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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Quagmire: Pakistan and Al-Qaeda

Given the last 30 years of conservative rule, the thought of having a "progressive pragmatist" in the White House tends to center on domestic issues (e.g. poverty, racism, sexism, the environment, etc.). The major unknown to confront Obama is terrorism being waged against America, primarily by Islamic fundamentalists. Wallerstein lays out the complexities of dealing with Al-Qaeda in the context of the politics of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He warns Obama of the dangers of getting engaged in a war in the region. The tribal territories including much of Afghanistan appears to be ungovernable. Yet, this where Al-Qaeda is headquartered and protected. Apart from military options and to combat anti-Americanism on the part of the Arab and Islamic world, Barack is considering making a major foreign policy speech at some Islamic capital. It has been suggested that he do that in the nation with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia. It is land that Barack knows but this speech needs to be delivered in the Middle East. That being the case, it would seem that Saudi Arabia would only anger Bin-Laden more. There's Cairo but Egypt is not very democratic. Maybe Amman Jordan? Addressing the Palestinians? Whatever, Barack faces a major challenge when to combatting terrorism. At least we will soon be out of that illegal war in Iraq. RGN

Commentary No. 247, December 15, 2008
"Pakistan: Obama's Nightmare"

On the evening of Nov. 26, 2008, a small group of 10 persons attacked two luxury hotels and other sites in central Mumbai (India) and, over several days, managed both to kill and hurt a very large number of persons and to create massive material destruction in the city. It took several days before the slaughter was brought to an end. It is widely believed that the attacks were the work of a Pakistani group called Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), a group thought to be similar in motivation to al-Qaeda, perhaps directly linked to it. The world press immediately called the Mumbai massacres the 9/11 of India, a repetition of the attacks al-Qaeda launched against the United States in 2001.

The motivations and strategy of al-Qaeda in 2001 were largely misunderstood in 2001, both by the U.S. government and by analysts. The same thing risks happening now. Al-Qaeda in 2001 was of course seeking to humiliate the United States. But this was, from a strategic point of view, only a secondary motivation. Al-Qaeda has always made clear that its primary objective is the re-creation of the Islamic caliphate.

And, as a matter of political strategy, it has considered that the necessary first step is the collapse of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Al-Qaeda considers that these two governments have been the essential political supports of Western (primarily U.S.) political dominance in the greater Middle East, and therefore the biggest obstacles to the re-creation of the caliphate, whose initial geographic base would of course be in this region.

The attack of September 11 can be seen as an attempt to get the U.S. government to engage in political activities that would put pressures on the Saudi and Pakistani governments of a kind that would undermine their political viability. The primary actions of the U.S. government in the region since 2001 - the invasion first of Afghanistan and then of Iraq - certainly met the expectations of al-Qaeda. What has been the result?

The Saudi government has reacted with great political astuteness, fending off U.S. pressures that would have weakened it internally, and has been able thus far to minimize al-Qaeda political success in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani government has been far less successful. The regime in Islamabad is far weaker in 2008 than its predecessor regime was in 2001, while the political strength of al-Qaeda-type elements has been on a steady rise. The Mumbai attacks seem to have been an effort to weaken the Pakistani state still further. Of course, LET wished to hurt India and those seen as its allies - the United States, Great Britain, and Israel - but this was a secondary objective. The primary objective was to bring down the Pakistani government.

In Pakistan, as in every country of the world, the political elites are nationalist and seek to further the geopolitical interests of their country. This objective is fundamentally different from that of al-Qaeda-like groups, for whom the only legitimate function of a state is to further the re-creation of the caliphate. The persistent refusal of the Western world to understand this distinction has been a major source of al-Qaeda's continuing strength. It is what will turn Pakistan into Obama's nightmare.

What are Pakistan's geopolitical interests? Before anything else, it worries about its principal neighbors, India and Afghanistan. These concerns have fashioned its geopolitical strategy for the last sixty years. Pakistan sought powerful allies against India. It found two historically, the United States and China. Both the United States and China supported Pakistan for one simple reason, to keep India in check. India was seen by both as too close geopolitically to the Soviet Union, with whom both the United States and China were in conflict.

In the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and the momentary geopolitical weakness of Russia, both the United States and China sought tentatively to obtain closer relations with India. India was geopolitically a more important prize than Pakistan, and Pakistan knew this. One of the ways Pakistan reacted was to expand its role in (and control over) Afghanistan, by supporting the eventually successful Taliban takeover of the country.

What happened after 2001? The United States invaded Afghanistan, ousted the Taliban, and installed a government which had elements friendly to the United States, to Russia, even to Iran, but not at all to Pakistan. At the same time, the United States and India got still cozier, with the new arrangements on nuclear energy. So, the Pakistani government turned a blind eye to the renewal of Taliban strength in the northwest tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. The Taliban elements there, supported by al-Qaeda elements, renewed military operations in Afghanistan - and with considerable success, it should be noted.

The United States became quite upset, pressed the Pakistani army to act militarily against these Taliban/al-Qaeda elements, and itself engaged in direct (albeit covert) military action in this region. The Pakistani government found itself between a rock and a hard place. It had never had much capacity to control matters in the tribal regions. And the attempts it made as a result of U.S. government pressure weakened it still further. But its inefficacy pushed the U.S. military to act even more directly, which led to severe anti-American sentiment even among the most historically pro-American elites.

What can Obama do? Send in troops? Against whom? The Pakistani government itself? It is said that the U.S. government is particularly concerned with the nuclear stockpile that Pakistan has. Would the United States try to seize this stockpile? Any action along these lines - and Obama recklessly hinted at such actions during the electoral campaign - would make the Iraqi fiasco seem like a minor event. It would certainly doom Obama's domestic objectives.

There will be no shortage of people who will counsel him that doing nothing is unacceptable weakness. Is that Obama's only alternative? It seems clear that pursuing his agenda, as he himself has defined it, requires getting out from under the unending and geopolitically fruitless U.S. activities in the Middle East. Iraq will be easy, since the Iraqis will insist on U.S. withdrawal. Afghanistan will be harder, but a political deal is not impossible. Iran can be negotiated. The Israel/Palestine conflict is for the moment unresolvable, and Obama may be able to do little else than let the situation fester still longer.

But Pakistan requires a decision. If a Pakistani government is to survive, it will have to be one that can show it holds its own geopolitically. This will not be at all easy, given the internal situation, and an angry Indian public opinion. If there is anywhere where Obama can act intelligently, this is the place.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

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Pat Buchanan: Right Wing Senators and Their War Against the UAW

As much as I have disdain for much of what Pat Buchanan has to offer, on occasion his more populist version of (white) nationalism leads him away from the Republican line. Appropriately, Buchanan's concern is that a failed Big Three has enormous implications for America's economy. Even so, the "Toyota Republicans," as he calls these Southern Senators, say America be damned, "we want immediate concessions from those 'overpaid' autoworkers." Secondarily, he notes that the war against the Big Three autoworkers means that the Republicans will have lost the so-called Reagan Democrats forever. The blocking of the loan to the U.S. automakers, a position given that the national interest is at stake, defies logic and is evident of the bankruptcy of conservatism when it comes to addressing real world problems. RGN

The Toyota Republicans
by Patrick J. Buchanan (more by this author)
Posted 12/16/2008 ET

"GOP to Detroit: Drop Dead!"

So may have read the headline Friday, had not President Bush stepped in to save GM, Ford and Chrysler, which Senate Republicans had just voted to send to the knacker's yard.

What are Republicans thinking of, pulling the plug, at Christmas, on GM, risking swift death for the greatest manufacturing company in American history, a strategic asset and pillar of the U.S. economy.

The $14 billion loan to the Big Three that Republican senators filibustered to death is just 2 percent of the $700 billion the Senate voted to bail out Wall Street. Having gone along with bailouts of Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie, Freddie and CitiGroup, why refuse a reprieve to an industry upon which millions of the best blue-collar jobs in America depend?

