Holding Barack Obama Accountable

The presidential campaign of Barack Obama has become a media parade on its way to a coronation. Journalists and leading Democrats have done shockingly little to pin Obama down, to hold him specifically responsible for anything beyond his slogans of “yes we can” and “change we can believe in”. Prominent Black Democrats, many ministers and the traditional Black leadership class are doing less than anybody to hold Obama accountable, peddling instead a supposed racial obligation among African Americans to support this second coming of Joshua and his campaign as “the movement” itself. What would holding Barack Obama accountable on war and peace, on social security, health care and other issues look like, and is it possible to hold a political “rock star” accountable at all?
Holding Barack Obama Accountable
by BAR Managing Editoir Bruce Dixon

Whether it is truly possible to hold elected officials accountable in a political system where big money, big media, big corporations and the very rich call all the shots is uncertain. But we have tried and will keep trying. So will others. The stakes are too high not to.

How We Held Obama’s Feet to the Fire in 2003

Although close friends and confidants had been talking up a run for national office since the early 1990s, Barack Obama in 2003 was still an Illinois state senator running in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. This reporter, a longtime and former Chicago community and political organizer, had worked with Obama in 1992’s highly successful Project VOTE Illinois registration drive. After moving to Georgia in 2000, I managed to keep in touch with events at home, and was well aware of Obama’s run for the US Senate.

While researching a story on the Democratic Leadership Council for the internet magazine Black Commentator in April and May of 2003, I ran across the DLC’s “100 to Watch” list for 2003, in which Barack Obama was prominently featured as one of the DLC’s favorite “rising stars”. This was ominous news because the DLC was and still is the right wing’s Trojan Horse inside the Democratic party.

The DLC exists to guarantee that wealthy individuals and corporations who make large campaign donations have more say in the Democratic party than do flesh and blood Democratic voters. The DLC achieves this by closely examining and questioning the records, the policy stands and the persons of officeholders and candidates to ensure that they are safe and worthy recipients of elite largesse. The DLC also supplies them with right wing policy advisers beholden to those same interests, and hooks up approved candidates with the big money donors.

Then as now, the DLC favors bigger military budgets and more imperial wars, wholesale privatization of government functions including social security, and in so-called “free trade” agreements like NAFTA which are actually investor rights agreements. Evidently, the giant insurance companies, the airlines, oil companies, Wall Street, military contractors and others had closely examined and vetted Barack Obama and found him pleasing.

I revisited Obama’s primary election campaign web site, something I had not done for a month or two. To my dismay I found the 2002 antiwar speech, the same one which Barack Obama touts to this day as evidence of his antiwar backbone and prescience, which had been prominently featured before, had vanished from his web site, along with all other evidence that Obama had ever taken a plain spoken stand against the invasion and occupation of Iraq. With the president riding high in the polls, and Illinois’ Black and antiwar vote safely in his pocket, Obama appeared to be running away from his opposition to the war, and from the Democratic party’s base. Free, at last.

After calls to Obama’s campaign office yielded no satisfactory answers, we published an article in the June 5, 2003 issue of Black Commentator effectively calling Barack Obama out. We drew attention to the disappearance of any indication that U.S. Senate candidate Obama opposed the Iraq war at all from his web site and public statements. We noted with consternation that the Democratic Leadership Council, the right wing Trojan Horse inside the Democratic party, had apparently vetted and approved Obama, naming him as one of its “100 to Watch” that season. This is what real journalists are supposed to do — fact check candidates, investigate the facts, tell the truth to audiences and hold the little clay feet of politicians and corporations to the fire.

Facing the possible erosion of his base among progressive Democrats in Illinois, Obama contacted us. We printed his response in Black Commentator’s June 19 issue and queried the candidate on three “bright line” issues that clearly distinguish between corporate-funded DLC Democrats and authentic progressives. We concluded the dialog by printing Obama’s response on June 26, 2003. For the convenience of our readers in 2007, all three of these articles can be found here.

It was our June 2003 exchange with candidate Obama that prompted him to restore the antiwar speech on his web site, though not as prominently as before, the same antiwar speech which is now touted as evidence of his early and consistent opposition to the war. Our three “bright line” questions invited him to distinguish himself as an authentic progressive on single payer national health care, on the war in Iraq, and on NAFTA. And it was our public exposure of the fact and implications of the DLC’s embrace of Obama’s career which caused him to explicitly renounce any formal ties with the Democratic Leadership Council. We didn’t do it because we were haters. We were doing our duty as agitators.

Holding Barack Obama Accountable in 2008

That was then. This is now.

The 2008 Obama presidential run may be the most slickly orchestrated marketing machine in memory. That’s not a good thing. Marketing is not even distantly related to democracy or civic empowerment. Marketing is about creating emotional, even irrational bonds between your product and your target audience. From its Bloody Sunday 2007 proclamation that Obama was the second coming of Joshua to its nationally televised kickoff at Abe Lincoln’s tomb to the tens of millions of dollars in breathless free media coverage lavished on it by the establishment media, the campaign’s deft manipulation of hopeful themes and emotionally potent symbols has led many to impute their own cherished views to Obama, whether he endorses them or not.

To cite the most obvious example, the Obama campaign cynically bills itself as “the movement”, the continuation and fulfillment of Dr. King’s legacy. But the speeches of its candidate carefully limit the application of all his troop withdrawal statements to “combat troops” and “combat brigades”, omitting the six figure number of armed mercenary contractors in Iraq, along with “training”, “counterinsurgency” and other kinds of troops. Obama also presses for an expansion of the US Army and Marines by more than 100,000 troops and a larger military budget even than the Bush regime. The fact that both these stands fly in the face of the legacy of Martin Luther King, and flatly contradict the wishes of most Democratic voters is utterly invisible in the establishment media, and in the discourse of established Black leaders on the Obama campaign. The average voter is ill-equipped to read Obama’s statements on these and other issues as closely as one might read a predatory loan application or a jacked up insurance policy, trying to determine exactly what is covered.

