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The Obama Nomination and Why We Must SupportCynthia McKinney’s Power to the People CampaignBy ALAN BENJAMINTen days ago, Sister Cynthia McKinney, presidential candidate of the Power to the People campaign, issued a statement on the imminent nomination of Barack Obama as the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party.In this statement, Sister McKinney noted that the Obama nomination was not business-as-usual in the United States, nor was it the result expected by the ruling class and its pundits. Hillary Clinton believed that she was the anointed candidate, and everything indicated she would be the party’s standard-bearer in November 2008. She had the corporate funding, the “leadership experience,” and the full backing of the central leaders of the Democratic Party.Obama was being groomed by the Democratic Party elders for the future, perhaps for a 2012 or 2016 presidential nomination. For now, the best he could hope for would be a prominent spot in a Clinton cabinet — to help put out some of the political fires at home and abroad resulting from the rapacious policies of U.S. imperialism.But Clinton’s “leadership” message faltered, and Obama’s message of “change” caught on like wildfire, especially among young voters and African Americans of all ages. After Super Tuesday, when Clinton expected that the nomination would be pretty much in the bag, her campaign was in shock. They did not anticipate the Obama-mania that was sweeping parts of the country.The Obama phenomenon, of course, was not a mass movement with a conscious understanding of its aims; rather it was (and remains) a strictly electoral phenomenon with an amorphous concept that things cannot remain as they are. Obama was viewed as the best possible champion of “change” among the bunch of candidates put forward by the twin parties of the bosses. But the Obama phenomenon shook the Democratic Party and forced the commanding heights of that party to adjust their strategy.Provocation and ContainmentThe first reaction by the central party leaders, with the help of a compliant media, was a staged provocation aimed at putting Clinton back in the saddle. (The biggest staging, of course, was the ABC TV candidates’ “debate,” where both TV anchors did their absolute best to “nail” Obama.) This involved featuring — and distorting — the declarations of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and forcing Obama either to back his pastor or reject him, with the hope that in either case there would be a “white backlash” against Obama.This provocation did not produce the desired results, however. Clinton was not able to get enough of the backlash to give her a resounding lead in Indiana, or a draw in South Carolina. Her campaign had one bite at that apple and failed. The momentum for Obama — reflecting the deep aspiration for change in this country — was too great to stop.The next reaction by the party hierarchy (and by the summits of the white ruling class in this country) was to accept Obama while ensuring that he would be totally pliable — that is, totally willing and able to carry out, unencumbered, the policy imperatives of U.S. imperialism in the aftermath of the reckless, cowboy politics of the Bush-Cheney cabal, politics that have undermined the image of U.S. imperialism worldwide and shaken the stability of the world capitalist system as a whole.This tactical shift by the leading circles of U.S. finance capital requires, for example, pressing for a Hamilton-Baker Pan “solution” in the Middle East (diplomatic overtures to share more widely the load of occupation and containment, plus permanent U.S. bases and threats of military attacks, including nuclear attacks) and “neo-corporatist” solutions to co-opt the unions and movements of resistance into accepting the bitter pills of “free trade” and privatization in the name of a “New World Governance.” (A separate article is required to explain this orientation in greater depth.)This meant pressing Obama to distance himself more and more from his Black base and to repudiate — perhaps not so much in his rhetoric but in the formulation of his concrete policy planks — anything that could lead to real change, anything that could put into question global capital’s quest to resolve its growing economic and financial crisis on the backs of working people and all the oppressed worldwide.Hence, in the two weeks since Clinton stepped down as a presidential candidate, Obama has willingly and faithfully made a marked shift to the right, to assure the corporate paymasters of the Democratic and Republican parties that he will be a loyal servant of their interests.The list is getting longer by the day. Here are a few examples:* Obama “out-Bushed” John McCain in his speech at the national gathering of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), going so far as to claim that Jerusalem must remain an Israel city. His endorsement of the Israeli state and its Zionist-expansionist policies was unabashed … and unqualified.* Speaking to right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami, Obama pledged to maintain the criminal embargo against Cuba. He also backed the illegal incursion of Colombian troops into Ecuador (troops sent in at the behest of the Bush administration), in violation of that country’s sovereignty, in the name of the “war on terrorism,” thereby sending a signal throughout the region that U.S. interventionism would remain alive and well under an Obama administration.* Speaking at a conservative Black church in Chicago (thereby consummating his break with the Rev. Wright and his former church), Obama echoed all the rightwing’s racist attacks against Black men, to the point of referring to them as “boys,” without even bothering to provide any policy alternatives to the growing plight of Black America that has resulted in the increased criminalization/incarceration of Black men.* Speaking to a panel of economists quoted in the June 17 Wall Street Journal, Obama said that he was “seriously considering backing a reduction in corporate tax rates.” (Obama has called on top pro-corporate advisers, beginning with Robert E. Rubin, to head up his economics team, which alarmed John Sweeney of the AFL-CIO.)