In a good year, Americans buy 17 million cars. A more populous EU probably buys as many. Three billion people in India, Southeast Asia and China, four times as many people as there are in the EU and United States, are moving toward the middle class. They, too, will be wanting cars. And millions of them love American cars.

Is the Republican Party so fanatic in its ideology that, rather than sin against a commandment of Milton Friedman, it is willing to see America written forever out of this fantastic market, let millions of jobs vanish and write off the industrial Midwest?

So it would seem. "Companies fail every day, and others take their place," said Sen. Richard Shelby on "Face the Nation."

Presumably, the companies that will "take their place," when GM, Ford and Chrysler die, are German, Japanese or Korean, like the ones lured into Shelby's state of Alabama, with the bait of subsidies free-market Republicans are supposed to abhor.

In 1993, Alabama put together a $258 million package to bring a Mercedes plant in.

In 1999, Honda was offered $158 million to build a plant there. In 2002, Alabama won a Hyundai plant by offering a $252 million subsidy.

"We have a number of profitable automakers in America, and they should not be disadvantaged for making wise business decisions while failure is rewarded," says Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

DeMint is referring to "profitable automakers" like BMW, which sited a plant in Spartanburg, after South Carolina offered the Germans a $150 million subsidy and $80 million to expand.

Be it BMW, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Mitsubishi or Hyundai, the South has become a sanctuary for foreign assembly plants, for which Southern states have been paying subsidies.

Fine. But why this "Let-them-eat-cake!" coldness toward U.S. auto companies? General Motors employs more workers than all these foreign plants combined. And, unlike Mitsubishi, General Motors didn't bomb Pearl Harbor.

Do these Southern senators understand why the foreign automakers suddenly up and decided to build plants in the United States?

It was the economic nationalism of Ronald Reagan.

When an icon of American industry, Harley-Davidson, was being run out of business by cutthroat Japanese dumping of big bikes to kill the "Harley Hog," Reagan slapped 50 percent tariffs on their motorcycles and imposed quotas on imported Japanese cars. Message to Tokyo. If you folks want to keep selling cars here, start building them here.

Fear of Reaganism brought those foreign automakers, lickety-split, to America's shores, not any love of Southern cooking.

Do the Republicans not yet understand how they lost the New Majority coalition that gave them three landslides and five victories in six presidential races from 1968 to 1988? Do they not know why the Reagan Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan are going home?

The Republican Party gave their jobs away!

How? By telling U.S. manufacturers they could shut plants here, get rid of their U.S. workers, build factories in Mexico, Asia or China, and ship their products back, free of charge.

Republican globalists gave U.S. manufacturers every incentive to go abroad and take their jobs with them, the jobs of Middle America.

And, for 30 years, that is what U.S. manufacturers have done, have been forced to do, as their competitors closed down and moved their plants abroad in search of low-wage Third World labor.

It's Herbert Hoover time in here, Vice President Cheney is said to have told the Senate Republicans -- as they prepared to march out onto the floor and turn thumbs down on any reprieve for General Motors.

In today's world, America faces nationalistic trade rivals who manipulate currencies, employ nontariff barriers, subsidize their manufacturers, rebate value-added taxes on exports to us and impose value-added taxes on imports from us, all to capture our markets and kill our great companies. And we have a Republican Party blissfully ignorant that we live in a world of us or them. It doesn't even know who "us" is.

We need a new team on the field and a new coach who believes with Vince Lombardi that "winning isn't everything. It's the only thing."

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

Copyright © 2008 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

Ron Walters: The Big Three and White Nationalism's Last (?) Stand

Ron Walters does an analysis of the continuation of the Civil War as it was played out by the right wing Southern Republican Senators in their obstruction of the loan to the America’s Big Three automakers. Their defeat of a congressional solution to this immediate crisis was nothing more than a union busting tactic that placed the nation’s economy in further peril. That the UAW supported Obama was not lost as a part of their planning. Also, as Walters points out, neither was the fact that it was “their blacks” who left debt peonage for the industrial sector. For these Senators their opposition was nothing less than the revenge of a white nationalism lost. RGN

The Radical Right Rides Again
By Ron Walters

Think about it. A group of Southern, right wing, Republican Senators have stopped the Senate from approving a package of financial assistance to the big three auto companies who employ directly over 150,000 workers, but affects 3 million including the suppliers, dealers and etc. This kind of cold blooded action on their part strikes me as just the kind of narrowly conservative, mean-spirited and reckless decision making that the nation voted against in electing Barack Obama.

The issue was that in the Senate negotiations over the $14 billion package for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, Republicans, led by Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, developed a four point plan wherein three of the four major concessions were to be made by auto workers. It directed the United Auto Workers to agree that their wages would be brought in line with those of Nissan and Volkswagen; take half of their $23 billion Voluntary Benefit Association fund in stock options; and to eliminate payments to workers receiving nearly full salaries up to four years after retirement. Some of these proposals had previously been made by the corporate auto heads, so Corker was doing their bidding as well. The UAW that had already given up billions of dollars to the auto industries to keep them solvent, said no.
Nevertheless, Corker and his party had lots of political interests here. Ron Gettlefinger, head of the UAW, charged Corker with trying to break the union and bring it into line with non-union auto makers in his own state. Second, the UAW was also a target because of its role as a strong constituency of the Democratic party. Then, in Tennessee, Nissan and Volkswagen have plants and the latter’s headquarters is in Nashville and another Republican leader, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, has argued that the companies should face bankruptcy. He has foreign auto makers in his state such as Toyota, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai that he may be defending.

To come clean, I drive a Toyota because of its reputation for dependability, but I am also aware of the strides American manufacturers have made with respect to quality. In fact, what constitutes an “American car” today is questionable because of the substantial integration of auto parts from foreign countries into American cars. American cars cost about $2,000 more to make, largely because of factors such as health care, retirement, and dealership structure, but the governments of foreign auto makers absorb most of these costs. However, American elected officials who follow the pure capitalist model while other countries support their industries in a globalized world, contribute to the reason why we are losing out in a number of industries. The big exception is agriculture where government subsidizes corporate farmers. But no one demanded that corporations which received some of the $700 billion in funds to cut the salaries of their workers, or return benefits.

What these Southern Senators seem to be saying is that they don’t care whether there is a viable American auto industry. The auto industry helped African Americans to escape the oppression of the Southern oligarchy and by unionization, to earn a decent living that could support their families for the first time. And because of the historical resentment by the oligarchy for this fact, they have waged an unrelenting and brutal war against the unionization of agricultural labor in the South that would help liberate labor in that region. Under the peonage system, for a good part of the 20th century, whites paid black laborers little, very often nothing and were resistant to government social services or corporate wages that competed with wages in their region. A low wages economy has unified Republican corporate leaders and Southern barons.

I still have this image in my mind of House Republican leaders marching lock-step to Impeach Bill Clinton for a minor offense, while his favorable ratings in surveys of the American people was at 85%, clearly suggesting they did not want Impeachment to occur. But the radical Right didn’t care because their narrow ideology was more important. No doubt, when Barack Obama recalled many of these kind of events, it created the rationale for his statement that America should “turn the page.”

Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (University of Michigan Press)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Barack and Hillary: A View from the Fascist Right

This piece from white nationalist numero uno, Pat Buchanan, is interesting on what the future holds for Barack, Hillary and foreign policy. Pat may be more willing to recognize Barack's "Left" leaning than the Left itself. Even so, he poses some interesting questions, questions that he argures out to make the left nervous. RGN

Can This Marriage Last?
by Patrick J. Buchanan (more by this author)
Posted 12/05/2008 ET
Updated 12/05/2008 ET

Having savaged each other for a year, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have now formed a rare partnership in power. Not since James Garfield chose James G. Blaine has a new president chosen his principal rival to be secretary of state.
What does this tell us?

First, don't take campaign oratory all that seriously.