As we pointed out back in December

The Obama campaign is heavy on symbolism, and long on vague catch phrases like “new leadership,” “new ideas,” “a politics of hope,” and “let’s dream America again” calculated to appeal to millions of disaffected Americans without actually meaning much of anything. Corporate media actively bill Obama as “the candidate of hope,” and anointed representative of the “Joshua generation.” There are good reasons campaign placards at Obama rallies say “change we can believe in” instead of “stop the war — vote Obama” or “repeal NAFTA – Barack in ’08.” The first set of messages are hopeful and vague. The second are popular demands among the voters Obama needs against which his past, present and future performance may be checked. When the comparison is made, the results are dismaying to many who want to support Barack Obama.

Who Will Speak Truth to Power? And When?

No less a luminary than Dr. Michael Eric Dyson last month asserted that the time to pressure Obama to cut the military budget would not come till after the election when, as he said “we have a seat at the table.” We think this is transparently wrong. Obama responded to our calling him out in 2003 because he was still in an election campaign, and needed every vote he could get. The day after the election, he could have ignored us with relative safety, just as Cheney and Bush ignore their approval ratings in the twenty and thirty percent range the last three years and more.

But in 2003 Obama was a mere mortal. Now corporate media have made him a rock star, Joshua, a prince on his way to a coronation. Those who raise questions about Obama’s commitment to a progressive agenda will have to struggle to be heard. That’s just the way it is. They may even have to be impolite at times. That’s just the way it is too. Rock stars, royalty and the uncritical adulation they require make little room for polite criticism or democratic discussion.

Third party runs for the presidency have sometimes succeeded in exerting leftward pressure on Democratic presidential candidates. The best example is 1948, when Henry Wallace campaigned for president on the Progressive Party ticket with Paul Robeson at his side defying Jim Crow laws in dozens of states. It was this credible threat on the part of the Progressive Party to peel Black voters away from the Democratic party which led Truman to issue his election year executive order de-segregating the armed forces. This year, Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader have both declared their intention to explore presidential candidacies this year outside the Democratic party. Both have exemplary records of public service. Neither is a hater. Both are agitators in the best sense of that word. If Barack Obama, or for that matter Hillary Clinton is to be the Democratic presidential nominee, it’s time they felt the heat to line up with Democratic voters, rather than with the DLC and the party’s biggest donors.

Ironically, Hillary Clinton, also a corporate DLC candidate to the core, may have been more responsive to some heat from the party’s grassroots on a few questions than Barack Obama. Clinton has at least promised to repeal No Child Left Behind, the legislation that has forced an unproven and unworkable “teach to the test” regime upon public schools nationwide, and carved tens of billions nationwide from the budgets of schools to foster a privatized, for-profit education industry. By contrast, Obama is still mumbling about “adequately funding” this failed and malevolent educational experiment. Similarly, in a California debate which showed the tiny differences between the Democratic front runners, it was Hillary Clinton who broke the corporate taboo by at least mentioning single payer, the workable universal health care system implemented by every other advanced industrial country on earth and favored by most American voters. Clinton didn’t do this because she loves us, or because she is innately more progressive than Obama. She did it because she hard pressed and because activists are less confused and less likely to he silenced by the pernicious notion that her campaign is “the movement” itself.

It’s time for a little less respect for the high and mighty of either party, and a little more action. It’s high time for activists inside and outside the Democratic party to look for creative, innovative, sometimes impolite and civilly disobedient ways to reach larger audiences as they speak truth to the powerful. Even and especially when those in power are nominal Democrats.

Below are links to the original pages in which we called Barack Obama out for apparently running away from his early opposition to the war, and his ties with the DLC:

This is the June 5, 2003 issue of Black Commentator, with the story “In Search of the Real Barack Obama”

This is the June 12, 2003 issue of Black Commentator with the DLC story

On June 19, 2003 we printed Obama’s response and his reason for eliminating the speech from his web site. He said the web site was for current stuff implied with the “formal” end to hostilities in Iraq it was “outdated” and removed by his staff to make room for more current stuff. Yeah. Right.

And we wrapped it up by printing Obama’s response to our three follow-up questions, intended to delineate the “bright line” between being an authentic progressive and being something else. We wrung from him an explicit renunciation of the DLC at this time.

Bruce Dixon is the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. Read other articles by Bruce, or visit Bruce's website.

35 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. r gaylor said on February 15th, 2008 at 12:21pm #

    Why bother holding Barack accountable?
    We have never really held any candidates accountable … now corporations have, but no one else.

    The solution: quit giving corporations equal status with actual people … they aren’t citizens … and if they were they wouldn’t be any more accountable than our so-called politicians.


    Revolt … become truly revolting.

    The alleged founding fathers did … before the Confederation was over turned and the articles violated under the presumptuous notion that the constitution was a good thing!


  2. Hue Longer said on February 15th, 2008 at 3:44pm #

    great and concise article, Mr. Dixon

    r gaylor,

    I don’t think it’s a waste of time to be an agitator, I would like to see more people talk about the abuse of the 14th amendment, especially supposed liberal judges and politicos

  3. Erroll said on February 15th, 2008 at 3:57pm #

    Well-written, well-researched article on, as Mr. Dixon points out, the very marketable but quite insubstantial persona of Barack Obama. As Bruce Dixon ably demonstrates, on close scrutiny Obama’s campaign is run less on substance than it is on gossamer, which falls apart due to the superficiality of his slogans and catchy phrases, all designed to take advantage of the gullibility of the average American voter.

