Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Beginning Again: Assessing Obama's Victory

By Tom Hayden
Progressive America Rising

Nov 6, 2012 - President Barack Obama addresses a crowd of supporters in Chicago, IL, following his reelection on November 6, 2012.President Barack Obama’s triumph was, in the first place, one of brilliant organizational execution built on the changing demographics of America. Obama never lost sight of his community organizing lessons, nor the harder ones of Chicago politics. His volunteers, looking at fewer numbers and less enthusiasm, turned themselves into a relentless machine. David Axelrod and David Plouffe kept the focus of resources on the battleground states while the Republicans, torn by a long primary war, were left behind vying for crucial electoral votes.

Obama’s triumph was also one for the rising political bloc of Latinos and their younger generation of Dreamers, who asserted themselves as an indispensible force in coalition politics; a breakthrough for the long-isolated LGBT community; for a resurgent feminist community called back into action; and above all, for a unified African-American community absolutely determined to be at their president’s back.

Obama’s triumph demonstrated, too, a popular mandate for a positive vision of government’s role in protecting workers, consumers and the disadvantaged against the storms of an economy controlled by the One Percent, as embodied in the election of Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. The decision to attack Romney on Bain Capital and Wall Street issues was a conscious choice by the Obama team to go populist – against the counsel of such key Democrats as Bill Clinton, Cory Booker and numerous others.

Less clearly but still compellingly, it was a mandate to continue advancing toward a green economy. The political aftershock of the super-storm is only beginning to be felt, but it must lead to Green Keynesianism.

The causes of marriage equality and marijuana legalization have advanced through popular initiatives.

Sadly, many angry white radical critics of Obama may have isolated themselves even further from this enthusiastic popular upsurge. Reading their intense blogging and listening to their rage on Pacifica, one almost had the sense that they there were disappointed in Obama’s success. A quick survey indicates that third party candidates failed to make any difference whatsoever in the elections in battleground states.

The problem of their increased isolation is unfortunate because an organized, popular, effective radical presence is needed within mainstream civic society. Those progressives entirely devoted to Obama will be hard-pressed to separate themselves from the president in the wake of this exhausting and emotional campaign. But crunch time is at hand for the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and the liberal coalition as the “fiscal cliff” approaches.

How will Obama balance his progressive electoral mandate in negotiations with the Republicans, which begin almost immediately? Who will take up the battle against Citizens United and forcefully point out the connection between the super-storm and the full-scale arrival of global warming? Can Occupy Wall Street – or any radical organizers – recover from their apparent disdain for strategies which involve electoral politics and pressure? Is there anyone within the political establishment – Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders? To forge an inside-outside alliance with the party of the streets? What issues will MSNBC choose to take up?

On foreign policy, the crisis over Iran intensifies almost daily. Obama has few options unless there is an overwhelming popular opposition to the nearing war. American troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, but their path is a rocky and ragged one. The drone wars drone on. Latin America remains devastated by the Drug War, NAFTA-style economics, and toxic residues of the Cold War. There are few in Congress to take up these burning issues. But diplomatic, political and economic solutions are needed more than ever to the crises of the Long War, drone and cyber-warfare, and the violence of the Middle East and Arab Spring.

For more details, please see also by Tom Hayden, “Obama’s Legacy Is Our Leverage.” Article originally appeared on ( See website for complete article licensing information.

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