Second, unlike Dennis Kucinich, Ted Kennedy, Ron Paul or Jesse Helms, Hillary and Barack are pragmatists. They do not let ideology or past insults get in the way of a mutually beneficial deal.

But this is not some Hitler-Stalin pact of American politics.

Dick Morris has it right. As in a parliamentary system, where Cabinet members come straight off the majority party front bench, Barack, as prime minister, is knitting together a coalition government that allocates its highest honors to its greatest stars.

As Tony Blair named rival Gordon Brown as chancellor of the exchequer, Barack made Joe Biden his vice president, Hillary his secretary of state and Bill Richardson his secretary of commerce. Had John Edwards not fouled his nest, he, too, would be in the Cabinet. Perhaps attorney general.

And while Barack has taken a risk naming Hillary, with her national following and ruthless courtiers, Hillary's investment is even greater. Should a clash erupt, as it did between Ronald Reagan and Al Haig, Barack, though at great cost, can terminate her and her career. The idea that a cashiered secretary of state could challenge President Obama in 2012, capture the nomination and win, after humiliating and dumping our first African-American president, is absurd.

And the Clintons know it. Absent divine intervention, Obama is the nominee in 2012. Hillary has to know this is likely her last chance to make history. Thus she seized the offer of State, and Bill agreed to go the Full Monty on his financial relationships.

What does this marriage of convenience, with Biden, Bob Gates and Gen. Jim Jones as ushers, mean for U.S. foreign policy?

Methinks the antiwar left has the crying towel out too early.

Our new decider's heart is still on the left. Moreover, his political interests argue for relegating to the trash bin of history a Bush-neocon policy of endless war until the Middle East resembles the Middle West. America cannot sustain the wars that Bush's policy produced, nor those it promises.

Look, then, for Obama to make a large, early down payment on his pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months. Though the Status of Forces Agreement accepted by Iraq doubles the time Obama has to pull out, to December 2011, the nation, not just the left, wants out, with but a single caveat: America does not want a Saigon ending.

What happens after -- whether Shia attack Shia, or join to crush Sunnis, or Arabs engage Kurds -- is not a war Americans are willing to intervene in with any new surge of U.S. troops.

About Afghanistan there is a gathering consensus that victory over a resurgent Taliban with a sanctuary in Pakistan's border region cannot be achieved without an infusion of U.S. troops this country is unwilling to support.
Escalating the war means more air strikes that have alienated the Afghan people as well as President Kharzi. More Predator strikes in a Pakistan where anti-Americanism is rife and the government is besieged hardly seems a promising policy.

What is the U.S. bottom line in Kabul? Not the impossible dream of a democracy modeled on our own but a government committed to keeping al-Qaida out. Given the bloody beating the Taliban have taken for seven years, they may be amenable to such an arrangement.

But the first test of the Obama-Clinton team may be Iran.

Tehran claims its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, and the International Atomic Energy Agency has never declared it in violation of the non-proliferation treaty. Yet, the suspicion is broad and deep in Washington and Tel Aviv that Iran is hell-bent on building an atom bomb. Obama and Hillary have both said that will not happen, no matter what it takes.

If war with Iran is to be averted, the new team must move swiftly to talk to Tehran and put its cards on the table. It is here that the potential for a split between Barack and Hillary is greatest.

If Likud's "Bibi" Netanyahu wins the Israeli election, he will push hard for U.S. air strikes on Iran's nuclear sites, and push back against any Obama deal with Tehran. With the Israeli lobby and a Jewish community that gave Barack 80 percent of its votes, plus the neocons and Evangelical right calling for strikes against Iran's nuclear sites, would the Obama-Clinton team stand united -- against war?

Would Hillary, a former senator from New York who relied even more heavily than Barack on Jewish contributions and votes, stand by Barack if the two disagree on whether the survival of Israel is at stake?

On second thought, the antiwar left is right to be nervous.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, "The Death of the West,", "The Great Betrayal," "A Republic, Not an Empire" and "Where the Right Went Wrong."

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva: The Problem with Obama!!!

Wow!!! What is there to say? My dear friend and respected colleague, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, has just dismissed the election of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States of America to be of little or no significance.

The importance of this position is even more important when you consider that it comes from one of our brightest progressive intellectuals, a sociologist whose speciality is one of the most insidious forms of racism -- color-blind racism. This diminishing of the achievement of a black man being elected president of a nation whose 300-400 years of existence has as its foundation white supremacist principles is to miss an important turning point in American history. Such an achievement up until this moment would have been unthinkable.

Is that not important? A nation that historically been a white nation elects a black man as president. It is particularly important that this black man be from the left, a black man with a progressive agenda as the leader of the so-called "free world." Is that achievement not indicative of a changed world?

Professor Bonilla-Silva is correct in example after example in his critique about what an Obama presidency will not do. Barack's being president will not eliminate racism in America. Andrew Hacker has observed that the cure for racism will not be found in a laboratory. There are no magic cures. And it is important to note that even "black folks on the street" know that Barack being president is not THE cure for what faces them.

We must assume that they know that being elected president of the United States is a mainstream endeavor. They know Barack is not a one-man "Poor People's Campaign." They know that one cannot run on an NAACP platform and expect to be elected president of the United States. Obama was not and should not have been running to be president of the OBU (Organization of Black Unity) or RAM (Revolutionary Action Movement). He was appealing to everyday Americans who wanted an alternative to the warmongering, meanness, and racism embedded in right wing ideology. To have expected anything different as a campaign strategy was likely to be a failed strategy. As Bill Clinton pointed out: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina!"

To accuse those who see promise in an Obama presidency as being "drunk with Obama's hope liquor" is in itself a bit mystical. The election of Obama has changed the world. For the last eight years, the world held contempt for America. Today the world is enthralled with the notion that a Barack Obama is President-Elect of the United States of America.

Relative to Barack's election, Bonilla-Silva says: "I suspect Obama's very election as President may become a formidable obstacle to advance a progressive race and class agenda here and an internationalist agenda abroad." With Barack not being a member of America's white elite, and whose roots are working class, instead of being "drunk with Obama," the American people see in Obama "change we need." Obama's candidacy was a referendum on white nationalism in America and white nationalism lost.

Does that mean that racism and economic injustice were defeated in the process? No. But it does mean that the right-wings' white nationalism cloaked as "color-blind racism" will no longer be hegemonic. One can wonder if the loss of this defeated "tactic" is not the problem?

It is not uncommon for intellectuals to be out of step with the general populace. It is the role of intellectuals to reach a deeper understanding than what "is in front of our noses." On the other hand paraphrasing Marx, "the problem [for intellectuals] is to not only understand the world but to change it!" In doing so intellectuals should not contribute to cynicism but take forward "hope" and "change" for what they are, and promote within that populace a progressive agenda, one that populace has a stake for their own betterment.

Micheal Novick, Immanuel Wallerstein, Algernon Austin and other progressive intellectuals whose postings appear on this blog suggest a very different understanding of this election in this period. We moved from protest to politics. Now is the time to move from politics to governance! RGN

The 2008 Elections and the future of antI-racism in 21st century amerika or how we got drunk with obama's hope liquor and failed to see reality


Lecture delivered at the Association of Humanist Sociologists' Meeting in Boston, Nov 7th, 2008.

Today I will engage in political sacrilege. Just three days after the event most pundits heralded as a watershed moment in American history; three days after we elected the first African American President in our history, I will criticize President Elect Obama's angelical image and politics, his campaign, and his policies. Today I will argue that Obama's election does NOT mean the end of racism, is unlikely to bring meaningful social and economic change, may continue and even expand American imperialist foreign policy, and, more significantly for me, BLUR the space to talk about race in the public square. I know I will anger some--perhaps many here -who may still be drunk with the Obama-hope-liquor, but the job of the intellectual is to always be vigilant; to always avoid being swept by public opinion. The day we abdicate our critical role, as so many of us DID in this campaign, is the day we die as intellectuals! So with this caveat out of the way, here I go!