    The ideal would be for a Ralph Nader or a Cynthia McKinney to expose Obama’s deceptions if not outright falsehoods in front of nationwide audiences but it is quite doubtful if the major corporations, who are funding the Democrats as well as the Republicans, will allow that democratic process to happen. It is quite unlikely, unfortunately, that an independent candidate would be able point out to Americans that Obama, the alleged anti-war candidate, believes, among his other transgressions, that he wishes to leave the nuclear option on the table vis a vis Iran. Not exactly the best way to win the hearts and minds of the Iranians though Obama’s team seems to have discovered the best way to win over Americans-by emphasizing emotion and sound bites over analysis and details.

  4. DavidG. said on February 15th, 2008 at 4:07pm #

    Hey, when a country is as close to drowning as America is, the people grab that which may hold them up. They certainly don’t quibble about whether it looks right or not.

    America urgently needs a revamped Constitution and it needs to put a slasher through the current crop of self-serving politicians (who represent the interests of Big Business).

    Obama offers more than the further entrenchment of the status quo!

  5. HR said on February 15th, 2008 at 4:14pm #

    The U.S. herd has been conditioned not to think or question. Its members are perfectly happy to lap up whatever dish of crap is served to them by their wealthy masters. Sadly, they even identify positively with those masters. They bleat happily as neofeudalism advances. What a sorry lot. Glad to be old and not be around to witness this pathetic performance for much longer. Folks get exactly the government they deserve.

  6. John Halle said on February 15th, 2008 at 4:18pm #

    Directly revelevant to Mr. Dixon’s piece:

    Obama’s chief economic advisor Austan Goolsbee is also a DLC staff economist:


    Next time an Obamaite tries to deny his DLC ties, see what they have to say about that.


  7. Hue Longer said on February 15th, 2008 at 5:59pm #

    Similar things were said when Bill Clinton was making us moist….sad thing is that most of his voters still feel the glow

  8. dan e said on February 15th, 2008 at 7:45pm #

    Boatload of props to Bro. Bruce D. for standing up & telling it like it is, flying right in the face of the epidemic hysteria sweeping the hood: Obamania! Black Agenda Report: a buncha smart cookies!

    However, & it could be I’m revealing my limitations, I have to question putting Ralph Nader on the same level as Cynthia McKinney, especially in this particular election cycle. Can Ralph jack up Obama in a way that will be accepted & respected in the hood, or will the RockStar be able to shrug him off with a knowing wink to the audience?

    Cynthia on the other hand could get right in his chest with a demand to stop the halfsteppin. Cynthia could get down with the turkey; Ralph would be hard pressed even to think about it.

    I myself would welcome a chance to pin down exactly where Ralph stands re AIPAC, the ZPC, the Two-State Illusion & what Keith Harmon Snow has been hipping us to.

    Nobody’s perfect, & Ralph certainly has his virtues & a good record on many things. But IMHO he’d be doing himself & all of us a favor if he declined to seek the GP nomination & endorsed Cynthia. If he was to take that step, it’d be an enormous shot in the arm for the people’s movement in the USA.

    Props to BAR!

    Power to the People!


  9. CC said on February 15th, 2008 at 10:12pm #

    While I will not defend any bad thing that any good president or presidential candidate has ever done, please consider that NO politician that reaches a true level of electability has had a spotless record. That goes for the perennial also-rans, too. Go back to the the beginning with George Washington if you must — in private or political life, psychologically or socially — no one’s been clean. A “perfect” candidate for president does not, and never will, exist — not Kuchinich, Nader, Paul…no one. Dig deep enough, and a flaw will be found that will cast at least some doubt about a person’s character and ability to lead. Show me a perfect candidate, and I’ll show you the world’s first fully-self-programming android.

    That all being said, I will take the candidate who is MOSTLY “clean.” One who speaks articulately. One that I agree with on MOST of the issues — it doesn’t have to be all. Mostly, though, I want a candidate for president that I don’t feel will be despised by the rest of the world. Lies can be damning, but an occasional lie, even a big one, can and should be forgiven if their overall track record bears out the integrity they exude with their words and actions.

    I’m voting Obama.

  10. keith harmon snow said on February 16th, 2008 at 3:43am #

    Barrack Obama is the “progressive” face of fascism. His foreign policy advisors include Samantha Power, one of the preeminent liars of the contemporary era, who has denied some genocides and inflated others, and won a Pulitzer for it. For example, Power has completely propagandized the public with all the upside-down fascist nonsense about Paul Kagame being a leader in Rwanda, instead of a mass murderer. Spanish courts on January 23 issued International Arrest warrants for 40 top former Rwandan Patriotic Front military leaders, now all with the Akazu around Kagame, who was himself named for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in both Rwanda and DR Congo from 1990 to 2004. (The legal case does not consider the ongoing war crimes and genocides in DRC and Rwanda from 2004 to today).

    Other members who are advising the Obama fascist party are former Clinton administration officials Anthony Lake and Susan Rice, both responsible at the highest level for war crimes during the Clinton era — Sudan, Yugoslavia (another area where Sammy Power massively perpetuates disinformation serving the US permanent warfare agenda), and Congo (for the short list).

    Obama is heavily funded by some of the world’s greatest and most secretive criminals, and teh biggest enemies of people of color, especially Maurice Tempelsman.

    But worse than all this is the idea that people spend even 10 minutes (as I have) wasting their energies in teh US elections arena. The entire exercise is meant t o distract people from teh realitie sof the contiguous warfare programs and emasculation of civil liberties and expansion of the warfare-prisons-nuclear-diamonds-financial complex. Until people wake up and realize that they are drawn into this exercise as a means to divert and distract then nothing will change for the positive.

