What does the election of Barack Obama mean? Not as much as you'd probably like it to but more than you might think in your darker moments.
I'll leave the speculation about the racism implications (are we past it?) to others. The fact is,l I don't know. As I read this election, Obama could have been a space alien or a cat toy. I've said this several times so I won't dwell on it: people were so sick of Republican greed, selfishness, and pigheadedness that the Democrat was going to win no matter who s/he was. Next to the fear generated by the GOP-sponsored collapse of the economy, racism played a very small role. Apart from the Dead End Kids - who have now been reduced to a paltry 20% - the slime-sucking McCain campaign's use of name-calling, invective, gossip-mongering, innuendo fostering, hysterical scare tactics, and race baiting fell as flat as a busted balloon tire.
Have we finally had it with the Atwood/Rove school of Dirty Pool? Did we look away in disgust when Sarah Palin got right down in the mud in her bikini and shotgunned shit in all directions? Or were we simply more afraid of what might happen if a John McCain got hold of the economy and tried to squeeze out the last few pennies for the banks and corpo's who backed him?
I don't know but whichever of the many possible explanations you pick, the point is that they and their policies, their lies, their slime, their childishness, their cluelessness, and their stubborn wrong-headedness have been soundly and convincingly repudiated. Unlike Bush's election where the squeaker of all squeakers was within days transformed into a mandate, Obama's win really is a mandate - a command from we the people to Stop the Madness.
But will he? Unfortunately, probably not. Not unless we get together and make him. The conservative DLC is already pushing its business-friendly right-wing agenda and warning BO that he'll be sorry in some unspecified way if he makes any lib/prog moves at all, by which is understood that they will hold him responsible if the Dems lose the off-year elections.
This is not a threat I think I'd bother to worry about. The polls show Americans overwhelmingly favor liberal issues and policies - stop the war, universal health care, keeping SocSec public, using govt money to help education and on and on. The danger, as the Dem Congress should have realized when their approval ratings sank after the election that returned them to power in '06, lies in not being progressive enough. They whined and stammered and stuttered about how the mean, wicked Pubs just wouldn't let them pass a law ending the war and there was nothing they could do about it! They were helpless!
A lie that nobody bought and that probably cost them enough seats to make a veto-proof legislature.
The problem is that the early warning signs are clearly waving like mad. Besides the two little signals we already discussed, there is a much more serious one being bruited about today. DownWithTyranny has the details but I can explain it in two words: Rahm Emanuel. (Via Avedon)
You may have guessed that Ken and I haven't been terribly pleased about having Rahm Emanuel around the House of Representatives pulling the strings to betray working families and pushing his corporate agenda at every opportunity-- not to mention, standing behind the curtains at the DCCC making sure plenty of reactionaries and Republicans got recruited to run as Democrats. As great as it was to see Rahm's creature Tim Mahoney go down in FL-16 yesterday (along with fellow fake Dems Nick Lampson and Don Cazayoux) it's mind boggling how many conservative Democrats were recruited in this cycle. (Please don't say "But he doesn't run the DCCC any more." He's still on the recruitment committee, which is "run" by one of his shills, Artur Davis and how much sway he has over Chris Van Hollen is only an argument about degree.) So let's remember Rahm Emanuel when we start watching the votes roll in from Bobby Bright (AL), Parker Griffith (AL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Suzanne Kosmas (FL), Debbie Halvorson (IL), Frank Kratovil (MD), Harry Teague (NM), Michael McMahon (NY), Steve Dreihaus (OH), John Boccieri (OH), Gerald Connolly (VA), and Glenn Nye (VA)-- a dozen new voices against progressive values and ideals.
So I have mixed emotions about the flurry of reports circulating widely that Obama asked him to take the chief of staff job.
My emotions aren't all that mixed. Obama's ties to the Democratic Leadership Council have been very disturbing for years. So has his close friendship with DLC Leading Light Emanuel and his approval if not active involvement in Emanuel's campaign to recruit harsher and harsher conservatives as local Democratic candidates. Commenter Mark Gisleson recently dismissed Obama's ties to the DLC on the specious grounds that Obama had demanded the DLC stop using his name. But Emanuel is still his best bud and his voting record still shows all those embarrassing alliances with Rahm's corporate agenda. Not to mention that little meeting with Wall Street honchos weeks before the election to assure them that they had nothing to worry about from an Obama presidency. Next to those actions, Mark, a PR move like removing his name from a politically unpopular list (the Dem base hates the DLC) doesn't have a lot of weight.
And now Emanuel is liable to be COS - the WH post with the closest and most personal access to the president, and the launching pad for Dick Cheney's career as the ultimate insider and master WH gamesplayer - controlling access and pushing agendas. This is not a comforting thought. The most powerful forces in the conservative wing of the Democratic party are already lining up to make sure BO stays with their agenda, a slightly milder version of Bush's imperialistic, corporate-friendly policies, no matter how badly they've failed or how loudly we demand a different course. We got this guy elected and they want to make sure he ignores us.
The only thing we can do now is make it difficult if not impossible for him to do that. "Feet to the fire" can't wait until January. Obama needs to know NOW what direction we want him to go in, what our agenda is, and that we expect him to listen to us, not Rahm's buddies on Wall Street who got us into this mess.
The Good News is that BO wants a second term. He'll listen if we're strong enough to make him listen. Not even Hammerhead Rahm can make him ignore us if he thinks it will cost him the next election.
What now? We sign up to help out in our local activist groups, that's what. We write letter to the editor, scream online, march in the streets, whatever it takes. Ask Rob. I bet she's got a list.
UPDATE: (11/6/08) Rahm's job is no longer an "if". The AP is reporting that he's accepted the job of COS in BO's WH.
Woe is us.