George Orwell stated a long time ago that “To see what is in front of one's nose needs constant struggle.” I am convinced that we, people of color AND progressives in the USA, did not see what was in front of our nose in this election cycle. We instead saw what we wanted and longed to see. I am one-hundred percent sure that until about a year ago MOST members of this organization would have agreed with the following proposition: THE RACIAL PROGRESS that followed the social protests of the 1960s stagnated or, worse yet, regressed. Most would have agreed that 40 years after the Kerner Commission Report's stated that “Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white--separate and unequal," race matters in this country were still profoundly problematic.

And we had plenty of objective and subjective indicators to make our case. We could have cited statistics on income, wealth, housing, and educational and occupational inequality. We could have cited studies about the persistence of discrimination in the labor and housing markets. We could have explained that racial profiling happens not only when people of color drive a car, but also when they (we) do almost anything in America. In fact, we could have documented that Living While Black or Brown is very taxing to the physical and mental health of people of color as we always need to be watching out; always need to be ready to “fight or flight.” We could have cited data on how whites changed from been mostly Jim Crow racists to becoming color-blind ones and explain that despite the apparent suave character of this new RACIAL ideology, it is still all about the business of defending the racial order.

We were also all keenly aware that the DISCURSIVE SPACE for talking about race had dwindled in post-9/11 Amerika; we recognized the so-called war on terrorism, the anti-immigration mood, and the anti-affirmative action mentality and the reverse racism nonsense that slowly became part of whites' post-civil rights racial imaginary were part of the new, very complicated racial landscape of America. “And then out of nowhere,” as Father Pfleger said in his memorable statement, came this black man and said, “Hey I am Barack Obama” and almost the entire nation said like Hillary, ”Oh damn, where did that black man come from?” For a little over a year, we were all mesmerized by Obama's speeches, by his “YES WE CAN,” by his appeal to our “better angels,” and by his effort to talk about national unity (“I don't see a ...”). And many of us, after 8 years of Bush's imperial policies and his patent stupidity, felt inspired, proud, and a few, like MSNBC' Chris Mathews, even felt a “thrill going up (their) leg.”ᾉ

But the question we must ponder now that Obama has been elected President of the DIS-United States of Amerika is (with one k) were we all wrong? Were liberal and conservative analysts RIGHT when they claimed America had seen the D'Souza's “the end of racism” or, at least, Wilson's “declining significance of race”? Were the white masses RIGHT when they argued that America had become a color- blind nation and that it was us, minority folks who kept PLAYING THE RACE CARD, seeing racism in everything, and finding racists behind every Bush (pun intended) ?

Analytically and politically, too many of us dug a deep hole for ourselves in this election as we either went with the flow and assumed Obama was truly about SOCIAL and RACIAL CHANGE or took the stand that white racism would prevent Obama from getting elected (Bradley effect, etc.). But there is a more fitting, historically accurate, and more politically relevant explanation of what happened. In my estimation, the seeming contradiction between the FACT that race matters in America in every aspect of our lives yet we elected a Black man as our President is but an APPARENT one. Obama, his campaign, and his “success” are the outcome of 40 years of racial transition in America; of 40 years of transition from the JIM CROW racial regime to what I have referred in my work as the “NEW RACISM”-the post-civil rights racial system or the new face of “white supremacy” ( Charles Mills ). In Obamerica-by which I mean, the fact that Obama was elected president without a social movement behind-racism will remain firmly in place and, even worse, I suspect Obama's very election as President may become a formidable obstacle to advance a progressive race and class agenda here and an internationalist agenda abroad.

In order to make my case, I will do four things: first, describe the context that made possible for someone like Obama to become the President of the USA, second, discuss what Obama did in order to become our President, third, predict a few things that may arguably happen in Obamerica, and, finally, suggest a political way out for progressives.

So what context allowed Obama to become the President of the USA? The Obama phenomenon is the product of the fundamental racial shift that happened in America in the 1960s and 70s. The racial order in place today is the result of various social forces and events that converged in the post-WWII era( overdetermination ): 1) the various social and civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, both the “We shall overcome” MLK kind as well the more militant Malcolm X-inspired kind ( between 1960 and 1970, 250 race rebellions transpired in cities across America ); 2) the contradiction between an America selling democracy abroad and giving hell to minorities at home-a matter exploited by socialist countries in international forums and a situation that black and Latino organizations had begun challenging forcefully since WWII-which became untenable during the Vietnam War; 3) the black migration from the South where most blacks lived and worked as sharecroppers and agricultural workers since the end of slavery, made Jim Crow practices and politics less relevant and, obviously, less effective as strategies of social control; and 4) the so-called enlightened representatives of capital, which had gone along happy, happy, happy with Jim Crow for a long time realized in the 1960s that in order to maintain production and social peace, they had to retool the racial aspects of the social order, that is, they realized Jim Crow was no longer compatible with the capitalist component of the socio-economic order( elites did in South Africa in the late 1980s-early 1990s ).

We all know the most visible consequences of this change: the slow and incomplete school desegregation that followed the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court Decision; the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Housing Rights Act of 1968; and the hap- hazard policy process that led to the idea and practices that brought affirmative action to life. Most significantly, we all know that most whites believe that the elimination of the most brutal forms of racial domination, the enactment of Civil Rights legislation, and the practice of affirmative action represent the elimination racism in America and, for a substantial segment of the white population, the beginning of a period of “reverse discrimination.”

But most people of color, and many race analysts, know that albeit the legislation and policies of the 1960s were important (the struggle of the sixties transformed the racial order for good), they did not eliminate racism from America. Accordingly today, forty years after the Civil Right struggles of yesteryears, people of color lag well behind whites in almost every important social, economic, and political indicator. Conceptually, assuming we all agree with the proposition that racism forms a structure ( Bonilla-Silva ) or is systemic ( FEAGIN ), our analysis must show the mechanisms and practices that reproduce the racial order and its accompanying racial inequality. On this front, analysts such as Robert C. Smith, Patricia Williams, Roy Brooks, Kimberly Crenshaw, and yours truly among many others, have argued that a new system of racial practices emerged in post-civil rights America. This system, which I have called THE NEW RACISM ( I would call it differently today ), is characterized by discriminatory (differential TREATMENT) practices that are subtle or covert, often institutionalized, defended with coded language (those urban people or people on welfare), and is co-structured by a new racial ideology I label color-blind racism ( other terms out there ).

In my White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era, I describe how these new racial practices operate ideologically, socially, economically, and politically. At the political level, I point out the many structural barriers for the election of black and minority politicians, their under-representation among elected and appointed officials, and the limited impact minority politicians can have to enact policies to benefit the minority masses. And one point I make, which has become a reality, is that the REPUBLICRAT corporate rulers have developed a process of selection and vetting minority politicians. After the Democratic Party co-opted many old civil right leaders (John Lewis, Andrew Young, and the like) and made them shadows of themselves, the two parties began manufacturing a new kind of minority politicians. Thus today's minority Party politicians tend not to be the product of social movements, join the party from his/her College days, and move up quickly through the party ranks. The new breed of minority politicians, unlike their predecessors, is not radical but is rather center-to-right on both racial and economic matters. Accordingly, post-civil rights minority politicians are welcomed by “the man” because they do not challenge the WHITE Power structure. More problematic, this new type of minority politician teaches the wretched of the earth the WRONG lesson-that ELECTORAL-rather than SOCIAL MOVEMENT politics-is the vehicle for achieving racial justice. A post-civil rights minority politician, if Republican, is an anti-minority minority conservative such as Michael Steele, Bobby Jindal, Alan Keyes, and J.C. Watts, and if Democrat, is a post-racial leader such as Harold Ford, Cory Booker (Newark's mayor), Deval Patrick (Mass. Governor), D.C mayor Adrian Fenty, and Barack Obama.

