Vote For Obama Is A
Vote For McCain
By Jerry D. Rose
As we get ever closer to the November election, more and more of my friends who are Obama supporters are upbraiding me for my support of Cynthia McKinney, on their belief that a vote for her is a "vote for McCain." Many of them agree that she or some other third party candidate is a better choice than either McCain or Obama for President but has no chance of winning, is not a "viable" candidate, and that I should support Obama as the decidedly "lesser evil" alternative to McCain.
The purpose of this article is to set this argument on its head and argue that, in fact, Barack Obama is not "viable," and that casting one's vote for him denies third party candidates of any opportunity to defeat the GOP ticket. For purposes of this argument, I am willing to waive a very substantial doubt that Obama is indeed highly preferable to McCain as President. Whether Obama or McCain is elected, we will have no interruption in the bipartisan agenda of American imperialism with its wars and occupations in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps Pakistan and Iran and who-knows-where; we will have no single payer health insurance; we will see no diminishment of class and racial inequality in the country. In the argument of last resort for an Obama presidency, that he not McCain would be nominating Justices for the next Supreme Court vacancies, a Democratic majority in the Senate could avert such a travesty with a McCain presidency as the appointment of Justices who would complete the process of dismantling Roe v. Wade.
But that's not my argument, really. Let's say hypothetically that, like McKinney or Nader, Obama would be a MUCH better President from a progressive perspective. But no matter, the same argument as that against third party candidates because of their lack viability can, in my opinion, be applied to the candidacy of Barack Obama.
Why would I argue that Barack Obama is not "electable" as President? A variety of considerations lead to this conclusion. Perhaps the smallest of these is the reluctance of principled progressives---pp's if you will--- (as I consider myself to be, along with most writers and commentators on Counter Currents) to support a candidate like Obama with such vacillating or missing positions on key progressive issues as he pursues a "centrist" campaign along with the Democratic Leadership Council. We pp's may like to think of ourselves as the wielders of substantial political power, but the proof of that in the electoral pudding of votes for progressive national candidates is seldom to be seen.
A more important consideration is the downright racism in much of the American electorate; and by racism I mean anti-Muslim as well as anti-black sentiment. Many "liberal" white Americans---a key Obama constituency---like to pride themselves on their lack of racial prejudice by virtue of support for a "black" candidate; albeit one who banishes frightening "extremists" like Jeremiah Wright from the charmed circle of his associates. But for every such white who is comfortable with a "safe" African American like Obama, there is probably another who is ready to invoke the "black is a black" prejudice of lumping all blacks into an undifferentiated category of "dangerous" persons. Progressives may take the gross over-representation of blacks in America's prisons and on its welfare rolls and its victims of mortgage foreclosure as indications of racial discrimination, but these facts simply confirm for racist whites that blacks are indeed dangerous and irresponsible people, certainly not the "kind" whom you want to have in the presidency.
There is, then, the sleeper "issue" in this campaign of anti-Muslim prejudice among Americans of all races, and the way it will operate against Obama in the election. While the "Obama is a Muslim" claim has been exposed for the lie it is, the very fact that it would even be considered a "smear" against a candidate is indicative of the broad anti-Muslim prejudice in the American electorate; Obama's very marginal family Muslim connections and his middle name may turn out to have more impact on his electoral chances than most of his other liabilities discussed in this article. Obama himself seemed to realize the toxic effect of this factor as he moved to remove Muslim Americans from positions of visibility in his campaign events. His pandering to AIPAC and his ludicrous gaffe of proclaiming a "unified" Jerusalem to Israel's benefit may also have been his efforts to disassociate himself from any shreds of taint of Muslim sympathies. These efforts may be no more successful with the racist yahoo-dom in the American electorate than than his efforts to counter anti-black feeling by throwing "extremists" like Jeremiah Wright under the bus. (The current project of the Zionist Clarion Fund of putting free copies of the anti-Islam propaganda film "Obsession" in people's newspapers http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erik-ose/
pro-mccain-group-dumping_b_125969.html in "swing" states may turn out to be a brilliantly executed "dirty trick" of the GOP campaign.)
Beyond Obama's vulnerability to anti-black and anti-Muslim sentiments in the American electorate, he is vulnerable as well because of some characteristics of his personal political biography: the kind of "skeleton in the closet" that has been known to derail numerous other American political careers. I refer to his past political connections in Illinois politics and the nature of his current campaign financiers, matters that the Republican "swift boat" crews are sure to exploit as the campaign proceeds. Ever since Evelyn Pringle's series of articles http://www.opednews.com/author/author58.html earlier this year detailing the questionable (at best) association of Obama with a corrupt political machine in Illinois that has already netted jail terms for a former Governor and for an Obama fund-raiser, Tony Rezko, the susceptibility of Obama being drawn into this scandal has stood like the "donkey in the room," ignored by the media and even, for the most part, by Obama's political opponents. The likelihood of Obama being "Spitzerized" by the same federal "justice" system that forced an overnight conversion of New York's Governor from a position of power to one of public disgrace is not entirely remote, given again the well-known proclivity of the Republican attack machine to exploit such openings. Obama's candidacy may well be hanging by so tenuous a thread as the forebearance (so far) of an Illinois grand jury's failure to indict Obama as a conspirator in the "Rezko case."
