Progressives for Obama

Today Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Barbara Ehrenreich and Danny Glover published a open letter to American progressives urging them to join them and support Barack Obama. Why? Because Obama’s campaign is a movement.

We intend to join and engage with our brothers and sisters in the vast rainbow of social movements to come together in support of Obama’s unprecedented campaign and candidacy. Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined

I think this is a very important letter and I’ll take a deeper look at it in this essay.

First let’s get write into the article and it’s key point. Forming a progressive force within the Obama coalition.

All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country. We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grassroots participation, drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace. We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle-down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.

As progressives, we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that has failed so far to deliver peace, healthcare, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.

During past progressive peaks in our political history–the late thirties, the early sixties–social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.


Obama’s March 18 speech on racism was as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials for overcoming the divide-and-conquer tactics that have sundered Americans since the first slaves arrived here in chains.

Only words? What words they were.

However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches. It was the industrial strikes and radical organizers in the 1930s who pushed Roosevelt to support the New Deal. It was the civil rights and student movements that brought about voting rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson and propelled Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy’s antiwar campaigns. It was the original Earth Day that led Richard Nixon to sign environmental laws. And it will be the Obama movement that will make it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.

Since I have came onto the blogs I have defended Obama from attacks saying that he is too conservative and that we as progressives shouldn’t back anyone who is not perfect. However finally these leaders have put my point into better words.

Barack Obama is not a perfect canidate and he does not have the right stance on everything. However Barack Obama was a community organizer and thus more then any other major canidate in history he will listen. FDR wouldn’t have proposed the New Deal in the 80’s or at other conservative times. He proposed the New Deal and other progressive reforms because people organized for change. There was a groundswell of support for such change. That is how we passed civil rights, womens rights, economic rights, labor rights, environmental laws. Name any progressive legislation. It was not enacted by a bunch of politicians, it was enacted by a grassroots movement.

The writers suggest three issues in particular that must be in a larger progressive vision.

We should not only keep the pressure on but also connect the issues that Barack Obama has made central to his campaign into an overarching progressive vision.

•??The Iraq War must end as rapidly as possible, not in five years.

All our troops must be withdrawn. Diplomacy and trade must replace further military occupation or military escalation into Iran and Pakistan. We should not stop urging Barack Obama to avoid leaving American advisers behind in Iraq in a counterinsurgency quagmire like Afghanistan today or Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor should he simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan.

•? Iraq cannot be separated from our economic crisis.

Iraq is costing trillions of dollars that should be invested in jobs, universal healthcare, education, housing and public works here at home. Our own Gulf Coast requires the attention and funds now spent on Gulf oil.

•? Iraq cannot be separated from our energy crisis.

We are spending an unheard-of $100/barrel for oil. We are officially committed to wars over oil supplies far into the future. We instead need a war against global warming and for energy independence from Middle Eastern police states and multinational corporations.

And despite past support of other canidates all urge a strong call to action

We did not foresee the exciting social movement that is the Obama campaign. Many of us supported other candidates, or waited skeptically as weeks and months passed. But the closeness of the race makes it imperative that everyone on the sidelines, everyone in doubt, everyone vascillating, everyone fearing betrayals and the blasting of hope, everyone quarreling over political correctness, must join this fight to the finish. Not since Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign has there been a passion to imagine the world anew like the passion and unprecedented numbers of people mobilized in this campaign.

I will say it again. Barack Obama is not perfect. I disagree with him on many issues. I also agree with him on a lot of issues. But if we as progressives want to make progress on the major issues of our day attacking Barack Obama will not help. We need to build a progressive force within the Obama campaign and a independent social movement for change outside of the campaign. Attacks won’t get Obama to change, organizing groundswell support will.

The Obama campaign has brought millions of new people into politics. People who didn’t care about about politics before. People who are realizing the scope of problems that we face and are finally feeling empowered to do something about it. We need to make sure those people are still working for change after the election so we can pass Obama’s bold agenda. In areas that could be stronger we must organize so they are stronger. In areas that are perhaps to strong for some in Congress we will have to organize to get them to listen.

Barack Obama would be the best listener to the grassroots that we have ever had as a president. If we can build as strong of social movements as we had in the 30’s and 60’s he will listen and he will fight for change.

Right now there are three ways we can start working towards that goal.

1. More Voices: At the key of all progressive social and political movements is involvement. If we are going to build a Obama movement we will need more voices in the political process. We will need to register more voters. Barack Obama lead a voter registration drive that registered 150,000 new voters after he finished collage. I recently wrote a essay about that and how we can get involved. Read it and help bring more voices to the political process.

2. Elect Barack Obama: If we are to build a Obama movement we need to elect Barack Obama. Outside of registering new voters the best way for people not in a upcoming state to help is by donating to him via the Obamathon and calling delegates in Texas. There are lots of other ways to help though. What is one that you have been doing?

3. Build an Obamajority: No agenda will be passed unless there are open-minded progressives in Congress. If we want a Obama presidency and a Obama movement we also need an  Obamajority in Congress. Yesterday I launched a fundraising drive to get there featuring three canidates, Darcy Burner, Rick Noriega and Patrick Murphy. Donate today and build an Obamajority.

However you are helping the Obama movement, whether it is by working for Obama, working for a Obamajority or working to build a independent social movement or even all of those things the time is now to take action. I always like this quote from Paul Wellstone

The future also will not belong to those who stand on the sidelines.

So what are you waiting for. Get active. Get involved in Progressives for Obama.

Yes. We. Can.


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  1. I wanted to explain myself a bit because my past posts haven’t gone over so well.

    I bear no delusions that Obama is perfect. But I don’t think it should be about Obama. It needs to be about what kind of movement we build. Obama was a organizer. He will listen if we organize enough. And he is pretty damn progressive to start out with.


  2. whichever Democratic candidate prevails.  I will write letters, register voters, etc. But as for pretending the “movement” is progressive (rather than “Clintonesque” for both candidates) and sending donations (which is what the letter is really about), you can count me out.

    And this kind of rhetoric

    However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches.

    is not likely to persuade many progressives that I know.

    BTW in the anti war movement, Obama is the one standing on the sidelines.

  3. I want a progressive movement that Obama supports and is willing to lead.  

    I have some trouble with progressives having to work hard to move him to the left.  

    I find your comments interesting because you mention you disagree with him on some issues.  I rarely see an Obama supporter say that and none including you have mentioned what you disagree with.  

    And I really dislike the use of his name into trendy words, e.g. Obamajority.  I want a progressive majority.  I want congressmen who are loyal to the interests of the people and not Obama.  We have Republicans who are loyal to Bush.  

    I think the essay is a thoughtful one by the four, but I am still uneasy with the idea that Obama needs to be pushed to do what is right for the average person.   Progressives in this country are centrists or to the right of the center in Europe.  

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