    General Alexaander Haig’s point is not appreciated for its educational and agitation potential: “They can (substitute word of choice: march, protest, vote) all they want, as long as they pay their taxes. Hereion lies the answer, but Americans — even the most progressive amongst us — enjoy too many of teh spoils to take any serious action that means they have to give up anything at all of any substance, por make any kind of true sacrifioce. Wilhelm reich’s treatise on THe MASS PSYCHOLOGY OF FASCISM thus rings more true then ever.

  11. Michael Hureaux said on February 16th, 2008 at 10:56am #

    The crux of the Obama trouble may be found in comments like the one CC offers above, this idea many progressives have that critics of the status quo are looking for a “pure” candidate. That’s not what’s going on for those of us who have broken with the Democratic party, and those who continue to patronize us with this nonsense are completely missing the point.

    The point is that, whatever the intent of the new guard who seek to oppose the status quo through candidacies like those of Obama or Clinton, the system is entrenched, bought and paid for. Which is why their boy Obama already has Zbigniew Brezinski whispering in his ear. Brezinski is the genius who designed this mess we’re looking at in the Middle East to begin with, down to the very support of the sort of religious fundamentalist kooks who attacked the WTC seven years ago. They’d never have gotten that far without the support of war criminals like ZB. And I find it hard to believe that Obama really thinks he’s going to overrule the sort of “old guard” foreign policy that prevails by bringing him on board.

    Now, I can well believe Obama’s followers believe that, because, from what I’ve seen, the details seem to be eluding most of them. And when we attempt to raise them, we’re informed that we’re looking for “political purity”. Not at all. But if there is any one thing I’m very sure of, it is that delusional belief is the worst enemy of any sort of force for “change” in this country.

  12. Deadbeat said on February 16th, 2008 at 11:09am #

    Nobody’s perfect, & Ralph certainly has his virtues & a good record on many things. But IMHO he’d be doing himself & all of us a favor if he declined to seek the GP nomination & endorsed Cynthia. If he was to take that step, it’d be an enormous shot in the arm for the people’s movement in the USA.

    I have to agree with Dan’s analysis. If Hillary Clinton is at the top of the Democratic ticket a Nader run might have some viability. He will be able to attract many disaffected Democrats who will not vote for Ms. Clinton. If Obama is at the top of the ticket then Nader’s run won’t matter much and is effectively neutralized. Thus I agree with Dan that the Green Party needs to use 2008 as a year to rebuild itself and therefore Nader should sit 2008 out and throw his support behind Cynthia McKinney in order to build up the Green Party. In fact I think a Nader run this year could in fact retard the Green Party’s growth.

    Clearly the best scenario for the Green is for the Democrats to self-destruct and choose Clinton to head the ticket and for Nader to support McKinney to attract the disaffected. Unfortunately I don’t see Nader being cooperative and the California Greens has already supported a Nader run over than of Ms. McKinney. This is probably one of the many reasons why Elaine Brown decided to bolt from the Greens.
    Even with Ms. McKinney’s record, there are many Greens who won’t support her and why Nader’s endorsement of Ms. McKinney is vital to build the party’s future.

  13. Deadbeat said on February 16th, 2008 at 11:10am #

    ABB in 2008 means Anybody Body but Billary.

  14. COMarc said on February 16th, 2008 at 11:55am #

    The trick of the modern political campaign is that most of the voters who support it believe that the candidate believes in what they believe in. The trick is to never break this illusion.

    Obama is using exactly the same campaign methods Bush used, just with different catch phrases. With Bush, it was all flags and patriotism, etc. You could listen to him throw this stuff out for half an hour without ever really hearing him actually say anything. These days, Obama does the same, except the words he says are all about hope and change and unity. But still, you listen to the man talk for half an hour and you realize there’s nothing besides this junk.

    With Bush, you’d see ridiculous poll numbers like 60% of his supporters thought Bush supported Kyoto. Of course he didn’t. But he spent all his time sound good about flags and patriotism that his supporters didn’t notice that he stood for the opposite of what they wanted. We’ll see the same with Obama, probably some poll that says that 60% of his supporters believe he’ll end the war. Of course he won’t. But when he says hope and change over and over his supporters can delude themselves into thinking that the hope and change they want is what Obama will deliver. Of course he won’t.

    Today, there’s a lot of confused and disillusioned Republicans because the reality of the Bush presidency hasn’t turned out the way they thought it would back in 2000 when they were listening to Bush go on and on about flags and patriotism and compassionate conservatism. In a few years, there’s going to be a lot of disillusioned progressives when the Obama presidency doesn’t turn out the way they think it will now when they hear Obama going on and on about hope and change.

    I’m not saying the Obama years are going to be exactly the same as the Bush years. I’m guessing a little less insanity and sheer theft. But that’s probably true whoever ends up in the White House. That’s what the big money that runs things wants. They are a bit concerned about the insanity and theft, so they’ll get somebody a little saner and who doesn’t steal absolutely everything the next time around.

    But an Obama presidency is going to look a lot more like what the DLC and the Wall St. types who’ve been flooding his campaign with money want than what any progressive would want. We might get some table scraps tossed our way as a fig leaf, but in generaly, anyone who has any “hope” that the Obama presidency will lead to any real “change” is in for a serious bit of disillusionment.

  15. COMarc said on February 16th, 2008 at 12:01pm #

    When I see ABB, I still think “Allman Brothers Band”. 🙂
    They definitely sound better than Billory blowing their bull.

  16. COMarc said on February 16th, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    Actually, what I’m hoping for would be Ralph and Cynthia touring the country doing joint speaking appearences/debates between them for the next few months until the GP convention. That would be far more interesting to listen to than anything the Dem debates have put forward.

