Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nov. 5, 2008 — After Obama's Great Victory

From the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Nov. 5, 2008


After eight years of reactionary George W. Bush, what progressive American does not feel a sense of relief with the election of Barack Obama instead of right wing John McCain?

After hundreds of years of vicious white racism and second-class citizenship for blacks, what progressive American does not feel proud of Barack Obama's great achievement?

There is tremendous joy today in most of America, and pride, too. The turnout was high, particularly among young voters who supported Obama by a large margin. The African American community is ecstatic for obvious reasons.

And there is no better time to ask, "Now what?" After the tumult and shouting of the election, America remains a country enveloped in daunting difficulties:

•A serious economic recession with millions of families losing their homes, jobs, and standard of living.

• A stalemated unjust war in Iraq and an expanding war in Afghanistan, with recent illegal U.S. attacks on Pakistan and Syria, and the continuing possibility of a serious attack on Iran.

• A foreign policy dedicated to maintaining world hegemony and unipolar dominance, through overwhelming military might if necessary.

• A society where a small minority essentially rules by virtue of its enormous wealth, where wages for the working class and much of the middle class have been stagnant for decades, where the disproportion between riches and poverty grows ever wider, and where millions of families — African American, Latino, and Native American — suffer additional discrimination in income, jobs, and housing.

• A system with an increasingly regressive tax structure, a huge and costly military budget, giveaway welfare policies for its powerful corporations, and inadequate social programs to care for its citizens.

• A government unprepared for the crises of the relatively near future, including the impending environmental catastrophe and the crumbling of the national infrastructure.

We have estimated that 90% of those who read the Activist Newsletter voted for Obama, and 10% voted for candidates to his left. Virtually all of them, we have reason to believe, seek at minimum the end to the Bush wars, a less warlike foreign policy, a more economically equal society, and improved welfare for the masses of people, including universal healthcare.

There are further reforms that many readers support, such as higher taxes on the rich and the big corporations, greater public control of the banking and financial systems, and a crash program to create jobs through rebuilding America's infrastructure, partly financed by big reductions in the Pentagon war budget. Others go further by opposing imperialism and its handmaiden, militarism, in our country; by demanding extensive social democratic reforms, and more.

Objectively, as we wrote in the Nov. 1 newsletter, the conditions exist at this juncture in the United States for another period of progressive social reform. The opportunity to seize the moment is of limited duration, perhaps a couple of years, before conditions change, further delaying needed substantial reforms in our country.

Barack Obama and his party have made a number of political compromises to win this election, adding a center-right component to their centrist orientation — hardly a harbinger of pronounced social progress.

Today's Democratic Party is not the center/center-left party of Franklyn D. Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson. The center-left was buried along with the New Deal and the Great Society. Conservatism is still a major influence within the entire political system and society. It will take much more than the electoral defeat of a thoroughly disgraced Republican government to transform the next four or eight years into a period of progressive reform.

But some important advances can be made, particularly if the millions of progressives who voted for Obama commit themselves to exercising organized and unrelenting pressure on the new political administration in Washington to fight for significant reforms.

That's the hard part — and without a maximum mobilization by those forces it could be the failed part — after the relief, pride and joy of Barack Obama's fantastic victory.