Now I move on and discuss what Obama did in order to get elected. Since early last February I expressed my concerns about the Obama phenomenon. As the campaign progressed, my initial PESOPTIMISM about the implications of Obama's potential election as President increased exponentially. The FIRST concern I had was that Obama did not represent a true social movement, but an undercurrent of various ACTORS and CONTRADICTORY forces that did not necessarily agree on fundamental issues. Lacking a social movement with a common agenda, his rise to the top will become problematic as we have no way of predicting what he will do as President.

SECOND, none of the policies Obama offered during the campaign on the crucial issues of our time (health care, jobs, immigration, racism, the War, the Palestinian question, etc.) was truly radical and likely to accomplish the slogan he adopted as the core of his campaign: change.

THIRD, Obama reached the level of success he did in large part because he made a strategic move towards racelessness and adopted a post- racial persona and political stance. He distanced himself from most leaders of the CRM, from his own reverend, from his church, and from anything or anyone who made him look “too black” or “too political.” Heck, Obama and his campaign had to even retool Michelle Obama to make her seem less black, less strong, and more white-lady-like to the white electorate!

As part of his post-racial approach and appeal, Obama avoided the term racism in his campaign until he was FORCED to talk about race. And in that silly speech on race that some of you heralded and likened ( ly-KENN-ed ) to speeches by Malcolm and Martin, he said Revered Wright's statements “expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country-a view that sees white racism as endemic...” and classified them as “divisive” (realistic).

FOURTH, as Glen Ford, executive editor of THE BLACK AGENDA REPORT, Adolph Reed, Angela Davis, and a few others suggested, Obamania was-and may still be-a CRAZE where his supporters refuse to even listen to FACTS and acknowledge some of the very problematic positions Obama actually has (“No, Obama cannot be for the death penalty!).

LASTLY perhaps the most important factor behind Obama's success, and my biggest concern, was that he and his campaign meant and evoked different things and feelings for his white and non-white supporters. For the 45% of whites who supported Obama, he was the first “black” leader they felt comfortable supporting because he did not talk about racism; because he reminded them every time he had a chance he is half-white ( signification and history ); because he was so “articulate” or, in Senator Biden's words, echoed later by Karl Rove, Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy"; because Obama kept talking about national unity, and because he, unlike black leaders hated by whites such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Maxine Waters, and, of course, Minister Farrakhan, did not make them feel guilty about the state of racial affairs in the country. Even for many of the 55% of whites who did not vote for him (Pat Buchanan, etc.), Obama's success has become the final proof they needed to confirm THEIR BELIEF that America is beyond race.

Obama also became, as black commentator David Ehrenstein has argued, the “Magic Negro”-a term from film studies that refers to black characters in movies whose main purpose is to help whites deal with their issues. In this case, voting for Obama allowed many whites to feel like they were cleansing their racial soul, repenting for their racial sins, and getting admission into racial heaven! Obama became whites' EXCEPTIONAL black man-the model to follow if blacks want to achieve in Amerika!

In sharp contrast, for many nonwhites, particularly for blacks, Obama became a symbol of their possibilities. He was indeed, as Obama said of himself, their Joshua-the leader they hoped would take them to the Promised Land of milk and honey. They read in between the lines (probably more than was/is there) and thought Obama had a strong stance on race matters. For the old generation desperate to see change before they die ( Jackson crying, john lewis, etc. ), and for many post-Reagan generation blacks ( from THE BLACK EYED PEAS ) and minorities who have seen VERY LITTLE RACIAL progress During their life, Obama became the new Messiah following on the footsteps of leaders they did not see such as Martin and Malcolm. Poor blacks-and I talk to many almost every day-believe Obama will bring economic and social change to them-higher wages, health care, etc., and “the black elite”-and I work with many of them at Duke-savors Obama as a symbol and a confirmation of their own standing, politics, and even behavior and manners-the genteel, aristocratic character of the black elite.
Accordingly, when I debated the Obama phenomenon with people of color and white allies and mentioned that Obama received 46% of his money from corporate America and a LOT of it THROUGH THE MAGIC OF bundling (McCain raised 76 million and Obama 63 as of August but probably top 100M by November-561 elite bundlers) ; or that Obama said in a speech in Selma, Alabama, that we were 90% on the road to RACIAL equality ; or that Obama wanted to expand the military by 90,000 (imperial Amerika) and said he would redeploy troops from Iraq to Afghanistan (a country he knows NOTHING about); or that his opposition to the war after he was elected to the Senate was suspect documented in Matt Gonzales's piece “The Obama Craze”; or that Obama is for free market capitalism albeit with some regulation; or that Obama's Civil Rights program was nothing more than the liberal stance on race matters and not much different from Hillary's program; or that Obama was the darling of the DLC ; or that Obama's economic and health care programs were quite modest and reflected the fact that his chief advisers from Chicago and Harvard are regarded as “non-ideological”; or that Obama supported the death penalty (now we all know); or that Obama's position on Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Palestine are not better than Hillary's; or that Obama has chided those who talk about race in a straight manner as engaging in “divisive politics”-... and FISA, AND RELIGION, AND HIS FOCUS ON “PERSONAL RESPOSIBILITY,” AND HIS STAND ON WORKFARE, AND on and on and on.
When I raised these issues, FOLKS either did not know them (“Obama DOES not get more money from Wall Street than McCain?”- actually, 58 to 54 million ) or, worse yet, knew them but argued these are TACTICAL positions Obama needed in order to get elected (“He must support the death penalty, be strong on the Middle East, support FISA, and not talk about race or be seen as black in order to get elected.”) They all believed, in AHISTORICAL fashion, that once Obama was elected, he would turn LEFF. For me, coming from the Caribbean where we have had a fair share of elected Black Governors, Premiers, and Presidents, I know that “leaders should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the CONTENT OF THEIR POLITICS.” I repeat “Leaders should not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their politics!” Black and progressive America, unfortunately, is destined to learn this lesson after this neo-mulatto rents the white house for a short while and does not do any renovation-I bet he will not even repaint the freaking house!

So what do I think will happen in Obamerica? I believe the voices of those who contend that race fractures America profoundly may be silenced. In a deep sense, Obamerica may bring us closer to an argument I have been articulating for a while-the idea that the racial structure of the United States is becoming Latin America-like. No with Obama as our President we will continue on the road toward symbolic unity without enacting the social policies needed to make sure we truly are “all Americans.” We may become like Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, Belize, or Puerto Rico- nation-states that claim to be comprised of "one people" but where various racial strata receive social goods in accordance to their proximity to “whiteness.” And like in Latin American countries, Obama's nationalist stance (“There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America”) will help close the space to even talk about race. Hence, in Orwellian fashion, we may proclaim "We are all Americans!", but in Obamerica, some will still be “more American than others.”

Now I offer a few plausible scenarios of things to come so that we begin pondering-and strategizing-what to do. FIRST, based on promises and remarks made by President Elect Obama during the campaign, he may increase the size of the military, wait longer than planned for withdrawing from Iraq, increase the scope of our military intervention in Afghanistan, and, more problematically, bomb Pakistan if he gets “actionable intelligence.” So will we NOT protest and object to AMERICAN imperialism because “we” want our first black President to be “successful” in foreign policy? Have we forgotten that American imperialism can be carried out by black and brown bodies, too?

SECOND, albeit many of you voted for Obama critically-as I did myself-you thought, “ least he is likely to appoint progressives in various posts.” But this will not happen without pressure. If we want this to happen, we must begin making noise from NOW as he has surrounded himself with center-to-right people in economic matters such as Warren Buffet, Larry Summers, Bob Rubin, and his Chicago and Harvard economists. And in foreign policy, with Susan Rice (a Stanford graduate who may end up in the State Department. She worked for Clinton and many of the members of the Black Congressional Caucus did not trust her because they thought she was part of Washington's “black assimilationist elite”) and with other Clinton people (Madelaine Albright, etc.) as well as Colin Powell (since when do we trust these clowns)? Albright, as you recall, was not a very pluralistic Secretary of State and Powell JUSTIFIED the war effort. Lastly, Obama has said he wants to be Lincoln- like and create an administration that includes all the losers. So, what will we do if many of the same IDIOTS who got us into the mess we are in ECONOMICALLY and POLITICALLY are invited to serve in his cabinet or become policy advisers?