    But then yeah, I’d like to see Ralph endorse and campaign for Cynthia. Maybe take a VP nod to get them both out on the road trying to talk to the country. But I think its time for some younger blood. This is probably Ralph’s last run one way or the other. So unless it seems like he could really win this time, its time to start doing the building behind someone else.

  17. Max Shields said on February 16th, 2008 at 1:02pm #

    Candidates telegraph who they “are” through positions they spend less time addressing, while accentuating very limited arguments – like I thought Iraq was a bad idea from the beginning. So? By stating a nebulous position that appeal to those who are desparate for a choice – in this case to end the US occupation in Iraq. They don’t hear what the candidate is saying when he surrounds himself with warmongering Dems and advisors.

    Obama’s campaign looks pretty much like Bill Clinton’s first run. In fact Obama is more like B. Clinton than Hillary is. But Obama strikes me more like a Manchurian candidate – wired with a replay script that keeps the crowds coming and applauding, but totally alien from any thing real.

    Obama is clearly politics as usual – which is perhaps the most frustrating thing about his campaign. Of the three candidates still standing he is perhaps the most deeply deceitful because he “promises” are cotton candy. And so those who see through this veil of decipt are angered by the lack of any alternative to McCain and Hillary. People will vote for and may get, Obama only to end up with the policies of McCain/Hillary.

    As for the Green Party, I really don’t care whether McKinney or Nader are at the top of the ticket. I agree with those who don’t think Nader would take the second spot. Nader, like it or not, is just not made that way. His is a mission that has been baked into his dna which is not about handing over the fight to someone else while he keeps to the side. It works for him as an advocate of human rights and consumer protection, but not as member of a Party – any party.

    I like McKinney but I’d like to see her run with a strong candidate (either as top or 2nd) and not one of those overthehill folksy guys who seem to have just awoken from a nap mid-debate. Who if not Ralph? I don’t know.

  18. dan e said on February 16th, 2008 at 1:25pm #

    Thanks DB! Much appreciate positive comments.

    Uh, I’d like to send you some the stuff showing up here: interesting brouhaha involving N. Finkelstein, MAF vs Codepink video, Kovel’s CODZ.org, etc. If you say it’s OK, Kim can send me your e-dress?

    Thanks again,


  19. Deadbeat said on February 16th, 2008 at 2:38pm #

    Sure Dan very much interested in seeing what happening with the Greens.

  20. Deadbeat said on February 16th, 2008 at 2:58pm #

    I like McKinney but I’d like to see her run with a strong candidate (either as top or 2nd) and not one of those overthehill folksy guys who seem to have just awoken from a nap mid-debate. Who if not Ralph? I don’t know.

    IMO, the effectiveness of a Nader run in 2008 will depend who is at the top of the Democratic ticket. A Nader run against Clinton will have much more sharpness than a run against Obama. Obama has been able to connect and excite the base. I don’t think Nader will be able to break through. Obama is “good enough” to attract those who would consider voting for Nader. Recall that many of Nader’s supporters in 2000 were people who became dissatisfied with the Clinton/Gore administration.

    Also I disagree that Obama is similar Bill Clinton’s first run. Clinton ran a divisive campaign. His “credibility” was built on how he could dismiss the base (minorities and union workers). Also Ross Perot played a major role in both 1992 and 1996 that siphoned votes away from the Republicans.

    Obama’s campaign has the “illusion of inclusion”. However his campaign and an unpopular war has opened some space for leftist to engage new and young voters who see Obama as an “agent of change”. Therefore we should be clear in our analysis of Obama and the effectiveness of Nader.

    Should Obama win the nomination and with his ability to connect with and energize the base of the Democratic party the Greens will not stand much of a chance to attract new voters. Thus Nader should and IMO MUST support McKinney as the future of the Greens. Dan is right. McKinney possesses much greater credibility to attract minority voters and is in a much stronger position to challenge Obama from the left.

    Nader doesn’t have much credibility in minority communities and will be seen as a “spoiler” even more so than he was in 2000. Should Obama lose in the General Election with Nader in the campaign you can bet that the Greens will be seen as obstructing minority aspirations. This has already been the message conveyed by Elaine Brown who quit the Greens earlier this year.

  21. Max Shields said on February 16th, 2008 at 7:30pm #

    If you’re going to be ardent about “analysis”, then let’s start with “knowing” that Nader doesn’t have “credibility in minority communities”. What we know is that minorities – spcifically African American and Latino vote Democratic. And if Hillary wins the nomination you can bet they will enmass yet again.

    Now what a leftist minority is, is another issue. If being left of the so-called center is being a “leftist” than many celebs and liberal-types seem to be pulling for Obama. On the other hand, if we’re talking supporters of the Bolivarian revolution – I really don’t think they’re in the Obama camp. In fact, I think they might vote green (McKinney or Nader) or not at all.

    As far as Obama’s campagin being similar to B. Clinton’s ’92 run; I don’t recall a divisive campaign by Clinton. He kepts the base tied to him for 8 years including a huge miniority favorability. Did he deserve it – no. Does Obama deserve it – to early to tell. There are obvious differences, but they’re pitching a mostly centrist – wink wink at the progressive base – outsider with a vision for the future (“bridge to the 21st century, hope”).

    The difference is Iraq (and going on 8 years of pure hell). With Iraq at his back and being one of two Dems, the other having been branded the hawk, that leaves the vague (“Iraq was a bad idea”) Obama as the saviour. Not of the left, or minorities, or anti-war, but of a large scale groupism. A man who needs to be defined by the myths of Bobby Kennedy and John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King,demonstrates a clear sign there is only an idea of who Obama is.

