Cynthia McKinney, a dynamic Black woman running on the Green Party
ticket. I know many people of good faith and good politics who are
working for her. I encourage them to carry out their plan to its
fullest and wish her campaign the greatest success. She should be
encouraged for what she is doing. At this point this is not the
choice I am making in my own tactical assessment of the best way
to confront racism and empire. When the election is over, whether
Obama is elected or McCain, we all have to work together in a broad
united front against the war in Iraq and racism at home. Any tactical
disagreements on this election, no matter how profound, should not
divide us in our broader long-term objectives. At the end of the
day, we are sisters and brothers in the struggle.
Guest Commentator Eric Mann is a veteran of the Congress of Racial
Equality, Students for a Democratic Society, and the United Auto
Workers, is the author of: Comrade George: An Investigation
into the Life, Political Thought, and Assassination of George Jackson,
Dispatches from Durban: Firsthand Commentaries on the World
Conference Against Racism, and Katrina’s Legacy: White
Racism and Black Reconstruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
He is working on his next book, Revolutionary Organizing in
the Age of Reaction, featuring The 25 Qualities of the Successful
Organizer. Click here
to contact Mr. Mann or visit his blog (ericmannblog.blogspot.com).