THIRD, Obama has already begun the slippery slope of stating he may defer taxing the rich until the economy improves. Are you kidding me? If Obama and his advisers believe this, then McClain was RIGHT! Wasn't McCain the one who said that taxing the rich is problematic because they are the ones who create jobs and wealth in America? (Come on, folks!)

FOURTH, in the debates Obama stated he may defer dealing with health care until the economic crisis subsides. Again, what are we going to do if he delays this policy matter? We all saw the Obamercial where he highlighted the plight of that poor black family in Ohio. They have the fierce urgency of NOW as they need health care reform TODAY! And, by the way, let me go a bit deeper on this matter-Obama's health care plan is far off from what we need: a truly universal health care plan. Paul Krugman, the 2008 Noble prize in economics, made this point clear in his NYT column where he wrote that Obama had the weakest health care plan among the Democratic Party contenders.

FIFTH, what will President Elect Obama do about race matters in America? What will he do about affirmative action, for example? During the campaign, he did not engage in a dialogue about the significance of race in America and discussed Affirmative Action only ONCE with George Stephanopoulos. As some of you recall, he took an accomodationist post-racial stance on the matter. And because he took such a post-racial posture during his campaign, I do not believe he can take a STRONG stance on race matters NOW. Neither Obama nor his mostly white advisers and post-civil right neo-mulatto associates will push hard on this fundamental issue. For that, he needs what he lacks: a real social movement behind!

SIXTH, we in the left were too comfortable and silly with the amount of money Obama raised (close to 700 million dollars!), with how he raised it (bundlers and small donors-48% who gave $200 or less--who seem like small investors buying shares in Obama Corporation), and with the implications of all this money for his administration and for politics in America. Soon we will see the impact of this money and of these bundlers in his administration and in the policies he “chooses”.

Now I conclude by answering a few questions some of you may have in mind. My answers, I hope, illustrate what we did wrong and point out a path for a “new” political strategy. FIRST, for those of you who agree with a lot of what I said yet find yourselves thinking, “Well, but what was our option, voting for M c Cain?” Progressives in America have been suffering from a political depression since Reagan's election as President in 1980. We all but abandoned social movement politics and replaced it with voting for whatever dud the Democratic Party “chooses” as their Presidential nominee. But our dilemma is a self-made one and, hence, we have the capacity to end it. We must take a dosage of political prozac and stop the madness of choosing every four years among the lesser of two evils. We must work to either radicalize the Democratic Party OR-the alternative I prefer-return to labor, civil rights, gender, environmental, and community-based movement politics and PRESSURE for systemic change. After all, as humanist sociologists know well, fundamental changes in societies ALWAYS follow from social movement- rather than from electoral-politics.

SECOND, those of us who criticized Obama from the left were labeled as “traitors,” “representatives of the old Civil Rights Movement guard,” or as “jealous of Obama's success.” All these accusations were absolute nonsense and a way of avoiding serious debate. Obama is for the death penalty, for offshore drilling, for faith-based initiatives, for expanding the size of the military, for FISA, for bombing Pakistan, for bailing out capitalists, and on and on. So who is then the one selling out at the altar of expediency? But we in the left failed the test of history and remained SILENT and now we will see, as I have already seen and experienced, the crushing hammer of nationalist SENTIMENT against dissenting voices!

LASTLY, if you ponder “Well, but aren't you ignoring the symbolic value of an Obama Presidency?” First, for those who are thinking about little black children..., know that research shows they do not lack self-esteem or have low aspirations, but lack an adequate opportunity structure to realize their dreams. Second, since Obama's candidacy means, as I argued, different things for whites and blacks, the symbolic value of his Presidency also means different things for these groups, too. Obama's weak ass stand on race made many whites happy, happy, happy, but it also reduced his capacity for enacting meaningful race-based policies. Hence, Obama's election will have symbolic value, but folks of color don't eat symbols and will soon ask, “Where is the change candidate Obama promised? President Obama, where's the beef ?”

So what is to be done now? We must organize social movements-the plural is important, resist class/race/gender domination wherever we are at (25% of the pop), radicalize the spaces we inhabit and the people we contact, engage in political discourse (we have become too passive and do not say much), criticize the new President no matter what (he is the representative of capital and of the racial order), and do all these things CREATIVELY - yes we can use humor, yes we can be postmodern in style, and yes we can once again dare talk about the revolution, about democratic socialism, and about the significance of Malcolm X for racial and social change in Our America. If we do this, we have a chance to recover from this moment-a moment I believe may become a huge setback for the American left. But if we remain quiet and, once again, wait until the next election cycle, history is likely to, as Marx wrote, “repeat itself, first as a tragedy (Obama), second as a farce (Jindal).” Thanks!

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva
Sociology Department
Duke University

We Have Overcome???: Illusions of Transcendence

On the night of Barack Obama's victory speech in Grant Park, there was a young man holding op a sign that read "We have Overcome." With all of this talk of Barack's candidacy being a "post-racial" candidacy, it easy to see how people are confused about how far we have come. The simple truth is I do not recall Barack saying that his presidency would end racism in the United States. "Racial transcedence" and "post racial" are creations of pundits and the media. On the other hand, being an African American and be elected to the Presidency of the United States, heretofore a white nation protecting the interests of whites, is of historical significance and represents a new epoch in United States. Having said that, electing a black man president does not automatically change the reality for blacks and whites in America. As Algernon Austin points out below the poverty remains, as does the racialization of crime in America and so many other inequities. Electing Barack Obama, a community organizer and one committed to helping average citizens and the poor, was a major step forward on behalf of the people, including black people, but not the solution. Organize we must to take advantage of this major turning point in America. RGN

Does Obama's Success Mean Blacks Have Overcome?
by Algernon Austin (posted on

It has been wonderful to see people of all races celebrate the victory
of Barack Obama. His advance does represent an important step forward
for African Americans. But those who take his victory to mean that
blacks have overcome are seeing the world through very rose colored glasses.

Obama's victory comes on the 40th anniversary of the Kerner Commission
report on the riots of the 1960s. That report can be used to assess how
far blacks in general have come as opposed to how much one black elected
official has achieved. In 1968, the Kerner Commission identified the
criminal justice system, employment, housing and education as areas of
significant black-white disparities that needed good public policy and
large public investments to move us to an equal and integrated society.
Sadly, many of the disparities the Commission highlighted 40 years ago
remain with us today.

There may be less of the day-to-day police brutality that led to riots
in several cities in the 1960s, but relations between blacks and the
police are still not good. The cases of Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo and
others still cause many blacks to fear the police rather than see the
police as a force promoting safety and security. Further, many also see
our criminal justice system as a profoundly anti-black institution. For
example, The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently published an investigative
report [link:] showing
that for similar drug offenses blacks in Cleveland were more likely to
be incarcerated than whites. Even in some cases where whites possessed
more drugs and had more serious criminal records they received more
leniency than blacks. There is much more that needs to be done in the
area of criminal justice before we can say that blacks have overcome.

In 1968, blacks were about twice as likely to be unemployed as whites.
In 2008, blacks are about twice as likely to be unemployed as whites.
The crisis joblessness in black communities remains severe. Improving
the educational outcomes of blacks will help in this area, but there
remains significant anti-black bias in the labor market. My current
research shows that while college-educated blacks have similar
employment rates as whites, as one moves down the educational ladder the
racial disparities grow rapidly. The black-white disparity is most
severe for male high school dropouts. For some reason, employers see
white male high school dropouts as much more desirable than black male
high school dropouts. In a color-blind world, one high school dropout
would be as good or as bad as the next, but we don't live in that world
yet. In the American labor market, it helps to be white especially if
one is less-educated.

