Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama Battleground Update #1

Photo: More than 10,000 in Texas caucuses

[Barack Obama is now Leading Hillary Clinton in Texas, now that the caucus vote outcome is being added to the direct ballots in the primary, as the Texas 'two-step' process requires. While caucus voters in past elections numbered in the hundreds, the Obama insurgency has pushed the numbers past 10,000. To get the flavor of the battle, here's a first-hand account by an Obama progressive on the ground in Texas.]

Texas Jokes
End Today!

By Melody Townsel
Sat Mar 29, 2008

I'm just back -- literally, JUST back -- from Texas' 23rd Senatorial District's Democratic convention. I left my house at 6:15 a.m. I walked in at 12:30 this morning.

I'm exhausted. I'm thrilled Obama won by such a wide margin. I'm honored to have been selected to attend our state convention. I'm pissed as hell at HRC's national campaign.

And, after countless hours of phonebanking and organizing for Obama, an hourlong early voting process, a four-hour caucus process, and 18 hours of county convention, I've decided that I'm no longer willing to put up with anti-Texas jabs from Kossites (DailyKOS Readers), slurs against my patriotism from Republicans, and just about anything else from Clinton supporters.

Unlike Kath, I was largely unable to take photos because my credentials were challenged. Along with the credentials of a large swath of the elected delegates.

After six or so extremely hot, crowded, confusing hours, many of us were unable to determine why, exactly, our credentials had been challenged. The Clinton camp had announced that they were targeting the 23rd district for credentials challenges and, by god, that's what they did.

By the end, the Clinton folks were willing -- hell, eager -- to throw out not just random individuals but the entire delegation of 2 precincts. (So much for voter enfranchisement, eh, Hills?)

The protest process was tailor-made for alienating committed voters, wearing them out to the point where they would drop out. By the end of the night, the convention floor was abuzz with tired, pissed-off voters who now hate Hillary with the fire of a thousand suns.

I'm one of them. Thanks for sucking those 10 or so hours away from me, Hills. Love ya. Mean it.

In the end, the Hillary camp did successfully win challenges on 22 delegates. Out of a total of 2,650. When the announcement came, we calculated that the 10-hour delay of the start of our convention averaged roughly a successful challenge only every 30 minutes.

So we stayed. Surprise, Hillary! Not a single delegate OR ALTERNATE left early from my precinct, which meant that the delegation not continuing on to state spent 12 hours making the Texas delegate count official.

So, take that, HRC! Your sniper fire was unsuccessful.

Dad, I'm putting you on notice. You choose to question my patriotism again because I oppose Iraq, you'll rue the day.

And the next time we're Bush-bashing around here, remember our 18 hours of non-stop conventioneering -- and think twice about messing with Texas.

Peace out, y'all. I'm off for beer and a bed.

UPDATE: I just woke up. Beer and sleep GOOD!

First, thank you all for your wonderful comments and expressions of support. I've tried to read them all, and respond where I could. I accept them all on behalf of all our Texas delegates, whom, as you can read in the comments, spent Saturday in one of the concentric circles of hell.

I won't bother to rehash all the news reports that have come in with results. I will throw up this quote from the Dallas Morning News Trailblazers blog:

Barack Obama handily won District 16 by 59 percent-41 percent. But he crushed Hillary Rodham Clinton in Sen. Royce West's District 23 -- 82 percent to 18 percent. Clinton barely made the "threshold" of 15 percent to get any delegates at all from the county.

I'm off for coffee in a few minutes, and I'm going to start figuring out my response to the HRC campaign's challenges.

Many of you asked the nature of the challenges, and all I can tell you is that the vast majority of us never figured out the exact grounds on which we were charged -- and the conditions were so crowded, hot and crazy that it wasn't practical to push any further than to get your credentials and get seated. (It was, in fact, so miserable that a few people passed out and EMS was called twice.)

My current plan of attack is to bombard our Texas superdelegates with our collective dissatisfaction with the 12 hours of bullshit. I'll post a diary soon with a call to action to that effect, but I'll need to do some research to pull together a list of our supers and their contact info.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Backing Obama Because...

I Have Come Home
from a Long Stay
in Mexico...

By Alice Walker

I HAVE COME home from a long stay in Mexico to find – because of the presidential campaign, and especially because of the Obama/Clinton race for the Democratic nomination - a new country existing alongside the old. On any given day we, collectively, become the Goddess of the Three Directions and can look back into the past, look at ourselves just where we are, and take a glance, as well, into the future. It is a space with which I am familiar.

When I was born in 1944 my parents lived on a middle Georgia plantation that was owned by a white distant relative, Miss May Montgomery. (During my childhood it was necessary to address all white girls as "Miss" when they reached the age of twelve.) She would never admit to this relationship, of course, except to mock it. Told by my parents that several of their children would not eat chicken skin she responded that of course they would not. No Montgomerys would.

My parents and older siblings did everything imaginable for Miss May. They planted and raised her cotton and corn, fed and killed and processed her cattle and hogs, painted her house, patched her roof, ran her dairy, and, among countless other duties and responsibilities my father was her chauffeur, taking her anywhere she wanted to go at any hour of the day or night. She lived in a large white house with green shutters and a green, luxuriant lawn: not quite as large as Tara of Gone With the Wind fame, but in the same style.

