President Barack Obama, followed by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, walks to the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
The 2012 election is not really about Obama or Obama’s record. As Deepak Bhargava points out, there is a debate over the president’s record, and there is much that we on the left can and should critique. Yet what has been unfolding before our eyes is a referendum on the changing demographics of the United States and whether any redistribution of wealth will even be considered in the ruling circles of Washington.
The Republicans have built on a white revanchism located among the racists and the fearful within white America. These voters not only despise the idea of an African-American serving as president of what they believe to be a white republic; they are terrified that the demographics of the country are changing in favor of people of color. For this reason, calls to boycott the election or turn toward third-party candidates miss what is going on. The right wishes to perpetrate a massive disenfranchisement in its desperate effort to preserve the rule of a reactionary white elite.
Although I will be voting for Obama on November 6, it would be incorrect to view the president as anything approaching a savior. At best, his re-election provides some breathing room—but as we have seen in the past four years, irrespective of his speeches, Obama remains the head of a global empire, and that empire has interests that are antithetical to the mass of humanity, including the mass of humanity within the borders of the United States.
Thus we are brought to the question of what posture to take after November 6, should Obama be re-elected. While I agree with much of what Deepak raises, I do not believe the agenda he outlines is sufficient. We on the left side of the aisle seem to abhor the fight for power unless (a) we are speaking in either the long-term or utopian sense; or (b) we surrender ourselves to liberalism. A very different approach must be taken. Not only must mass pressure be exerted immediately on a new Obama administration—as opposed to allowing a grace period, as occurred in 2008—but there needs to be a reorganization among progressives that has as its object securing power for working people in several key metropolitan areas as a jumping-off point for a larger national project. This means building a combination of mass electoral alliances that seek to win office on a platform of insisting on structural reforms, and mass movements for social and economic justice, whether in workplaces or communities.
The left needs to organize itself—politically and structurally—in such a way that its various tendencies can flourish, but also so that it can build a majoritarian bloc in which one can see the contours of a very different, progressive United States.
Other Replies to Deepak Bhargava’s “Why Obama?”
Dorian T. Warren: “Go for the Jugular”
Frances Fox Piven and Lorraine C. Minnite: “Movements Need Politicians—and Vice Versa”
Saket Soni: “We Need More than a New President”
Tom Hayden: “Obama’s Legacy is Our Leverage”
Ai-Jen Poo: “A Politics of Love”
Robert L. Borosage: “Re-elect Obama—But Reject His Austerity”
Ilyse Hogue: “Time to Rewire”
And this web-only article:
Michael Brune: “For the Climate, Obama Needs Another Four Years”