Thursday, June 12, 2008

On to November - The New Battle Plans

Photo: Campaign Volunteers

Voting for Peace,

Justice and
Barack Obama

By Tom Hayden

Now that the long primary is over, it becomes urgent for progressives to shift gears to our role between now and November. Millions of dollars will be spent for voter outreach on issues from womens' rights to workers' needs to environmental protection. Considerable resources are expected to go to independent campaigning against Iraq and its economic impact. Here is a sketch of the possibilities.

The role of 'Progressives for Obama'

It is clear that we are a network, as Bill Fletcher says, and not an organization. Still, we serve as an effective rallying point for progressives through the November election and, if Obama is elected president, into the early phase of 2009. So what are our tasks?

1. Providing a forum for discussion among progressives. We are a forum for analysis and discussion with those progressives still skeptical about Obama, the Democratic Party, and/or the whole electoral process. We create space for maintaining differences with Obama - on Iraq, trade, etc. - while persuading skeptics to fully support him as the best option for progressives this year. Making this case is an important priority in what appears to be a very close election. As Obama moves toward the center-right, making the case could become more difficult.

2. Making the progressive community a factor Obama must keep in mind. Without an independent critical progressive force there will be little to slow the candidate's rightward direction through November. The worry is that Obama will be able to take the entire left-of-center vote for granted with McCain the Republican nominee.

Progressives should try to persuade the Obama campaign that they depend on aroused progressive voters in certain states and districts, among other constituencies. [Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, even parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania.] In addition, Obama will need to push up his vote in safe Democratic states to ensure a popular majority.

The most important immediate tool is the anti-war plank being proposed for the Denver convention, supported by 50 members of Congress, saying: withdraw all combat troops, leaving no permanent bases, conduct a diplomatic surge including negotiations with Iran, end the use of torture, and the closure of Guantanamo. [See details below]. There may also be amendments proposed by a fair trade coalition, and others.

3. Taking the progressive message beyond the progressive base. Soon there will exist independent organizational channels to reach voters around the war, the economy and trade, and global warming. These will be deployed through the internet, phone banking, direct contact at the door and other voter mobilization approaches. Progressives should see this as a unique chance for base-building. There's no rule that says one has to only build the organization of the Democratic Party. One can work independently at the grassroots, so be sure to retain the lists and contacts to build the progressive infrastructure.

4. Helping win this election at every level. In addition to electing Obama, progressives should welcome the political surge among African-Americans and young people of all backgrounds as a trend that might change the electorate for years to come. There are progressive pockets all over the country where trend-setting candidates can and should be elected this November. Money, phone banking, internet messaging and door to door work can be targeted to these many progressive pockets.

Our Timeline

Here is a tentative list of dates and anti-war events being considered. Stay in touch with for daily updates!

NOW: Support the antiwar plank proposed for the Democratic convention by Reps. Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, and Sam Farr. Go to , Nation 6/23.

JUNE - Decentralized actions at gas stations to drive the message about Iraq, the economy, and the power of Big Oil. Ads and actions against Republican priorities.

JULY - Roundtables [perhaps like the Dean or MoveOn meetups] to bring attention to Iraq's devastating impact on the economy, emphasizing costs like veteran's health care.

AUGUST - An intense local mass action and education campaign directed towards convention delegates, Democratic and Republican, about the costs of Iraq, from budget crises to torture's stain on our reputation.

LATE AUGUST - Forums and mass action at both conventions, including a possible meeting of in Denver.

SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER - "A Million Doors for Peace" campaign. A national effort to identify voters according to the war/peace/economy/trade issues, with an emphasis on swing states and districts. Activists will be able to download a walk list of voters in their neighborhoods, knock on doors and seek voter pledges to vote against Iraq War. Also likely: phone banking straight from your home to persuadable voters, allies, friends and family in another state.

There's more, and we'll keep this list growing.


Unknown said...

I want to add to what Tom has written.
As Danny Glover and i tried raising in our piece "Visualizing a Neo-Rainbow" (The Nation, 2/14/2005), there needs to be attention toward the building of a mass, progressive electoral organization that, while not being an actual political party, is nevertheless capable of running candidates for office within the primaries of the existing political parties (or independently if necessary and possible).
We continue to suffer from the absence of such organizations. We rely on acceptance of candidates who come forward rather than placing attention on building "base areas", identifying progressive candidates, and pressing an electoral/legislative agenda that emerges from progressive social movements.
My hope is that "Progressives for Obama" can encourage this sort of process on a very broad basis. Building such an organization will take us much closer to having the capacity to hold elected officials accountable plus to advance a program of structural reforms in the system.
--Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Anonymous said...

When will fossils like Hayden realize that 'persuading skeptics to fully support him as the best option for progressives' is incompatible with 'making the progressive community a factor Obama must keep in mind.'

The forces that are moving Obama to the right use leverage. For instance, he knows that if he doesn't continue to tow the line for Wall Street or AIPAC, he will be punished. What punishment can he possibly imagine awaits him if he doesn't tow the line for progressives, when progressive opinion leaders are busily urging unconditional support?

How will Hayden and his network (all 12 members) see to the adoption of the antiwar plank at the convention? By rallying in some 'free speech' cage far from the proceedings? And if it's not adopted what will they do? No need to answer that one since we already saw what they did the last time around when they destroyed the anti-war movement by promoting its absorption by the militarist Kerry campaign. Thanks to that campaign there is very little anti-war movement to destroy this time around.

Someone said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When exactly will you learn that political battles are not won with reasoned arguments or good intentions?

Can we a get a promise this time around that if Obama turns out to be the corporate-friendly imperialist he is promising to be, that the Hayden left will take up some hobby other than politics before the next election cycle?