We lived in a shack without electricity or running water, under a rusty tin roof that let in wind and rain. Miss May went to school as a girl. The school my parents and their neighbors built for us was burned to the ground by local racists who wanted to keep ignorant their competitors in tenant farming. During the Depression, desperate to feed his hardworking family, my father asked for a raise from ten dollars a month to twelve. Miss May responded that she would not pay that amount to a white man and she certainly wouldn't pay it to a nigger. That before she'd pay a nigger that much money she'd milk the dairy cows herself.

When I look back, this is part of what I see. I see the school bus carrying white children, boys and girls, right past me, and my brothers, as we trudge on foot five miles to school. Later, I see my parents struggling to build a school out of discarded army barracks while white students, girls and boys, enjoy a building made of brick. We had no books; we inherited the cast off books that "Jane" and "Dick" had previously used in the all-white school that we were not, as black children, permitted to enter.

The year I turned fifty, one of my relatives told me she had started reading my books for children in the library in my home town. I had had no idea – so kept from black people it had been – that such a place existed. To this day knowing my presence was not wanted in the public library when I was a child I am highly uncomfortable in libraries and will rarely, unless I am there to help build, repair, refurbish or raise money to keep them open, enter their doors.

When I joined the freedom movement in Mississippi in my early twenties it was to come to the aid of sharecroppers, like my parents, who had been thrown off the land they'd always known, the plantations, because they attempted to exercise their "democratic" right to vote. I wish I could say white women treated me and other black people a lot better than the men did, but I cannot. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that white women have copied, all too often, the behavior of their fathers and their brothers, and in the South, especially in Mississippi, and before that, when I worked to register voters in Georgia, the broken bottles thrown at my head were gender free.

I made my first white women friends in college; they were women who loved me and were loyal to our friendship, but I understood, as they did, that they were white women and that whiteness mattered. That, for instance, at Sarah Lawrence, where I was speedily inducted into the Board of Trustees practically as soon as I graduated, I made my way to the campus for meetings by train, subway and foot, while the other trustees, women and men, all white, made their way by limo. Because, in our country, with its painful history of unspeakable inequality, this is part of what whiteness means. I loved my school for trying to make me feel I mattered to it, but because of my relative poverty I knew I could not.

I am a supporter of Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the country at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to start over, and to do better. It is a deep sadness to me that many of my feminist white women friends cannot see him. Cannot see what he carries in his being. Cannot hear the fresh choices toward Movement he offers. That they can believe that millions of Americans –black, white, yellow, red and brown - choose Obama over Clinton only because he is a man, and black, feels tragic to me.

When I have supported white people, men and women, it was because I thought them the best possible people to do whatever the job required. Nothing else would have occurred to me. If Obama were in any sense mediocre, he would be forgotten by now. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. We look at him, as we looked at them, and are glad to be of our species. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change America must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves.

True to my inner Goddess of the Three Directions however, this does not mean I agree with everything Obama stands for. We differ on important points probably because I am older than he is, I am a woman and person of three colors, (African, Native American, European), I was born and raised in the American South, and when I look at the earth's people, after sixty-four years of life, there is not one person I wish to see suffer, no matter what they have done to me or to anyone else; though I understand quite well the place of suffering, often, in human growth.

I want a grown-up attitude toward Cuba, for instance, a country and a people I love; I want an end to the embargo that has harmed my friends and their children, children who, when I visit Cuba, trustingly turn their faces up for me to kiss. I agree with a teacher of mine, Howard Zinn, that war is as objectionable as cannibalism and slavery; it is beyond obsolete as a means of improving life. I want an end to the on-going war immediately and I want the soldiers to be encouraged to destroy their weapons and to drive themselves out of Iraq.

I want the Israeli government to be made accountable for its behavior towards the Palestinians, and I want the people of the United States to cease acting like they don't understand what is going on. All colonization, all occupation, all repression basically looks the same, whoever is doing it. Here our heads cannot remain stuck in the sand; our future depends of our ability to study, to learn, to understand what is in the records and what is before our eyes. But most of all I want someone with the self-confidence to talk to anyone, "enemy" or "friend," and this Obama has shown he can do. It is difficult to understand how one could vote for a person who is afraid to sit and talk to another human being. When you vote you are making someone a proxy for yourself; they are to speak when, and in places, you cannot. But if they find talking to someone else, who looks just like them, human, impossible, then what good is your vote?

It is hard to relate what it feels like to see Mrs. Clinton (I wish she felt self-assured enough to use her own name) referred to as "a woman" while Barack Obama is always referred to as "a black man." One would think she is just any woman, colorless, race-less, past-less, but she is not. She carries all the history of white womanhood in America in her person; it would be a miracle if we, and the world, did not react to this fact. How dishonest it is, to attempt to make her innocent of her racial inheritance.

I can easily imagine Obama sitting down and talking, person to person, with any leader, woman, man, child or common person, in the world, with no baggage of past servitude or race supremacy to mar their talks. I cannot see the same scenario with Mrs. Clinton who would drag into Twenty-First Century American leadership the same image of white privilege and distance from the reality of others' lives that has so marred our country's contacts with the rest of the world.