  22. Max Shields said on February 16th, 2008 at 10:08pm #

    Couple more items on Barak Obama and GP.

    To the mythologies points, I like to recall Bobby Kennedy. Bobby was the middle son of that rather large Kennedy clan. He was kind of the runt of the lot, very competitive, passionate, a real Irish fighter. He showed early on he could take that competitiveness and be vicious and ruthless. He showed that while working for Joe McCarthy, and then when going after Hoffa, and then the mob.

    But in 1963, his world changed dramatically. And he went from the bull dog, to the introvert – in fact, it seemed almost a natural transformation. He took the passion and intellect and began to transform himself – or was somehow transformed. Few would ever think that this was a “trick” used for some political end. It was about as real a transformation as the eye could behold. For the last several years of his life, Bobby was the same person in temperment, but the temperment had been redirected in a way that had a ring of authenticity and yearning. Cynics may cling to the earlier version of Robert Kennedy, but the myth holds the latter as the real deal.

    Where, I ask, is the Obama story in this. Where is the utter transformation, the compassion that reaches out to people in a way that connects eye ball to eye ball. Yes, the hoopla is there, but where it comes from is not. The same could be said of the other examples, all different but certainly unique, distinct.

    Lastly, I must say that while people keep throwing around the Green Party I don’t think there’s a real understanding of this Party. It is not a left wing party nor is it a collection of disaffected Dems (though there are certainly some).

    When people talk about Nader or McKinney and the Green Party candidate, it seems they’re looking at this as if it’s about who can capture the hearts and minds of minorities. While I agree that capturing the hearts and minds of as many Americans as possible is crucial, I don’t think the Green Party has been about the usual class/race game played by the major Parties. A game that is one of deceipt, bait and switch. That is because those old, legacy-laden parties have no real principled attactors. They have the power and from it they can send out messages that foil any others.

    I’ve said and maintain that the GP should look to build a coalition with libertarians and progressive independents, and others to form a grass roots movement and power base. This would be inclusive of minority coalitions. From there the fundamentals of the system – such as it is – must be structurally transformed. Proportional representation and Instant Run-off Voting would be the bedrock of such changes. If you look at Green Party platforms across the country you’ll note consistency that reflects the values of the party. Every thing from land value tax, to local living democracy, to community building from the inside out, to sustainable economics and much more. These are themes that are not to be found in the Dems or Repubs. They are not leftist themes. They are 21st Century themes with real outcomes.

    And size, by all means, matters – i.e., small is better. It matters to the Green Party because the GP has aligned itself with the life sciences, with biology which is about organized complexity, and about how organisms differentiate once they reach a critical mass. It is the natural order reflected in Green Party’s philosophy. So, making this about 20th century industrial, newtonian politics misses the point of what the GP is all about.

    Disagree with it or not, but first understand it.

  23. Mike McNiven said on February 17th, 2008 at 4:08am #

    Thank you Mr. Snow for your comment!
    Anyone who says that rich & poor & reaganites & republicans & democrats & independents should UNITE is talking Mussolini’s language! It is alarmingly dangerous when such a person has also the support of super-imperialist/zionist George Soros and Zbig Brzezinski!

  24. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2008 at 6:56am #

    So, true Mr. McNiven. Such “uniting” is clearly an attempt at vote getting. It is the oneupsmanship triangulation (Bill couldn’t match this, infact if Obama, Bill will say he got his chops from him; it’s all good, win-win.). And where does it leave the vast landscape of Americans? How about the African Americans who may be voting for Obama in greater and greater numbers.

    And the reason given for this shift to Obama by the press – frequently black columnists: the white folks gave their permission!!! That’s right African Americans watched carefully to see what the white folks in Iowa would do with their caucus and lo and behold they went for O over H!!

    Say it aint so! Let’s create a rap song for Obama and pay no attention to the little fellows behind the curtain (the Clinton advisors, and the military interventionists Ms Powers and Brzezinski….we’ve come a looooooong way baby! Martin would be sooooooo proud. And brother Malcom would be applauding Right on!

    Like hell!!!

  25. E. R. Bills said on February 17th, 2008 at 8:58am #

    The Black Agenda Report’s comments on Obama are about as relevant as Rush Limbaugh’s on John McCain. Any candidate who runs for president will have to be careful and, at some points, keep their head low. Obama has displayed wisdom in his campaign and he’s playing smarter than the rest. He still may not get the nomination, but he was worth a try either way. Especially for African-Americans.

    In this respect, “black” has not been part of BAR’s agenda. They are a shabby arm of the Clinton political machine and they resent Obama’s meteoric rise. It casts a light on their collective social, political and philosophical flatline.

  26. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2008 at 10:14am #

    E.R. BAR is what? Part of Clinton political machine?

  27. Deadbeat said on February 17th, 2008 at 11:08am #

    If you’re going to be ardent about “analysis”, then let’s start with “knowing” that Nader doesn’t have “credibility in minority communities”. What we know is that minorities – spcifically African American and Latino vote Democratic. And if Hillary wins the nomination you can bet they will enmass yet again.

    Max this is where your assumption breaks down. As a percentage of voter clearly a high PERCENTAGE of Blacks will be shown as voting for the Democrats. However should Clinton head the ticket Blacks will STAY HOME and boycott the election rather than vote for Clinton. Should the Democrats self destruct, it will be an opportunity for the Greens with Cynthia McKinney at the top of the ticket will be able to attract those voters. With Nader at the top those voters are much more likely to stay home.

    As far as Obama’s campagin being similar to B. Clinton’s ‘92 run; I don’t recall a divisive campaign by Clinton. He kepts the base tied to him for 8 years including a huge minority favorability. Did he deserve it – no. Does Obama deserve it – to early to tell. There are obvious differences, but they’re pitching a mostly centrist – wink wink at the progressive base – outsider with a vision for the future (”bridge to the 21st century, hope”).