Carl Davidson said...

I've guessing you're the same 'Anon' from a few posts back, from your invective and rhetoric.

If I'm wrong, my apologies in advance.

Hayden needs no defense from me, but where you got the number 'twelve' from is only wishful thinking on your part.

We'll have a bloc of delegates on the floor and some influence in the streets as well. The police may try cages, but those apply to you as well.

As for 2004, we neither destroyed the antiwar movement nor got 'absorbed' into Kerry's operation.

I'll repeat my reply to you earlier:

'As for 2004, I hardly 'sacrificed' the antiwar movement for Kerry. First, I never endorsed Kerry. I led an effort to train 1000 voter registrars, who in turn created a wider electorate by 20,000 voters. Kerry still lost, but we kept every name and list and new grassroots groups, then launched an effort to put the war on the ballot in Chicago in 2006, which got 800,000 votes for 'Out Now', winning 81 to 19 percent. Plus got a second resolution through he city council denouncing the war.

During this, we took part in every mass mobilization, and one of the largest, 500,000 in NYC, took part in the middle of Kerry's campaign.

We know how to work elections and the streets so each builds on the other, and we're doing the same thing now.

So if you want to toss your verbal spitballs our way, at least read what we've written right here, starting with the first two posts, so you can talk seriously about what we're really doing.'

The same conclusion holds. If you want serious discussion, or even polemics, you'll have to do much better than this.

Anonymous said...

We'll have a bloc of delegates on the floor and some influence in the streets as well.

And these delegates will do what? Where is your leverage? You never address that. And on the streets, what, exactly to intend to do? What is plan B if you don't get ANYTHING you want from Obama?

Let me hazard a guess: you'll campaign for him, vote for him and urge everyone else to do likewise.

Pretty scary for him, I imagine. Whatever will corporate America and AIPAC do? Go get 'im tigers.

The police may try cages, but those apply to you as well.

I have no idea what you are saying here. I brought the cages ('Free Speech Zones') because they were one more 'beyond the pale' moment for the Democrats that barely registered with progressives. You would think Medea Benjamin being carried from the convention floor would have provided the celebrity 'left' with some clue, but out she went shortly after, organizing for Kerry whose position on the war did not budge an inch.

'As for 2004, I hardly 'sacrificed' the antiwar movement for Kerry. First, I never endorsed Kerry.

Well, that's nice, but you are moderating a blog for an organization that consists of a number of people who did. This current campaign seems little different from the services they provided last time around.. When I say you, I mean the intersection between the Nobody But Kerry campaign and the Progressives for Obama campaign. You may not have been one of them that time, but you are now.

During this, we took part in every mass mobilization, and one of the largest, 500,000 in NYC, took part in the middle of Kerry's campaign.

There is a point where mass mobilizations morph into infantile gestures of frustration. They reach that point when it becomes clear that they have zero political impact. That point was reached around 2004 or before. Without any political threat behind them, they sap energy and resources and provide the illusion of forward movement, which is actually pernicious.

Carl Davidson said...

Our delegates, and others, will be fighting for a better antiwar plank as their top priority. I'm sure their will be other issues as well.

Our 'leverage' is what it's always been, the voters we've organized independently and the massive peace and justice movements that we're part of.

We'll get something from the Obama campaign, but whatever it is, it won't be much, due to our relative strength, and it's not the only point anyway. The main point is to defeat John McCain, since a White House occupied by him means a longer war, even though we'll do battle with an Obama White House in any case.

That's what's wrong with your approach of taking Obama down as the top priority--it means a deep division among the most progressive forces in the country and a longer war. Plus if you think we're weak, any effort you would launch along these lines wouldn't show up on anyone's radar.

As for Kerry, you'll find that the great majority of people who opposed the war voted for him, and a large number of Democratic voters, and local elected Dems have been in the streets with us on the war from day one. You might not like it, but there's a huge number of self-identified Democrats in the antiwar movement. And we need more of them, not fewer, and some Republicans, too, if you're serious about stopping this horrible war.

To really end it, you're going to have to make tactical alliances with people considerably to the right of Obama, and in fact are already doing so.

The difference between us and the average Kerry voter in 2004 is that we used the election to build our own organizations, ours own skills, and our own influence, which we were able to continue after the election. And we got something out of it, despite your snotty 'That's nice.'

But now you claim mass demonstrations of 500,000 people have 'zero impact,' so now you can diss those efforts as well. Problem is, you draw the wrong lesson. At most, ssay in Chicago, we had 30,000 people take to the streets against the war, but 800,000 cast a ballot for 'Out Now'. What do you make of it? I see a great many people opposed to the war, willing to do something against it, like vote, but not yet ready to take to the streets. So as a leader of the antiwar movement, it's my task to find the forms of struggle that THEY can relate to, and that THEY will take up in order to move forward, not a revolutionary fantasy I or others might come up with in our imagination.

It's a tough game, but very real--so as the saying goes, lead, follow, or get out of the way, unless you have something better to offer. In which case, I'm all ears.

Bruce Johnson said...

Thanks Tom and Carl. A brief story about FDR seems appropriate:
"In one situation, a group came to him (FDR) urging specific actions in support of a cause in which they deeply believed. He replied: I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it."
I don't think everyone appreciates the depth of Obama's conviction that 'change comes from below'. We know he is right.
It would be a mistake, especially given the wide range of what's broken in this world, to expect Obama to take the lead on all wrongs at once. And a worse mistake to spend times shouting at ourselves to demand that. We need to be taking the issues to the masses.
I am encouraged by Carl's reporting from Western Pennsylvania and have been a small part of similar action in Minnesota. We need some discussion about how to maintain that work after the election.

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