And yes, I would adore having a woman president of the United States. My choice would be Representative Barbara Lee, who alone voted in Congress five years ago not to make war on Iraq. That to me is leadership, morality, and courage; if she had been white I would have cheered just as hard. But she is not running for the highest office in the land, Mrs. Clinton is. And because Mrs. Clinton is a woman and because she may be very good at what she does, many people, including some younger women in my own family, originally favored her over Obama. I understand this, almost. It is because, in my own nieces' case, there is little memory, apparently, of the foundational inequities that still plague people of color and poor whites in this country. Why, even though our family has been here longer than most North American families – and only partly due to the fact that we have Native American genes – we very recently, in my lifetime, secured the right to vote, and only after numbers of people suffered and died for it.

When I offered the word "Womanism" many years ago, it was to give us a tool to use, as feminist women of color, in times like these. These are the moments we can see clearly, and must honor devotedly, our singular path as women of color in the United States. We are not white women and this truth has been ground into us for centuries, often in brutal ways. But neither are we inclined to follow a black person, man or woman, unless they demonstrate considerable courage, intelligence, compassion and substance. I am delighted that so many women of color support Barack Obama -and genuinely proud of the many young and old white women and men who do.

Imagine, if he wins the presidency we will have not one but three black women in the White House; one tall, two somewhat shorter; none of them carrying the washing in and out of the back door. The bottom line for most of us is: With whom do we have a better chance of surviving the madness and fear we are presently enduring, and with whom do we wish to set off on a journey of new possibility? In other words, as the Hopi elders would say: Who do we want in the boat with us as we head for the rapids? Who is likely to know how best to share the meager garden produce and water? We are advised by the Hopi elders to celebrate this time, whatever its adversities.

We have come a long way, Sisters, and we are up to the challenges of our time. One of which is to build alliances based not on race, ethnicity, color, nationality, sexual preference or gender, but on Truth. Celebrate our journey. Enjoy the miracle we are witnessing. Do not stress over its outcome. Even if Obama becomes president, our country is in such ruin it may well be beyond his power to lead us toward rehabilitation. If he is elected however, we must, individually and collectively, as citizens of the planet, insist on helping him do the best job that can be done; more, we must insist that he demand this of us. It is a blessing that our mothers taught us not to fear hard work. Know, as the Hopi elders declare: The river has its destination. And remember, as poet June Jordan and Sweet Honey in the Rock never tired of telling us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Getting Out of Iraq

Pressing Obama
On The War:
An Exchange

Photo: Steelworkers vs War

Phyllis Bennis
and Tom Hayden

[Following are two letters, a supportive query from Phyllis Bennis, a long-time astute source of analysis and information on Iraq and the Middle East, and a detailed reply by Tom Hayden, who also knows the politics of the region well, and is a founder of Progressives for Obama. The exchange shows, most of all, the independence, solidarity and open critical spirit at the core of what we’re trying to build here. --CarlD]


A Letter from
Phyllis Bennis

Dear Friends,

This is an incredibly important and powerful call. I write as an individual, without connection to IPS or any organization. I think you have hit most of the right issues, particularly on the key questions of race and social justice (though at some point to win progressive support it will probably be necessary to state specifically that given the current balance of forces we cannot expect to see significant differences between candidates on Palestine-Israel, and that that issue cannot be allowed to be determinative in election campaigns.)

However, there is one point I hope you would consider reframing - having to do with Obama's position on Iraq.

Your letter states: "She now promises to "end the war" but will not set a timeline for combat troop withdrawal, and remains committed to leaving tens of thousands of counter-terrorism troops and trainers in Iraq amidst a sectarian conflict. While Obama needs to clarify his own position on counterinsurgency, Clinton's "end the war" rhetoric conceals an open commitment to keep American troops in Iraq until all our ill-defined enemies are defeated--a treadmill that guarantees only the spawning of more enemies."

Unfortunately I think what is needed is not for Obama to "clarify" his own position on counter-insurgency or troop withdrawal, but to CHANGE his position.

Like Clinton, Obama clearly calls for a withdrawal only of "combat troops." Just like Clinton, Obama has been all too clear that he too is committed to "leaving tens of thousands of counter-terrorism troops and trainers in Iraq." Obama, like Clinton, has stated clearly he believes U.S. troops should remain in Iraq for a host of tasks -- including counter-insurgency, training, force protection, protection of the bloated 5,000-person U.S. embassy, and more.

Unlike Clinton, Obama has set a timetable for "combat troop" withdrawal. That's important, but his proposal, like Clinton's, would still leave in place somewhere between 35,000 and 75,000 U.S. troops in Iraq -- and presumably all or most of the 180,000 mercenaries now being paid by the U.S. to support the military, about whom Obama has said nothing. He has said little about closing the 15 permanent bases the pentagon has constructed in Iraq (including one less than 2 miles from the Iranian border).

Withdrawing half the troops, but leaving in place up to 75,000 soldiers, 180,000 mercenaries and 15 active permanent bases is not a definition of ending the occupation and the war. Obama must also be urged to distinguish himself from the other candidates by rejecting the "military option" against Iran -- his important assertion that he would begin immediate negotiations is undermined by his continued willingness to "keep all options on the table" and by his active sponsorship of the current senate bill calling for new sanctions against Iran.

