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Only two people have ever defeated a Clinton in electoral combat. The first was a Republican, Frank White who evicted Bill for a couple of years from the Arkansas governor’s mansion in 1980 and – a man of principle – used this window to try to install creationism as a palatable option in high schools. The second is Barack Obama who went over the top in the delegate count last Tuesday night, prompting Hillary Clinton to slouch sulkily to the brink of a formal concession, while she continued to maneuver for everything from an offer of the nomination for vice president, to a big role at the convention in Denver to help in paying off her campaign debts.
To have persuaded enough Democrats that a black man can be their champion in November and have a passable chance of winning the Oval Office is a tremendous achievement, even if Obama’s campaign has flagged badly in recent weeks. But by then Obama was cantering through the final straight. The battle was won in the first two months, when Obama ambushed Mrs Clinton’s slow-moving phalanx. He crushed Mrs Clinton in grassroots organizing and in fundraising which eventually left her campaign, top-heavy with consultants extorting huge salaries, deeply in debt. Meanwhile Obama banked millions both from big Wall Street institutions and small contributors.
Obama survived the uproar over his radical pastor, Jeremiah Wright who surely helped his former congregant. If the accusation was that Obama is a closet Black Panther plotting to enslave the white race, it was better he got this charge hurled at him in the spring than in the fall. Mrs Clinton was not so agile in separating herself from her husband who spent what he described as probably his last day on the campaign trail cursing a New York Times reporter, Tod Purdom, for a nasty piece in Vanity Fair charging him with greed and lechery, cavorting uncouthly with nymphets and billionaires. This provided an appropriate campaign trail bookend to one first coming to prominence in New Hampshire in January 1992 with charges of adultery – the greed was yet to come, at least in the later tumid proportions – with Gennifer /
Flowers, made by the National Inquirer in 1992.
Obama inspires young people who flock to his rallies. He promises not only to “create a new kind of politics” but to “transform this country,” “change the world”, “create a Kingdom right here on earth.” Comingled with these doses of uplift are the familiar coarse pledges to crucial interest groups, such as the Miami Cubans. Obama’s speech to them on May 25 was an dismal exercise in right-wing demagoguery.
Take his speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami on May 23,: “Throughout my entire life, there has been injustice and repression in Cuba. Never, in my lifetime, have the people of Cuba known freedom. … This is the terrible and tragic status quo that we have known for half a century—of elections that are anything but free or fair.… I won’t stand for this injustice, you won’t stand for this injustice, and together we will stand up for freedom in Cuba,… I will maintain the embargo.”
Obama had words of specific comfort for the Uribe regime in Colombia: “When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges. We will fully support Colombia’s fight against the FARC. We’ll work with the government to end the reign of terror from right wing paramilitaries. We will support Colombia’s right to strike terrorists who seek safe-haven across its borders.” Note the endorsement of Columbia’s foray into Ecuador to. assassinate a FARC leader.
After invoking hope and change in St Paul Obama rushed the next day to Washington for some ritual groveling to the AIPAC:
“We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power. Everything and I mean everything.” Israel should get whatever it wants and an undivided Jerusalem should be its capital.
We can look ahead to months of Obama deflecting McCain’s onslaughts on him as a starry eyed peacenik by insisting that what the beleagured Empire above all needs is efficiency, ruthless if necessary. “The [U.S.] generals are light-years ahead of the civilians.” He reassured one of his fans, the neoconservative New York Times columnist, David Brooks. “They are trying to get the job done rather than look tough.”
Can a black man get elected president in 2008? Hillary Clinton said No. In the last weeks she ran up some impressive totals of white voters agreeing with her, as in West Virginia where Obama scarcely campaigned, just as he remained invisible to voters in Kentucky and South Dakota.
Obama right now has an edge in electoral college votes, though this somewhat depends which faction of number crunchers you believe. By almost every yardstick, except the wild card of his skin color, he’ll win. It should be inconceivable for a Republican to capture the White House for the third time in a row when the price of gasoline is headed towards $5 a gallon, food prices are soaring and most Americans reckon things are going to get a lot worse.
At least for now, the Clinton dynasty is headed for the retirement home. None too soon, I say, however Obama turns out.
Blacks and Obama
“Give a listen to the corporate media, and it’s pretty clear what tune black voices are supposed to be singing. Obama is constantly called on to swear allegiance to America – to prove he isn’t swearing allegiance to blacks. The other way to say that is he’s supposed to swear allegiance to white, not black, America. Meanwhile, the back end of that deal is that black Americans are required to substitute Obama for real structural racial progress. As in, “You got your nominee. See, we’re not so racist or bad after all. Now shut up!”
“Wright was Obama’s “fish.” Or that’s what we called it when I was coming up. It’s the “bad nigger” that all “good blacks” would be wise to avoid: the latest Sistah Souljah or Willie Horton. Farrakhan didn’t take the bait, so Wright got the hook. Before Wright, Chris Matthews and his cohorts dangled Jesse Jackson out there, often repeating the line that Obama “is not like Jesse Jackson,” so as to make Jackson’s name (and his politics, importance, “style” and period) a pejorative.
“Who knows who will be the next black bogeyman?”
This is a ahort extract from the south Carolina political organizer Kevin Gray’s excellent piece in our latest newsletter, to which I strongly recommend you subscribe. You get Kevin. You also get a vivid and detailed report on the dirty politics of international disasters, as Peter Lee describes how the Bush administration has been trying to exploit the Burmese cyclone. And you get Jeffrey St Clair trudging with gas mask and notebook through the toxins of Los Angeles. Subscribe now!