* Speaking to military officials in Washington, Obama did not rule out a military running mate and noted that “perhaps it may not be possible to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in the time frame I had initially envisioned.” (Washington Post, June 12)An Independent Campaign Addressed to the Working Class Majority, to All the OppressedIn her June 7 statement on the Obama nomination and in subsequent articles, Cynthia McKinney has sought to open a dialogue with the millions of people who still have illusions in Barack Obama and who will likely vote for him.McKinney noted that the deep aspiration for change among the American people is what accounted for Obama’s surge in the primaries, and she went on to outline the platform planks that need to be implemented by the next president of the United States so that this long-awaited change can become a reality, and not remain an illusion. These are planks culled from the Draft Manifesto of the National Organizing Committee of the Reconstruction Party, a platform to which she contributed significantly. [See the June 7 statement on her website, http://www.runcynthiarun.org, for the full list of platform planks highlighted in this dialogue.]McKinney did not say to the millions of Black people who celebrated Obama’s victory in the primaries as their own victory, despite his rotten political positions: “Take my word for it, Barack Obama is a sell-out and will only betray your interests.” There would be no dialogue possible on this basis, no way to help them shed their illusions in Obama and take steps toward breaking with the Democratic Party to support her Power to the People campaign.Rather, she enjoined both Obama and his supporters nationwide to embrace the policy initiatives proposed in the Draft Manifesto because this is what millions of Americans expect — and need — from any candidate, especially a Black candidate, who aspires to the presidency and claims to represent “change.” But McKinney also made it clear that she was not forfeiting her own independent campaign in order to become an “advisor” of sorts to Obama. Quite the contrary. “Our platform,” McKinney stated in her latest fund appeal, “is the only one that genuinely addresses the needs and aspirations for real change that have been expressed by voters nationwide.”Her challenge to Obama was unequivocal: If Obama were to support publicly some of the most important platform planks for change contained in this Draft Manifesto — and if he were to pledge publicly to take steps toward putting these planks into practice once elected — he would obtain, without a doubt, the overwhelming support of the American people.But if Obama were not to support these specific platform planks, if he were not to pledge to begin implementing them once in office, Sister McKinney could not accept a situation where these vital policy issues were removed from the discussion table in the months leading up to the November 2008 presidential election.
“The message of our campaign is necessary now, more than ever,” McKinney insisted in her fund appeal. “Congress is on the verge of caving in on more funding for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan; our country bombs Somalia and Pakistan with impunity and none of the major party contenders mentions it; the American people are losing their homes at a record pace, Congress is yet to offer a solution; and our country is even more mired in debt.”This is the language of a genuinely independent campaign addressed to the millions of people in this country who are longing for a change and who are hoping against hope that Obama can be the vehicle for that change. It is the language of an independent campaign aimed at winning the working class majority and all the oppressed, beginning with the masses of Black people in this country, away from the Democratic Party to the banner of independent politics and Power to the People — to the banner of the Reconstruction Party.Help Sister McKinney Qualify for Federal Matching Funds!
As a socialist and advocate of a clean break with the Democratic Party, it is clear to me — just as it is clear to a growing wing of the Black Liberation Movement — that Obama is not about to embrace any of the platform planks contained in the Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party. In fact, Obama is moving at an astounding speed in the opposite direction in his quest to be the best possible representative of U.S. corporate interests. This is the name of the game in the Democratic Party.
This is why the Power of the People presidential campaign of Cynthia McKinney is so crucial today, why it must be supported by all politically conscious activists across the country.
Glen Ford, executive editor of the Black Agenda Report, put it best when he wrote in an article posted earlier today that, “There is a presidential candidate who is Black, a proven progressive, a person of courage and unchallenged integrity. Cynthia McKinney, running on a Power to the People platform for the Green Party nomination, wants to rebuild a real movement. Peace and racial and social justice cannot be achieved absent a popular movement, which in the United States must be led by African Americans.”But support for Sister McKinney’s Power to the People cannot remain passive. Her campaign needs funds urgently. In her latest fund appeal she wrote:“My campaign is not funded by the military-industrial-financial-media complex, nor the energy, pharmaceutical or other corporate interests that bankroll the parties of war: the Democrats and Republicans. I can only count on you, the people who produce the wealth in this country, to finance my campaign.“I need your support to get out the political message of our Power to the People campaign to voters all across the country. …“With your help, we can achieve our goal of raising the $100,000 in 20 states needed to obtain the federal matching funds. Please go to our website today (http://www.runcynthiarun.org) and make as generous a donation as you can. Then send all your friends, coworkers, and neighbors to this site, asking that they match or exceed your donation. I do believe in the power of the people.“Please help me put this first campaign milestone behind us, so we can get the Power to the People campaign on every ballot possible nationwide — so that we can provide a genuine alternative to the No Impeachment, War Parties and their candidates. Our communities deserve so much more and the Power to the People campaign is ready to deliver. Your donation now will help us deliver with an impact. Thank you in advance for your contribution to this effort.”Can you make a contribution today to this fund?
— San Francisco, June 18, 2008
Alan Benjamin is the Editor of The Organizer newspaper. To obtain a sample copy of The Organizer, please send a note to the email address listed above.