The four of you have a potentially huge role to play in influencing the obama campaign, and especially in influencing other progressives to work in and on the campaign. We're certainly going to need a nuanced blend of inside and outside pressures. Obama has brought not only new energy and new constituencies into political life, but is bringing new hope to a newly-rising community emerging out of profound despair.

I hope progressives can push some of these important changes to fruition, so we do not face too many broken hearts and too much new despair after a victory that could still prove hollow.

Thank you all for your optimism, for your strength, for your hope.

All Best
Phyllis Bennis


A Reply by
Tom Hayden

Dear Phyllis,

Thanks for your support and thoughtful criticism.

While Obama's position on Iraq is better than Clinton's and of course McCain's, our statement says it remains a key point of difference progressives still have with him. His 2002 anti-war speech, his 16 month combat troop withdrawal plan, his refusal to support Bush on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, all are in his favor. His repeated stump statements that he will "end the war in 2009" is building a climate of great expectations, and all these gestures are in response to a public antiwar mood that the anti-war movement has helped to build.

However, Obama remains stuck in the outdated Baker-Hamilton mode of withdrawing combat troops, shifting the US mission to counterinsurgency, and leaving an unspecified number of advisers/trainers/counter-terrorism units behind in the conflict. The anti-war movement must demand a full withdrawal, and the media must ask tougher questions of the candidates on these issues. We all are opposed to a "peace plan" that turns Iraq into another Central America or Afghanistan.

We also should oppose Obama's plans to transfer two divisions of combat troops from the quagmire of Iraq to the quagmire of Afghanistan, and his endorsement of attacking al -Qaeda in Pakistan if there is "actionable intelligence."

You may turn out to be right, but I don't believe there yet is evidence for your worst-case scenario, that he would leave 35,000-75,000 [combat?] troops, 180,000 private Blackwater-type contractors, and 15 permanent bases. The evidence which already exists is bad enough. He himself has not spoken specifically, except to tell the NY Times that he will not leave advisers behind unless the factionalized Baghdad government is reconciled. But his staff has used the figure of 35,000 left behind, and suggested to Jeremy Scahill that some private contractors would have to be used.

So we have to press really hard to get answers to our questions, from all the candidates. Baker-Hamilton recommends 10-20,000 advisers/trainers be left behind. Using the number 15,000 for the sake of the discussion, plus a force multiplier of 3:1, that would mean 60,000. If you throw in another 50,000 private contractors, you are over 100,000, a totally absurd definition of "ending the war", which I am not sure even Obama could defend under serious questioning.

He reminds me of John F. Kennedy, who ran against Nixon in 1960 on the exaggerated claim of a "missile crisis" and fantasies about Green Berets competing against Cuban guerrillas. Then Kennedy was deceived and manipulated into the Bay of Pigs. Only after the Cuban missile crisis, he began deepening his questioning of the Cold War and nuclear arms race, and embraced the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. Then he was murdered.

Worst case, it's possible that Obama will win the presidency by promoting his commander-in-chief credentials and meet his Bay of Pigs in the tribal areas of Pakistan. That's what we - the anti-war movement and public opinion - have to prevent.

So there are ample reasons to keep the pressure on, from every direction, inside and outside the Obama campaign. But that's no reason to be neutral on who wins the nomination.

Some of us believe in the greater possibilities of the Obama campaign as a vast social movement - the unprecedented rise of a new activist generation linked together with a unified African-American community - and in the qualities of the candidate himself, as demonstrated in his speech last week.
Some of us are angered that FOX and the Clintons to going to such unsavory lengths to smear and undermine this movement and candidacy. Some of believe that progressives should become fully involved in stopping the Clintons, McCain and the Republicans from achieving their agendas.

The other day I was talking to a friend, a Sixties revolutionary, about the Obama movement, who laughed and recalled that at the beginning of the Southern Civil Rights era there were progressives sitting around arguing that demanding a hamburger and a cup of coffee wasn't radical enough. Meanwhile a whole generation was in its moment of transformation. The New Left and SDS owed their existence and achievements to the spirit of those young people who had the audacity to risk so much.

Tom Hayden


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Independent Campaigning

Obama Takes On

War and Economy

in Beaver County

Photo: Obama in Western PA

By Carl Davidson

Senator Barack Obama spoke 10 days ago to a full house of 1700 residents of Western Pennsylvania in the athletic 'Dome' of the Beaver County Community College, one of the largest venues in the area.

It was a good day for Obama and Beaver County, both of which are embroiled in the hotly contested presidential primary.

It was also a good day for those of us working on the 'Voter Engagement' project of UFPJ and Peace Action.

When we arrived, the local offical Obama team from among the local Democrats had already set up a Voter Registration Table. I approached the guy in charge, a retired member of the local teacher's union, and said we were going to distribute nonpartisan voter guides against the war. "Against the war? You mean against the INVASION, don't you?" and added some colorful terms for President Bush. It set the tone-and we got on with our project, which was independent of the Democrats and the Obama campaign.