    I guess you forgot about Ricky Ray Rector, the man who execution Bill Clinton left the campaign trail to execute to prove his bona fide among the “Reagan” Democrats. I guess you forgot about Bill performance at the Rainbow Coalition and all his alienating rhetoric regarding Blacks and union members.

    Clinton did not maintain the base as you say. Clinton stymied the base that the left was unable to organize these alienated voters because of its own internal divisiveness and institutional weaknesses. Since the left missed that opportunity the disaffected had no alternative. Their choice was to either vote for the Clinton or boycott. Since the Clintons NEVER built a working majority and had no coattails clearly many voters boycotted rather than vote for the Clintons.

    As I stated the 2000 election and the rise of the Greens was due to the dissatisfaction of the Clinton/Gore years. The election of GWB was blamed on Nader and divisions on the left in 2004 quashing building up the Greens.

    Thus Max, forgetting and ignoring the divisive aspects about the Clintons and failing to make these distinctions are why there are deep holes in your analysis about Obama and how the Greens should properly position themselves against Obama.

  28. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2008 at 11:33am #

    I have no qualms with the facts regarding what Clinton did. I do however think that he was roundly supported by African Amercians through out his tenure as President which is why I think your emphasis on where he was deceiptive is faulty. The main point, is that INSPITE of his push for 3 strikes your out, capital punishment, destruction of safety nets for poor creating homelessness and working poor, and his free trade agreement (NAFTA) that destroyed jobs for minorities, he would was embraced by the black community. Go figure!!

    That’s the salient point. Not that you or I see through his triangulation but that we was supported to the nth degree by the Black community (certainly with important exceptions). Which is in large part the same thing with Obama. His words have nothing to do with minorities in any meaningful way. He is a supported of pretty much all things, B. Clinton. Where does he differ? Or with Hillary?

    As far as Nader and McKinney, I think both are head and shoulders over the war party’s offering. I would hope that McKinney would have strong support from the African American Community – she really speaks for the poor and disenfranchised. Nader is white man who probably doesn’t have the “appeal” but he too has the policies and programs that would be just as powerfully supportive of a very different direction.


  29. dan e said on February 17th, 2008 at 2:12pm #

    Seems to have taken on a life of its own, this fred, I mean thread?

    V. interesting comments here from several. Lemme start w/ E R Bills who I wd guess to be a Black man? (just testing my ESP:) If I’m right, you obviously haven’t been reading BAR much if at all. Yes BAR talks about Obama like a dog; what they’ve said about Mrs Clinton is close to unprintable. Go check their archives for Hillary mentions; you’ll see immediately that to accuse BAR of being in the Clinton corner is not only slanderous, it’s just plain wildly inaccurate. No biggie, been wrong a few times myself. The trick is to realize, accept, take your new smarts & move up one level.

    DB: soon as Kim responds w/ your email I want to tell you some inside Oakland Panther stuff about Elaine Brown. Back in the 70’s she spoke to a Sonoma St. class I was in; I was v. impressed with her “street” image & vocabulary in which she articulated Marxist analysis. From reading the “Free Huey” period Panther paper I’d been impressed with activities BPP was into. So when it was announced she’d speak at Sac State, 2004 I think? — fwdd it to my list. Back came a “hold on thar buddy, lemme pull yr coat” from a former BPP insider: “don’t touch EB w/a ten ft pole. Er a Littauer neither”.

    Lots more cd be said, but mebbe the key is this: last yr they held a monster 40th Anniv of the BPP Reunion in Oakland. EB was conspicuously absent. So my take: a likely reason EB gave up GP run, is to win CA GP nomination you need lots of Nor Cal support, & she can’t go to East Bay sans Secret Service protection.

    Of course I was never a Panther myself, so have no direct knowledge of BPP infighting. But will stake rep that my sources are honest/reliable & have complete knowledge of the matter.


    Well man, one the times I was wrong was my first impression of you. You’re much smarter than I originally assumed. (teach me to Assume Nothing;) You seem to have a streak of originality, thinking meta-boxistically? But from where I view things you come down as a possible ally but not really, or not yet, part of what some call “The Subjective Factor”, that is, “us” as opposed to “them”.
    Of course you aren’t one of “them” either, so you seem to fall somewhere in the middle. IMHO:)

    Take your points re African Americans supposedly supporting Clinton as President: fact is, most African Americans don’t vote period, tune out the Electoral Process as just more whitepeople bullshit. Some Black Democrat said the other day, on the teevy, said Black Usians now divisible socio-economically into three parts: one third doing much better than before MLKjr/LBJ; one third just barely hangen on, paycheck to paycheck, family crisis to family crisis; & the bottom third is just Catchen Hell worsen any time in memory.

    The top third are the ones that love these Black Democrats, these Charley Rangels & Jesse Jacksons. Middle third dimly aware there’s an election, probly won’t waste time to vote, other things to do, but if they vote they’ll depend on their Baptist Pastor. Bottom third largely alienated from the whole bidness, if not legally disfranchised, lockt up or about to be.
    I myself believe that partickler A-A Democrat’s arithmetic is shaky. Think he exaggerated magnitude of Doing Fine class & minimized those Catching Hell.
    Who are the people with the least stake in the statutes of the Status Quo. Whose needs cannot be addressed in any comprehensive way by any Presidential candidate with a prayer of getting elected, or by any majority in the Congress that in our wildest imagination we can expect to see elected.
    Basic fact: no significant “Change” is possible in the Power equation in this election cycle. Obama, Clinton, McCain: mox nix, the Ruling Class knows what the Consensus is among its members, among “Our Sort”, & it don’t matter a hill a beans which Stooge is most popular among the Chumps. Which defines what few options remain for folks like us, including yourself, Max, in this prtickler instance:) I’ll go into them later, but first I want to revisit sthg you said:

    “I’ve said and maintain that the GP should look to build a coalition with libertarians and progressive independents, and others to form a grass roots movement and power base. This would be inclusive of minority coalitions.”