Another Obama vulnerability that may become acutely apparent very quickly was raised by an investigative report http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/16601
by Pam Martens that demonstrated the massive contributions of Wall Street concerns to his campaign coffers. So far this has largely been papered-over by the Obama campaign by emphasizing the huge collection of relatively small donations mainly through internet fund-raising efforts, so that the campaign has maintained its "populist" image to conceal its elitist base. I look for this campaign maneuver to blow up as the GOP attack operatives take off their gloves and begin to publish lists of Obama campaign contributors which contain some of the most "toxic" names in American public life: Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers who have been fingered as some of the "evil forces" that forced the Wall Street meltdown that is felt on Main Street in the form of an escalation of home mortgage forceclosures. Just in the last day John McCain has emerged as the "maverick" Republican who would rein in Wall Street "special interest," while Obama joins most Democrats in being the staunchest supporters of the "Bush bail out" (leading Arianna Huffington to refer contemptuously to Obama as a "bipartisan musketeer" whose slogan is "one for all, all for Goldman Sachs.)" http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/bailout-bill-obama-needs_b_129374.html) Of course Democrats can respond to the sure-to-come GOP attacks with a retort of "you guys (GOP) are (almost) as bad as us, because you too are supported (almost as much) by the same Wall Street entities that you now are quick to say you are going to be 'regulating.'" But Main Street may well be having none of this and millions of people facing foreclosure on their homes are not going to take well to a pissing contest between Republican and Democrats about whose monetary policies are most "responsible" for the crisis and whose remedies are most likely to be effective. At this point, the jig may be up for any chance of a "viable" Obama candidacy.
Finally, I will comment on another couple of fatal flaws in the Obama bid for the presidency. One of these is his selection of Joe Biden for his Vice-Presidential running mate. Beyond some marginal effect of countering the "Muslim" image of Obama by having "I am a Zionist" Biden on his ticket, his nomination does nothing to add to the ticket's appeal to any important electoral constituency. In contrast, the much (and deservedly) condemned choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate was an outstandingly successful move in that direction. Political analysis has suggested that Bush held on to his presidency in 2004 largely because a fundamentalist Christian constituency that largely "sat out" the 2000 election returned with a vengeance to the GOP fold in 04 as they exploited "wedge" issues by, for example, having "defense of marriage" (anti-gay) amendments on the ballots of many "swing" states (like Florida), bringing out the god, guns and abortion obsessors in record numbers. By all accounts Palin may do the same for the 08 GOP ticket when, as I said, Biden does virtually nothing for the Democratic one.
Related to the Obama mis-step on Biden is a lesser-noted but perhaps ultimately more consequential one. The Obama campaign has continued and intensified its efforts at campaign fund-raising among wealthy donors, especially Hollywood-connected ones. Even outside the California cash-cow for the party, the campaign has found ways to rub their elitist funding tendencies in the noses of less affluent voters. An article published last week http://socialistworker.org/2008/09/16/
shows Biden's visit to a $2600 a plate fund-raiser in Holyoke MA that raised $300,000 for the campaign, with scarcely a perfunctory wave to folks on the street of a city which is among America's most economically depressed ones. Multi-million dollar fund-raisers like that hosted by Barbra Streisand in Hollywood http://www.eonline.com/uberblog/marc_malkin/
raise lots of cash ($9 million from a single Streisand fund-raiser) for a campaign that is already at record levels of funding, but they may raise as well the feeling of much of the rest of the country toward the "Californicators" whose Hollywood is but one of the manifestations of the "decadent" life styles of West Coast "liberals." Association with well-privileged persons in Hollywood and on Wall Street is not helpful to an Obama candidacy, which has already experienced troubles in blue-collar "swing states" like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, all of which were won by Hillary Clinton in the primaries largely on the basis of working class resentment against the "life styles of the rich and famous."
Do I sound here like the ghost of Christmas Future showing Ebenezer Scrooge how his past and present behaviors are "tending" toward a miserable future should Scrooge not "mend his ways?" I might take the analogy a step further, saying with that "spirit" that there may yet be time for Obama remediation. The campaign might yet pull out a victory if Obama were to do some of the following things.
- declares himself as dedicated to the elimination of a pervasive level of institutional racial discrimination which he acknowledges to exist.
- holds a press conference in which he "pre-emptively" raises the issue of his "Rezko connections," presenting his "side" of that story before the GOP swift-boaters get out their "seamy" side of same.
- announces that he is accepting no more campaign contributions and urges that would-be supporters put their money into helping re-stock bereft food pantries to feed the hungry or emergency relief for the construction of affordable housing in New Orleans or for homeowners hoping to fend off foreclosure. It's called "propaganda of the deed"... and it works!
Other things of a populist nature could be done, but these give you the idea of what I am proposing to his campaign and, were they to be done with sincerity and consistency, I could transfer my own support to Obama and the Democrats. (I'm a life-long Democrat who has just "turned" Green). I have little reason to believe that anything like this will happen. Since Obama's diminishing core of acolytes will support him whatever he does or doesn't do, he and his supporters will convince themselves that they can win with milquetoast policy positions and cluelessness of their candidate's vulnerabilities, and will lose yet another election as did the supporters of Gore and Kerry. This being the case, I think all progressives should proceed to find an alternative to McCain/Palin ticket which isn't that of the ill-fated Obama/Biden one. With eyes wide open to the vulnerabilities of our own alternative choices, we must seek out those candidates who are a "viable" alternative to the much-feared McCain presidency. And yes, we need to go into the heart of Obamania land and tell our Kool-aid affected friends that "a vote for Obama is a vote for McCain."
Jerry D. Rose is retired as a Professor of Sociology from State University of New York, now lives in Gainesville Florida where he edits and publishes The Sun State Activist, which contains a daily digest of news and views of progressive interest from around the nation and world. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.