There was a last minute rush to get in, and thorough-going security, and we just made it to the top of the bleachers in time.

Inside, waiting for the speech, working the crowd, we made a point of talking with the reporters from the Beaver County Times, one of whom we had had a relationship with on earlier stories. We discussed the debate on the war in the editorial pages, noted that this was very new for Beaver County, and agreed to talk at length later.

The friendly crowd was obviously self-selected and mostly pro-Obama. But it was still a cross-section of the county's demographics-mostly working class (the young volunteer who opened the day used the term 'working class' like it was the most normal thing in the world, and his crowd did, too), Italian-American, Serbian-American, African American, union jackets and veterans, young and old, men and women, a good mix.

The youth were lively, multinational and kept trying to get 'the Wave' going in the stands, but the old folks weren't cooperating too well, a little shy or even pensive. Still, they got the rhythmic chants going, 'Ba-Rack!, O-Bam-A!, It Can Be Done! It Can Be Done!'

Obama was warmly greeted, and got into his regular speech, but said he would be short. He wanted to field questions. He stressed some economic issues, since this area is a poster child for the ravages of deindustrialization, with dozens of shut-down and run-away mills. He knew who he was talking to.

But it was when he condemned the Iraq war, and declared he would end it in 2009, that he got his first and loudest ovation, followed by still another, when he stressed the need not to abandon veterans on their return. This was clearly an antiwar crowd, from young high school kids to grey-haired Vietnam vets, but with a blue-collar flavor. The economy was important, as was health care, prisons, and education, but Obama himself linked all of them to the war, and was cheered every time.

We left quickly at the end, to position ourselves outside, with our stacks on Voter Guides. 'Make the Election about Ending the War! Take one and pass them on!' Most people snapped them up, and a few came back for more. A few, mainly African American, were dubious, and wanted to know more. 'It rates all the candidates on the war, and your guy does very well.' That would click, and they would ask for extra copies.

One group of about a dozen students was standing together reading it. We joined in, and soon got a good number of e-mails on the sign up sheets on our clipboards. One of the kids claimed to be a Republican. Interestingly enough, the sidebar article in the Beaver County Times later in the day was on a student who said he changed his registration to Democrat that morning, so he could get behind Obama.

Make no mistake. McCain is strong here, even if people hate the war. Clinton has deep support, too. But this multiracial crowd was more than willing to listen, and came away rather impressed and upbeat

So we had a good day with our independent, progressive and antiwar intervention. We got our message out, we formed some positive ties on voter registration, we renewed some ties with the local media, and got a list of new youth contacts we didn't have before. Not bad for a morning's work. Now just multiply it, over and over, in the weeks ahead.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Wrecking Crew


By Tom Hayden

Does anyone else feel growing revulsion at the obviously amoral attacks on Barack Obama by the top henchmen of the Clinton team, James Carville and Lanny Davis?

I used to like these fellows. I met Carville when he launched his national career with the campaign of Harris Wofford for Senator on a health-care agenda. And I suppose I forgave Lanny Davis for his laborious legal spinning on behalf of an almost-impaled Bill Clinton.

But they have gone over to the dark side, becoming really nasty political operatives, however, who are offending large numbers of Democrats as they say anything to wreck Obama’s campaign. These week they even drove Anderson Cooper and Joe Klein nuts with the audacity of their spin.

Carville claims to be proud of the media attention he drew for slandering Bill Richardson as a “Judas”, as if Carville has the power to punish. Most people assume the Clintons offered Richardson more than thirty pieces of silver, but still couldn’t close the deal. Evolving far from his populist roots, Carville makes a lot of money as a consultant to Latin American candidates who favor imposing Clinton’s NAFTA-style policies on their own people, including Bolivia and Argentina. It’s all there in the incredible documentary by Rachel Boynton, Our Brand Is Crisis. And it’s not Carville alone, it’s Team Clinton trying to dominate Latin America as paid consultants, including Mark Penn.

Hillary Clinton must have her reasons for deploying these unsavory, heavy-handed male operatives. It’s sad if this is what her feminism has come to.

The script out there seems to be this. Someone splices together a few minutes out of hundreds of hours of tapes by Rev. Wright. Someone gives it to the media. It is the beginning of the six-week news void before the next primary. FOX tries to destroy Obama in order to break his his delegate and popular lead in the primaries, because FOX wants Hillary to be the nominee. When the Wright story sags, Hillary chimes in with her strange statement that you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your minister [one Freudian interpretation: she couldn’t leave her husband, but Obama could leave his congregation?]. The Clintons will escalate and escalate. Her defeat is not an option; therefore, the destruction of Obama is their last “hope”.

Only a rising tide of public disgust can stop the Clintons from these tactics, as the public reacton temporarily shelved Bill Clinton after South Carolina.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Progressives For Obama

Barack Is Our

Best Option

–And You’re

Needed Now!

March 24th, 2008

by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr.,
Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover

All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country. We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grass-roots participation drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.

As progressives we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that have failed so far to deliver peace, health care, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.

During past progressive peaks in our political history—the late Thirties, the early Sixties—social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.

We intend to join and engage with our brothers and sisters in the vast rainbow of social movements to come together in support of Obama’s unprecedented campaign and candidacy. Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.