    That, Max, is pure Nader-think. Actually I find it slightly “racistic”? Or maybe that’s the wrong word; maybe Petite-Bourgeois Class/Ethnic Chauvinism would be more precise & descriptive?

    But my purpose is not to belabor you about your shortcomings. I do accept based on your written words that you are a person of good will, that any residual mental ethnocentrism is not consciously intentional. But it this mindset which makes the Green Party as presently constituted unable to move beyond its Ten Point yuppie catechism & address the real crisis, that of our collective helplessness under the boot of the crew presently in charge: Republicans/Democrats/Demogreens & all the little political cabooses tailing along behind, like the Libertarian Party.

    The Libertarians: what a classic P-B party exhibiting exactly the behavior described by Marx in the Eighteenth Brumaire & elsewhere, as they vaccillate now upwards, now downwards depending on where they perceive the source of the most immediate threats to their comfortable privileged USian existence.

    In this they resemble no political factor more than they do the aforementioned Black Democratic faithful.

    Jump to chase: first thing we need do is unite a core of relatively informed activists, which is where Cynthia’s campaign comes in. For us poor & oppressed bottom strata folks, this is the Main Parade. Obama is just more shuck & jive, Run Tom Run. Artillery Hillery is more the same ol same ol.
    If Nader runs, it’ll be a rerun of yr 2K at best, 2004 at worst: mass confusion in an increasingly irrelevant white yuppie Green Party. So the real Power to the People movement will have to start over again from Square One.

    No, no, Max: first we need a bunch activists, color not the main consideration. Next we need to reach out to Lower Class Blacks not already trapped in the Black Democrat syndrome, people who ain’t lost their MotherWit, people w/ a lotta Sales Resistance? Cynical people. Skeptics. Suspicious types who assume up front any comen around in a Suit is tryen to steal sthg.

    That was the Base of the Oakland Black Panther Party. It was because the BPP managed to mobilize them that The Man turned loose the dogs & Cointelled the BPP out of existence.

    If you really want to threaten the Status Quo, those the folks you need in yr corner. Cuz the Libertarians will get confused witch side is witch.

    Just like Nader 2004: Cobb undercut his GP base, so what did he do? Turned to the Ross Perot Reform Party. Big Mistake No 1.

    I don’t think you’ll see Cynthia make that kind of blunders. You might see me step on my oui-oui nown then but not Cynthia.

    Okay, enjoy chatting with you,


  30. Max Shields said on February 17th, 2008 at 3:50pm #

    Dan, no you were right the first time, I’m not that smart, cause I don’t understand jack of what you just posted.

  31. Peace Czar said on February 17th, 2008 at 8:35pm #

    Beast of an article! This is what I’ve been attempting to convey to friends and others, but they always write me off as a “cynic” for bringing up concrete issues and inherent contradictions to Obama’s “hope.”

    In addition to Nader and McKinney, Democratic candidate and total badass Mike Gravel is still in the race and plans to be until November. Please believe.

    Anyone game for a Gravel/Nader independent ticket?


  32. dan e said on February 18th, 2008 at 8:06pm #


    I’m sorry, my bad. Didn’t mean to be abstrusely unintelligible. I was tired, then my sleep meds started to kick in & I got sloppy, reverted to my own vocabulary, started skipping the Translation step of my DV algorithm.
    Well, guess I cd go through & translate it all into Standard English but I don’t feel any energy coming from that prospect. So I’ll have to be content with offering a suggestion which may help you decypher my screed?
    First of all, make sure you understand what each word denotes. Like if you started to read a book about Hegel, be a good idea to be clued in re “aufheben”, i.e., “sublate”? Or if you just started in to read The Prison Notebooks, without first being tipped to what Gra — (“GrraMIshh”;) — what Gramsci meant by “the modern prince” or “subaltern”?

    Like reading a new piece of music: if it’s not clear at first, break it down. Take it one note at a time. If you can’t make out a word, axe smbdy. If all else fails, ax me, I do know everthang about everthang:)

    Bueno Suerte, Hasta la Procks,


  33. Max Shields said on February 18th, 2008 at 9:09pm #

    No need to explain, you didn’t get what I wrote either.

    Call us even!

  34. Max Shields said on February 19th, 2008 at 12:31pm #

    What makes Obama particularly Clintonesque (Bill that is) is that he’s not really transcendent. It is not a new way forward, but a blending of the old. That is what Bill did – frequently leaning more right than left.

    The danger is that in Clinton’s terms he got away with it from liberals because they thought he was – in his heart of hearts – one of them and maybe some welfare reform wasn’t such a bad idea, and NAFTA who knows maybe it will work for everyone. Many of those liberals are die hard humanitarian imperialists. And the conservatives thought Bill’s policies were ok, but really hated the cut of the man’s jib – I mean just hated him.

    Obama is much the same in terms of mix more than transcendent in his “vision” thing. True the right has real problems with attacking Obama but they’ll find a way and feel a similar love/hate with him if he becomes president that they had with Slick. When Obama talks like he’s been to the mountain top, you know he hasn’t, but the desperation just demands that you believe. Yes, he talks a bit liberal and a bit conservative, just like Billy did.

    Hillary, poor thing, has turned into Bush senior to Obama’s Bill.

  35. Mike McNiven said on February 21st, 2008 at 3:42am #

    the latest on accountability: