Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Obama campaign

So far, I have read on a number of comments on the Obama campaign that consist of little more than veiled references and feigned insider knowledge. I have not read much substantive analysis, mostly name calling.

For a good essay by a seasoned antiracism activist from the Jackson campaign, see Http:///

I have previously posted a comparison of the candidates as developed here in Sacramento for our electoral group the Progressive alliance. You can find arguments for Edwards and Obama on our blog at

Here I would like to take up two of the most frequent characterizations of the Obama campaign which I find lacking.

The argument that Obama is an example of color blindness offered by Angela Davis in The Nation is not consistent with the campaign. While I respect the opinion of Angela Davis on many issues, there is a problem here. We should look at the actual campaign and the actual programs.
Also see Shelby Steele, of all people, on this topic in Time Magazine along with an essay by Joe Klein. 
Rather than dismissing Obama, or relying upon others views, I urge readers to look at what he is actually saying. His campaign, for example, is far from color blind. It is not “beyond race” at all.

You can read his positions at

If you wish to see more see the article on the South Carolina “Black” primary.
On this issue I think it is important to recall a little history. Most African Americans did not support Martin Luther King Jr. while he was active and organizing. Particularly, most “militants”, and many leftists did not.
They found MLK, too accomodationist. Not militant enough.
Of course now writers all claim to have been active supporters of SCLC and King, but if you read history, and his own speeches, you will find how often he was criticized and even denounced as too integrationist.

Now I think there are real issues in the case of Obama and Oprah. What is this role of an African American from the post civil rights generation?
I am not saying that Obama is a new M.L. King. He is an elected official, not a movement leader. However, a fair and accurate analysis of the role of this campaign is in order.

A second major critique, one which I am of two minds about, is the critique of his post partisanship talk. According to the Des Moines Register poll of today, Barack is leading in Iowa --- and his strong support is among independents who will vote in the Democratic primary.

Here is the problem as I understand it.

Bill Clinton etal ( and Hillary) created the DLC arguing that the old politics, the old party structure was obsolete. His critics claim that Sen. Obama is repeating this refrain.
It was different in the DLC era. Their primary argument was that the Democratic Party looked as if it were captured by “special interests” and critics meant Blacks. The DLC was after the Reagan Democrat voter, an older White Male.
Well, obviously with Obama as the candidate, he is not repeating that argument. He is, however, like Clinton, not kneeling to each special interest (such as the NEA, etc.)

I, and many others cringe at this. We tend to see this as an argument against party politics, the sort of beyond ideology stuff. Yes, this is a problem.

At the same time, there is another side. If you think of the actual Democratic Party, of the really existing Democratic Party, that is a corrupt, incompetent, disorganized mass that usually ends up supporting corporate capitalism (see Robert Reich’s new book, supercapitalism),
Given the real nature of the really existing D.P. , then the Obama line of reaching out beyond the existing partisan dueling in the capitol, which is really about who gets the most corporate money for their campaign chests is a reasonable approach. Given this party, then I am less certain of my own position on Barack’s line on the post partisan debate.
How many of us try to recruit people into the D.P.? Why? Then, if Barack argues to move beyond partisanship, why is there such criticism.

So, these are two of the items that concern me about the criticism of the Obama campaign. And they are two items that concern me about the campaign itself. I do not have a clear answer on these. However, in electoral time lines, we do have to make some choices.

Inside the Black Primary, Bob Moser.

Reflections on Black Group Identity in the 21st. Century,
Dr. Milton Kilson

Duane Campbell
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