Progressives can make a difference in close primary races like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and in the November general election. We can contribute our dollars. We have the proven online capacity to reach millions of swing voters in the primary and general election. We can and will defend Obama against negative attacks from any quarter. We will seek Green support against the claim of some that there are no real differences between Obama and McCain. We will criticize any efforts by Democratic super-delegates to suppress the winner of the popular and delegate votes, or to legitimize the flawed elections in Michigan and Florida. We will make our agenda known at the Democratic national convention and fight for a platform emphasizing progressive priorities as the path to victory.

Obama’s March 17 speech on racism was as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials for overcoming the divide-and-conquer tactics which have sundered Americans since the first slaves arrived here in chains.

Only words? What words they were.

However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches. It was the industrial strikes and radical organizers in the 1930s who pushed Roosevelt to support the New Deal. It was the civil rights and student movements that brought about voting rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson and propelled Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy’s anti-war campaigns. It was the original Earth Day that led Richard Nixon to sign environmental laws. And it will be the Obama movement that makes it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.

We should not only keep the pressure on, but we also should connect the issues that Barack Obama has made central to his campaign into an overarching progressive vision.

- The Iraq War must end as rapidly as possible, not in five years. All our troops must be withdrawn. Diplomacy and trade must replace further military occupation or military escalation into Iran and Pakistan. We should not stop urging Barack Obama to avoid leaving American advisers behind in Iraq in a counterinsurgency quagmire like Afghanistan today or Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor should he simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan.

- Iraq cannot be separated from our economic crisis. Iraq is costing trillions of dollars that should be invested in jobs, universal health care, education, housing and public works here at home. Our own Gulf Coast requires the attention and funds now spent on Gulf oil.

- Iraq cannot be separated from our energy crisis. We are spending an unheard-of $100/barrel for oil. We are officially committed to wars over oil supplies far into the future. We instead need a war against global warming and for energy independence from Middle Eastern police states and multinational corporations.

Progressives should support Obama’s 16-month combat troop withdrawal plan in comparison to Clinton’s open-ended one, and demand that both candidates avoid a slide into four more years of low-visibility counterinsurgency.

The Democratic candidates should listen more to the blunt advice of the voters instead of the timid talk of their national security advisers. Two-thirds of American voters, and a much higher percentage of Democrats, oppose this war and favor withdrawal in less than two years, nearly half of them in less than one year. The same percentage believe the war has had a negative effect on life in the United States, while only 15 percent believe the war has been positive. Without this solid peace sentiment, neither Obama nor Clinton would be taking the stands they do today.

Further, the battered and abused people of Iraq favor an American withdrawal by a 70 percent margin.

The American government’s arrogant defiance of these strong popular majorities in both America and Iraq should be ended this November by a powerful peace mandate.

The profound transition from the policies of the past will not be easy, and fortunately the Obama campaign is lifted by the fresh wind of change. We seek not only to change the faces in high places, however, but to save our country from slow death by greed, status quo politics, and loss of vision. The status quo cannot stand much longer, neither that of politics-as-usual nor that of our security, energy and economic policies. We are stealing from the next generation’s future, and living on borrowed time.

The Bush Administration has replaced the Cold War with the War on Terrorism led by the same military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned against. The reality and public fear of terrorism today is no less real than fear of communism and nuclear annihilation a generation ago. But we simply cannot continue multiple military interventions in many Muslim countries without increasing the vast number of violent jihadists against us, bleeding our military and our economy, becoming more dependent on Middle East oil, creating unsavory alliances with police states, shrinking our own civil liberties and putting ourselves at permanent risk of another 9/11 attack.

We need a brave turn towards peace and conflict resolution in the Middle East and the Muslim world. Getting out of Iraq, sponsoring a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, ending alliances with police states in the Arab world, unilaterally initiating real energy independence and moving the world away from the global warming crises are the steps that must be taken.

Nor can we impose NAFTA-style trade agreements on so many nations that seek only to control their own national resources and economic destinies. We cannot globalize corporate and financial power over democratic values and institutions. Since the Clinton Administration pushed through NAFTA against the Democratic majority in Congress, one Latin American nation after another has elected progressive governments that reject US trade deals and hegemony. We are isolated in Latin America by our Cold War and drug war crusades, by the $500 million counter-insurgency in Columbia, support for the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela, and the ineffectual blockade of Cuba. We need to return to the Good Neighbor policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, which rejected Yankee military intervention and accepted Mexico’s right to nationalize its oil in the face of industry opposition. The pursuit of NAFTA-style trade policies inflames our immigration crisis as well, by uprooting countless campesinos who inevitably seek low-wage jobs north of the border in order to survive. We need balanced and democratically-approved trade agreements that focus on the needs of workers, consumers and the environment. The Banana Republic is a retail chain, not an American colony protected by the Monroe Doctrine.

