It's On

At long last, the Democratic primaries for U.S. President are basically over, and Obama will probably be the nominee. Here are some reasons for radicals in the United States and outside to consider supporting the Democratic candidate:

1. Symbolic Reasons

The United States has never had an openly Black person or a Woman as a
Presidency or even Vice Presidency. In fact, it has had only one non-(White Anglo Saxon Protestant male who presents himself as straight)...and the big difference with him is that he was Catholic. Progress for 1960, but it's well past time to move on. There are myriad problems with looking to the Presidency as a salve for racial or gender or really any other woes, but it's at minimum a symbolic touchstone for people, and particularly young people, to look for some hope.

2. For Moderation

There is probably no way that someone can reach the level of power of the American presidency without myriad qualities, including charisma, a willingness to serve corporations, and a propensity for tolerating, if not actively enthusing for militarism and its accompanying violence. Without all those things, they would simply be unacceptable to an American populace and financial elite that has made and secured its well being on the backs of the oppressed for a long, long, long time.

With all that said, if the food crisis can spark positive revolutions or major policy changes in various countries, inadequate handling of it can induce both more political oppression and material suffering. If long-term systemic problems remain in the global and many national economies in ways that hurt the most vulnerable, who is going to do a better job of handling them in a way that damages less people? That both Obama and McCain serve the interests of capital is, as noted above, a given, but it is also important to remember that fairly minor differences in American politics reflect a vast divergence of policies.

Forget about the Supreme Court for a second, which is not as important an issue to me - just think about foreign policy, where the President has enormous amounts of power and the least accountability to the people actually affected. Whereas a candidate who owes his debt to the U.S. Christian right will likely attempt to engage in anti-sex and anti-woman activities, a candidate who owes his debt to the great swathe in the middle as well as the upper classes will potentially enact slightly more sensible policies. A candidate who runs on further poverty-inducing measures is different from a candidate who demonstrates a minimal awareness of poverty. On an idea basis and in its long-run practical effects, maybe this doesn't matter that much, but small changes in the way that the U.S. inflicts massive violence on the world make a big difference in ordinary people's lives.

3. For Space

If there is one thing that stands out about Barack Obama, it is that he knows what community organizing is, having done it. As someone who also has attempted it, I can tell you that he probably understands power, he probably understands violence, and he probably understands the relative inability of one person, no matter how powerful the position he is put in, to enact or sign into law any kind of vast changes of the kind we need. I would rather have a President I can fight with and lose to than a President whose supporters will want me thrown me in jail for trying to build a social movement. This, I think, is the most important reason.

There are many others, but these are the ones that come to the top of my mind. There are also many reasons not to be invested in this: that the fight is obscuring far more important issues; that the fight won't make a significant enough impact on the world in the short term; that the fight will restore legitimacy to the U.S. elite and provide too much solace to those who might otherwise argue for more radical change.

Nonetheless, given who I am and what I have borne witness to in my life, I think a short-term practical respite right now that would tolerate rather than stifle the development of the only kinds of social movements we have known in the U.S. in our lifetimes and our parents' lifetimes is more important now than acting on ideas that rely on a structural crisis to promote a revolution.  Moreover, we can push the supporters of Obama to start thinking about long-term change - about making the Senate representative of populations rather than states; about reserved seats for women in state and federal houses; of redoing the Constitution wholesale.  Won't convince them now, but it's a start, and when the time is right (30 years from now?) maybe some structural changes will get put into place that will change not just policy, but the respective power of different social groups.

I'm not saying that this election will fundamentally change the nature of the world in the long run, but I am saying that it can be a starting point; relinquishing your power if you're an American citizen with voting rights or someone else who can wield some positive influence on this race wouldn't be productive; simultaneously, exercising that power can and should include critically engaging with BOTH candidates, promoting issues that are of importance through the forum provided by the election.  In fact, I think it's exactly because we can sometimes engage critically with an Obama candidacy and its supporters that I am willing to cautiously support it.

Feel free to chime in as you see fit and may you be at peace.

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Comments

desi italiana-- why do you

desi italiana-- why do you feel the way you feel about obama? what are some of your reasons to not support him?

Here are some reasons for

Here are some reasons for radicals in the United States and outside to consider supporting the Democratic candidate:

None of the reasons listed convince me that I should vote for Obama (but then again, I am uncompromising). I almost feel like saying that if my choices are McCain and Obama, I'd rather not vote, but that would also make me feel bad for not exercising my right to vote. Which leaves me with one option: vote, but vote for someone I agree with, even if he/she is not on any major party ticket.

I almost feel like saying

I almost feel like saying that if my choices are McCain and Obama, I’d rather not vote, but that would also make me feel bad for not exercising my right to vote. Which leaves me with one option: vote, but vote for someone I agree with, even if he/she is not on any major party ticket.

Oh, I'm not saying you should vote for him. in fact, I think exercising your right to talk about the issues in the election and those that are left out is probably more important than participating in the ritual of voting. Basically, it's his campaign's job to convince you to take the time to vote for him, and if he doesn't do so, that's probably his campaign's choice about who to appeal to and who not to (see Israel speech).

What I'm more curious about is what you disagree with about the three reasons I laid out. I'm registered in New York, so, as always, my vote will most likely be a stamp of approval or disapproval, so if I vote, I'd like your help in making up my mind which way to go :)

Namaskar Neetu and Dr.

Namaskar Neetu and Dr. Anon,

Will respond as soon as I get the time to write a thoughtful (rather than a hit-and-run) comment when I don't have to deal with work and load-shedding :)

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