Our schools and neighborhoods were largely separate and unequal in 1968,
and they are still separate and unequal today. Barack Obama served
Illinois as a senator. The Illinois Education Research Council has done
important work on race and teacher quality [PDF:] in
that state. The Council ranked all high schools by teacher quality. It
found that nearly half of all black high school students were in the
schools in the bottom 25 percent of the teacher-quality rankings. Only
about one-sixth of white students were in these low teacher-quality
schools. We can't say that we have overcome when black students are still
segregated into the worse schools in America.

We have not overcome, but it is important to also acknowledge the progress
that blacks have made. We know that blacks are not as educated as we would
like them to be, but we should also acknowledge that the black population
is more educated than it has ever been. In 2006, the year of the most
recent data from the Digest of Education Statistics [link:],
9.6 percent of the bachelor's degrees given nationally went to blacks.
This rate was up from 7.9 percent in 1996, and it was the highest level on
record. There is a substantial number of blacks in the American middle and
upper class, and a large number of black elected officials. These are some
of the positive developments that we have seen since the Kerner Commission

Obama's victory represents a significant advance for America on its path
to racial equality. But we aren't there yet. The Kerner Commission report
reminds us that while we have made great strides, there is still a long
way to go. As Miriam Makeka sang in Portuguese--"a luta continua"--the
struggle continues.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Garrison Keiller: A Tribute to Barack Obama

The one thing Garrison Keiller can do is tell a story!! He recognizes that Barack's victory is also a victory for Chicago. Keiller puts this victory in context and he paints a picture of Barack that is so compelling. He seems to capture it all. RGN

Sitting on Top of the World

Wednesday 12 November 2008

by: Garrison Keillor, The Chicago Tribune

The city of Chicago is celebrating the rise of one of their own to the office of president of the United States. (Photo: Getty Images / AFP)

Be happy, dear hearts, and allow yourselves a few more weeks of quiet exultation. It isn't gloating, it's satisfaction at a job well done. He was a superb candidate, serious, professorial but with a flashing grin and a buoyancy that comes from working out in the gym every morning. He spoke in a genuine voice, not senatorial at all. He relished campaigning. He accepted adulation gracefully. He brandished his sword against his opponents without mocking or belittling them. He was elegant, unaffected, utterly American, and now (Wow) suddenly America is cool. Chicago is cool. Chicago!!!

We threw the dice and we won the jackpot and elected a black guy with a Harvard degree, the middle name Hussein and a sense of humor - he said, "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher." The French junior minister for human rights said, "On this morning, we all want to be American so we can take a bite of this dream unfolding before our eyes." When was the last time you heard someone from France say they wanted to be American and take a bite of something of ours? Ponder that for a moment.

The world expects us to elect pompous yahoos, and instead we have us a 47-year-old prince from the prairie who cheerfully ran the race, and when his opponents threw sand at him, he just smiled back. He'll be the first president in history to look really good making a jump shot. He loves his classy wife and his sweet little daughters. At the same time, he knows pop music, American lit and constitutional law. I just can't imagine anybody cooler.

It feels good to be cool, and all of us can share in that, even sour old right-wingers and embittered blottoheads. Next time you fly to Heathrow and hand your passport to the man with the badge, he's going to see "United States of America" and look up and grin. Even if you worship in the church of Fox, everyone you meet overseas is going to ask you about Obama, and you may as well say you voted for him because, my friends, he is your line of credit over there. No need anymore to try to look Canadian.

And the coolest thing about him is the fact that back in the early '90s, given a book contract after the hoo-ha about his becoming the First Black Editor of The Harvard Law Review, instead of writing the basic exploitation book he could've written, he put his head down and worked hard for a few years and wrote a good book, an honest one, which, since his rise in politics, has earned the Obamas enough to buy a nice house and put money in the bank. A successful American entrepreneur.

Our hero who galloped to victory has inherited a gigantic mess. The country is sunk in debt. The Treasury announced it must borrow $550 billion to get the government through the fourth quarter, more than the entire deficit for 2008, so he will have to raise taxes and not only on bankers and lumber barons. His promise never to raise the retirement age is not a good idea. Whatever he promised the Iowa farmers about subsidizing ethanol is best forgotten at this point. We may not be getting our National Health Service cards anytime soon. And so on and so on.

So enjoy the afterglow of the election awhile longer. We all walk taller this fall. People in Copenhagen and Stockholm are sending congratulatory e-mails - imagine! We are being admired by Danes and Swedes! And Chicago becomes The First City. Step aside, San Francisco. Shut up, New York. The Midwest is cool now. The mind reels. Have a good day.

Garrison Keillor is radio host and author.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Obama Victory: Lessons for the Left???

The importance of the Barack Obama victory cannot be overstated. It has changed America. Unprecedented events took place in order for that victory to taake place. Even though a majority of whites voted for John McCain, a majority of Americans, white, black, Latino, and all others, elected an African American community organizer to be its 44th President. While the politics at this stage have paid off, the inherent injustices of the capitalist system, as we know it, remain to be addressed. Michael Novick spells out how the left needs to learn from this election and push a progressive political agenda that is not nihilist and self-serving. Novick argues that organizing is the key the success of a left political agenda, not making demands. RGN

Obama's Election: Lessons for Defeating White Supremacy and Rebuilding
Revolutionary Resistance
by Michael Novick,
Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror (ARA-LA/PART)

The election of Barack Obama has been greeted in a variety of ways:
elation and relief (tempered by fear of a racist backlash or
assassination attempt) by supporters, particularly US Africans;
predictions of enhanced recruitment opportunity by organized white
supremacists; doomsday predictions by conservatives. On the left there
have been "exposes" of Obama's Zionism, militarism and dismissal of the
particular needs of Black people or the working class. A group of DC
anarchists has called for a disruption of his inaugural.

But any analysis needs to start from this reality: masses of people in
the US feel they have helped make and change history by electing Obama.
His victory is indeed historic in many ways. It required the largest
voter turnout ever, and the highest percentage of registered voters to
vote in decades. Obama gained a clear majority, the highest percentage by
a Democrat since FDR except for Johnson's landslide after the JFK
assassination. He ran the most expensive campaign in history. He is the
first "bi-racial" (called Black or African-American) president-elect, and
incidentally the first child of an immigrant, the first Hawaiian-born,
one of the youngest, and by far the least "embedded," president.
Moreover, his was the first victory by a self-proclaimed 'anti-war'
candidate in the midst of a war. But Obama's victory hardly signals that
we are a "post-racial" society, as evidenced by the self-contradictory
self-congratulation of those who proclaim that "by electing the first
Black president" we have shown that we are "color-blind." Exit polls
showed that about a fifth of 'white' voters acknowledged that "race" was
a significant factor. Interestingly, of those, 30% voted for Obama. One
explanation of this is the fact that Obama's race made his intellect
acceptable. US voters would never have elected a 'white' candidate as
obviously intelligent as Obama. Yet they accepted and understood that a
'Black' candidate would have to be twice as smart, twice as cool, as any
'white' to have a chance to succeed.

Paradoxically but perhaps most essentially, Obama's election is also a
manifestation of the extent of the radical left's weakness, irrelevance
and inability to communicate. Over the past eight years of Bush misrule,
what effective strategies or serious ability to develop a countervailing
force or consciousness has the left or the anarchist movement manifested?
In that vacuum, people made a judgment that Obama represented the best
hope for the kind of change that could be achieved through electoral
means. This was not merely because he was 'Black,' but because he was
intelligent, calm, organized, and an effective and reassuring campaigner.
McCain's charges of 'inexperience' didn't stick because Obama was
attractive specifically as a relative outsider not deeply corrupted by
long tenure in Washington, DC or in office. His mild centrist critique of
the Iraq war made 'sense' in a context in which the anti-war movement had
proven incapable of making a dent or marshaling an extra-parliamentary
opposition and resistance to the war. Within the Democratic Party
spectrum -- and the anti-war movement has been tailing the Democrats for
years-- he was the electable 'opponent' of the Iraq war.