We are pleased that Hillary Clinton has been responsive to the tide of voter opinion this year, and we applaud the possibility of at last electing an American woman president. But progressives should be disturbed at her duplicitous positions on Iraq and NAFTA. She still denies that her 2002 vote for legislation which was called the war authorization bill was a vote for war authorization. She now promises to “end the war” but will not set a timeline for combat troop withdrawal, and remains committed to leaving tens of thousands of counter-terrorism troops and trainers in Iraq amidst a sectarian conflict. While Obama needs to clarify his own position on counterinsurgency, Clinton’s “end the war” rhetoric conceals an open commitment to keep American troops in Iraq until all our ill-defined enemies are defeated—a treadmill which guarantees only the spawning of more enemies. On NAFTA, she claims to have opposed the trade deal behind closed doors when she was First Lady. But the public record, and documents recently disclosed in response to litigation, proves that she was a cheerleader for NAFTA against the strong opposition of rank-and-file Democrats. The Clintons ushered in the Wall Street Democrats whose deregulation ethos has widened inequality while leaving millions of Americans without their rightful protections against market shocks.

Clinton’s most bizarre claim is that Obama is unqualified to be commander-in-chief. Clinton herself never served in the military, and has no experience in the armed services apart from the Senate armed services committee. Her husband had no military experience before becoming president. In fact he was a draft opponent during Vietnam, a stance we respected. She was the first lady, and he the governor, of one of our smallest states. They brought no more experience, and arguably less, to the White House than Obama would in 2009.

We take very seriously the argument that Americans should elect a first woman president, and we abhor the surfacing of sexism in this supposedly post-feminist era. But none of us would vote for Condoleeza Rice as either the first woman or first African-American president. We regret that the choice divides so many progressive friends and allies, but believe that a Clinton presidency would be a Clinton presidency all over again, not a triumph of feminism but a restoration of the aging, power-driven Wall Street Democratic Hawks at a moment when so much more fresh imagination is possible and needed. A Clinton victory could only be achieved by the dashing of hope among millions of young people on whom a better future depends. The style of the Clintons’ attacks on Obama, which are likely to escalate as her chances of winning decline, already risks losing too many Democratic and independent voters in November. We believe that the Hillary Clinton of 1968 would be an Obama volunteer today, just as she once marched in the snows of New Hampshire for Eugene McCarthy against the Democratic establishment.

We did not foresee the exciting social movement that is the Obama campaign. Many of us supported other candidates, or waited skeptically as weeks and months passed. But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vacillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish. Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign.

[TOM HAYDEN is author of Ending the War in Iraq, a five-time Democratic convention delegate, former state senator, and board member of the Progressive Democrats of America. BILL FLETCHER, JR., who originated the call for founding “Progressives for Obama,” is the executive editor of Black Commentator, and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal; BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of Dancing in the Streets[2007] and other popular works and, with Hayden, a member of The Nation’s editorial board. DANNY GLOVER is the respected actor, activist, and chairman of the board of TransAfrica Forum. ]


Monday, March 24, 2008

How To Work An Election Independently

Getting Organized, Getting Engaged:
Anyone with Questions, Use the Reply
Button Below, And We'll Get Back To You

What We Need To Do

To Have an Impact in 2008

By Carl Davidson

Progressive voters and activists have the opportunity to make some far-reaching gains in the 2008 election cycle, but we need to move quickly. The last delegate-rich primary in Pennsylvania is on April 22, by June 3 the remaining 10 primaries and caucuses will be done, and by early Sept. the 2 major parties will have their nominees in place. The opposition to the war needs to be more sharply articulated, just as the war itself needs to be linked to the economy.

Most important, ending the war in Iraq, needs to be a greater part of everyone's political decisions in 2008.

There are now three main presidential candidates, plus, in some states, the Greens-a Republican who promises to win the war, whatever the cost, even if it takes decades, and two Democrats who promise to end it, with less than desirable timelines and qualifications.

Large numbers of people critical of the war have decided to enter the electoral arena in one way or another-but they are not necessarily one of those who have taken to the streets to date. Most have not. The most obvious is the insurgent wave of youth taking up Barack Obama's cause, seeing him as their favored instrument to end the war and advance other progressive causes. They may make other choices later, but they have chosen to enter the fray this way, whether anyone else thinks it's the best way or not.

Yet we, the more seasoned core of the antiwar movement, and progressive activists generally, are not as engaged as we could be. To address this, several groups hav put out a voter guides and calls to get involved in various ways. In this piece, the focus is on some of the key ways the work can actually be done, although just about any way would be better than doing nothing.

We need to stress something right from the beginning. If you think this project is only about wining votes for Obama or any other particular party or candidate, you're mistaken! This is also about bringing the voice of the antiwar movement into the public debate, and it is about building our capacity, as independent progressives, at the local and national level.

This project is also designed as a nonpartisan intervention that any group, including those with either 501C3 or C4 status, can take part in. It's aim is to move the electorate in the direction of our issues, set our issues as the prevailing ones for any candidate to address, educate both candidates and the electorate on our issues, get out the largest possible turnout of voters educated on our issues, and, most important, to strengthen our grassroots member groups and their alliances in the process. If you're not clear, go over this one more time, before looking at the following "to do" items:

Making Our Message Clear. With all the various "plans" regarding Iraq being floated, it's important that the peace movement remain true to the position we've had all along, and the one shared by the antiwar majority among the people themselves, of immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq and their return home. Every candidate, presidential and congressional, of every party needs to be directly bird-dogged and confronted with this at every - opportunity. While there are important differences among them, not one of the major party presidential candidates shares this perspective. They are either lagging behind the electorate or opposing it. Those who claim to want to end the war need to be openly informed that they only gain support by taking a stronger antiwar stand.

Ballot Intervention. In some states, and on some very local levels, we can directly put issues on the ballot, as well as into the discussion. Near West Citizens for Peace & Justice, for example, put a cutoff of funding for the war on the ballot at its township level in a working-class suburb of Chicago in the recent primary, where it won by 77 percent. Since electoral law varies, this may not be practical in some areas, but wherever it can be done, it's a great nonpartisan, non-endorsing tool to bring antiwar voters to the polls. Winning local referenda or other ballot initiatives, especially when won by large margins are another important expression of the widespread opposition to the war, and as such puts more pressure on policy makers in Washington, DC.

RTV: Registering and Expanding the Electorate. This is already shaping up to be an historic election with a record-breaking turnout, if for no other reason than the prospect of the 'White Guys Only' sign being taken from the Oval Office. Growing numbers want to be part of that history, and not just watch it. The sharper the differences are drawn with the unabashed defenders of prolonging the war, the greater the potential turnout, but it has to be organized. Some new voters register themselves, but many do not until they are encouraged, especially among young people. The antiwar movement has everything to gain from registering voters in a nonpartisan fashion, so that the new contact lists, with the names and addresses of new voters, belong to it, rather than any party. Most states make it easy for volunteer organizations to get new registrations on their own and then turn them in. There's nothing standing in our way but our own lack of initiative. Getting the lists is why it's preferable to actually register voters ourselves, rather than simply passing out 'motor voter' or other cards for the registrants to send in themselves.

ETV: Educating, Shaping and Informing the Electorate. A few years back the average voter was a 60-year-old retired economically liberal but socially conservative blue collar woman in a 'white' working-class Midwest suburb. But everything changes, especially in times of crisis. An electorate more educated on the war-disabused of notions that Iraq caused 9/11 and other such lies and illusions-is more likely to vote rationally on the war, and to make educated selections among the candidates on their own, with an assist from wide distribution of candidate position survey and score cards, candidate night debates, and so on. Additionally, if our educational efforts now are strong they will help us sustain our antiwar organizing after the elections.

ITV: Identifying the Antiwar Electorate. Knowing that a majority of the electorate in your neighborhood is critical of the war is one thing. It's quite another to know all the names and addresses of voters in your precinct who are opposed to the war, support the war, or waver in between. The additional information is empowering to those who hold it, and there's no reason it shouldn't be in the hands of our local peace and justice groups. But you have to do old-fashioned, door-to-door organizing to get it. Fortunately, a voter registration drive combined with a voter ID survey in an election cycle is an excellent way to do it. And it's an additional plus that the same information is more than useful for mass mobilizations and other projects beyond Election Day and outside the electoral arena.

GOTV: Mobilizing the Electorate. Potential voters who are registered and antiwar but don't make it to the polls don't help much. There's no reason we can't organize nonpartisan GOTV-Get Out The Vote-events, not only ourselves, but with our allies in community organizations, at religious institutions, schools and unions. This way the relationships and ties belong to you after the election, not to any party. You can get your antiwar voters to the polls without endorsing anyone or any party.
PSTV: Protecting and Securing the Vote. Getting voters to the polls doesn't help much if you can't get a fair and reliable count. There's lots of justified concern about electronic machines these days, but paper is a problem, too. People determined to steal elections will try all sorts of tricks, so protecting the vote should be part of our election year work. It's definitely worthwhile getting a number of people trained and positioned as poll watchers and election judges, for the future as well as the present.

CTV: Staking Claim to the Vote. It's not very convincing to politicians or anyone else for us to claim a positive gain from an election we had little or nothing to do with. But to the degree we can reasonably claim responsibility for what might be seen as favorable results and turnouts in one battle, it enhances our independent 'clout' in future battles, inside and outside the electoral arena. It enhances our ability to 'counter-spin' the outcomes and post-election battles from those who would marginalize us. Most important, no matter who is elected, the need for an ongoing, independent and election-savvy ORGANIZATION is going to be more needed than ever in the dangerous 'end game' to Bush's disaster in Iraq.

There are different sets of rules for doing all the above, depending on whether your local group or coalition is a 501C3, a 501C4, a straightforward public interest group with a bank account and no tax exempt status, or just an ad-hoc group of volunteers. If you are in doubt as to what can or can't be done, and have a status that needs defending, consult a lawyer with some experience on the topic. But don't fall for the claim that you can't do anything.

There's a lot that can be done, and this plan is completely independent of any party or campaign. If your imagination fails, just pick an option above, but do it now. You don't want to tell your grandchildren that you sat on the sidelines in the Election of 2008.

[A version of this article was written for the UFPJ Voter Engagement Working Group. Carl is the author, together with Marilyn Katz, of 'Stopping War, Seeking Justice,' available at He was founder and director of Peace and Justice Voters 2004 in Chicago, a national committee member of CCDS, and a member of United for Peace and Justice's Voter Engagement Project. See for more information.]


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