To imagine that a proclamation of opposition to Obama's inauguration as a
capitalist, imperialist and statist will do anything to overcome the
left's weakness, irrelevance and inability to communicate -- in fact,
that it will do anything other than deepen and intensify those failures
-- is the height of arrogance. I have a different take on what we have to
do or learn in response to Obama's victory. It starts with the
perspective that the greatest on-going weakness of the left strategically
and politically is a refusal to recognize the nature of this society as
an Empire based on white-supremacist settler colonialism. Related to that
is our greatest tactical flaw, an inability to practice authentic
self-criticism, through which we learn from our errors and defeats in
order to eventually overcome them and win. Our failure to do that has
engendered a deep defeatism in masses of people
-- manifest as accommodation to Empire and unwillingness to struggle
against or even make a sharp break with the system.

One thing this election has demonstrated is how far into the past the
revolutionary militance of the civil rights and Black power movements and
the mass anti-imperialist opposition to the Vietnam War and domestic
colonialism have receded. McCain's inability to make the Bill Ayers smear
stick to Obama was because not only Obama but most of the electorate was
no older than 8, or perhaps not yet born, when Ayers was an
armed-propaganda radical. That period of revolutionary optimism, when the
Black Panther Party, the Black Liberation Army or the WUO were the tip of
the iceberg of a massive upwelling of rebelliousness and armed
resistance, is now ancient history. (Speaking of white privilege and
class, Obama never would have associated with ex-BLA members, nor would
any have been on the board of an Annenberg charity.) No amount of
posturing could "Recreate 68" (or even 2000) in Denver for the DNC or in
DC for the inaugural. 47% of high school seniors in the US today were
registered to vote in time for the election, and I suspect an
overwhelming majority of them cast their first ballots. They were born
while the first George Bush was president! Who better to speak to them
than Anti-Racist Action, which has historically been an attractor of high
schoolers? Yet ARA's current ability to do outreach, education, agitation
and organizing in high schools (or prisons, factories, community colleges
or the military) is miniscule.

The DC call relates that anarchists opposed and disrupted the last two
inaugurations, and therefore should do the same again. This flawed
reasoning lacks a material analysis of the consciousness of masses of
people in relation to the electoral process and the presidency. Bush's
two stolen victories undermined the authenticity and legitimacy of the
electoral process and of the imperial presidency. For his first
inaugural, he was anointed president by the Supreme Court after having
lost the popular vote. For his second, he was plagued by an unpopular war
and evidence of vote flipping and vote suppression. Protesters and
disrupters were speaking for millions when we denounced the inaugurals
and the presidency, and our message fell on receptive ears.

The current situation is far different, and blaming it on the voters is
another example of the left's lack of self-criticism and ability to grow.
Obama's victory signals a new lease on life for the presidency, electoral
politics and the two-party system. Obama won by a clear majority, in
which voter suppression was a negligible factor and in which all minor
parties together barely hit 1% of the vote, including McKinney, Nader,
Barr and Baldwin combined. His inauguration, even apart from the
historicity of his "Blackness," is being welcomed by the overwhelming
majority of the US population as proof of the "mystery and majesty" of
electoral democracy. In that context, a disruption wouldn't express the
unease of the general population in a radical and uncompromising way, but
would be taken as an alienating slap in the face. It wouldn't be seen as
a call to a higher form of direct democracy, but as a rejection of the
popular will expressed through a peaceful, honest and democratic election
and transfer of power.

Now is the time for a sober reassessment of how to grapple with these new
realities. Obama did not merely collect millions of dollars from hundreds
of thousands of people -- he established a relationship with them. He
organized effectively tens of thousands of volunteers, and turned out
tens of millions of people to vote. Why has the left or the anarchist
movement been incapable of inspiring, stimulating or organizing anywhere
near that level of support, involvement, voluntarism or participation?
How can we start to do so?

Obama accurately read the demographic, technological and ideological
changes that are taking place in the U.S. and effectively offered himself
and his campaign as a vehicle for implementing or realizing some of the
aspirations those changes have generated. Obama seized on the opportunity
of the latest and deepest capitalist economic crisis to develop a
compelling narrative of how a lack of regulation, a lack of attention to
the 'middle class,' and an arrogant unilateralism in 'foreign policy'
weakened the economy, national security and the fiscal stability of the
state. Neither the statist left nor the anarchists are anywhere close to
having the intellectual, political or organizational capacity to
challenge that narrative or that definition of "change."

Unless and until we engage in a thoroughgoing self-criticism and
re-orientation towards an anti-colonialist politics of decolonization as
the basis of an effective anti-capitalism, we will be playing with
ourselves on the sidelines of history.

We need to put forward and undertake effective organizing strategies, not
merely demands, for self-determined direct action against economic and
environmental devastation, mass incarceration, militarism, occupation and
anti-immigrant hysteria. We need to participate in building self-reliant
communities of resistance. It is only oppressed and exploited people who
can make revolution, and save the planet by saving ourselves. Go to the
25% of 'homeowners' who owe more on their mortgage than their home is
worth and unite them with the homeless. Go to 30% of "War on Terror"
veterans who report no earned wage income, and who have massive
unemployment rates, and help unite them with GI resisters, with teens
resisting recruitment, or with millions of prisoners and their families.
Then we can begin to make some history of our own.

The editorial above appears in the November-December 2008 issue of
"Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education,"
Volume 21 Number 6. A free sample copy of the entire issue is available
by writing ARA-LA, PO Box 1055, Culver City CA 90232, emailing, or calling 310-495-0299. (Give us your
postal mailing address, please.) Subscriptions are $18 a year in the US,
$28 institutional/international, payable to Anti-Racist Action at the
above address. Comments and responses are most welcome. PDFs of recent
back issues are available on-line at

Monday, November 17, 2008

Threats to Obama:

Obama Has More Threats Than Other Presidents-Elect
Friday 14 November 2008

by: The Associated Press
President-elect Barack Obama talks on the phone inside a car while a Secret Service agent watches. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

Washington - Threats against a new president historically spike right after an election, but from Maine to Idaho law enforcement officials are seeing more against Barack Obama than ever before. The Secret Service would not comment or provide the number of cases they are investigating. But since the Nov. 4 election, law enforcement officials have seen more potentially threatening writings, Internet postings and other activity directed at Obama than has been seen with any past president-elect, said officials aware of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because the issue of a president's security is so sensitive.

Earlier this week, the Secret Service looked into the case of a sign posted on a tree in Vay, Idaho, with Obama's name and the offer of a "free public hanging." In North Carolina, civil rights officials complained of threatening racist graffiti targeting Obama found in a tunnel near the North Carolina State University campus.

And in a Maine convenience store, an Associated Press reporter saw a sign inviting customers to join a betting pool on when Obama might fall victim to an assassin. The sign solicited $1 entries into "The Osama Obama Shotgun Pool," saying the money would go to the person picking the date closest to when Obama was attacked. "Let's hope we have a winner," said the sign, since taken down.

In the security world, anything "new" can trigger hostility, said Joseph Funk, a former Secret Service agent-turned security consultant who oversaw a private protection detail for Obama before the Secret Service began guarding the candidate in early 2007.

Obama, of course, will be the country's first black president, and Funk said that new element, not just race itself, is probably responsible for a spike in anti-Obama postings and activity. "Anytime you're going to have something that's new, you're going to have increased chatter," he said.

The Secret Service also has cautioned the public not to assume that any threats against Obama are due to racism.

The service investigates threats in a wide range. There are "stated threats" and equally dangerous or lesser incidents considered of "unusual interest" - such as people motivated by obsessions or infatuations or lower-level gestures such as effigies of a candidate or an elected president. The service has said it does not have the luxury of discounting anything until agents have investigated the potential danger.

Racially tinged graffiti - not necessarily directed at Obama - also has emerged in numerous reports across the nation since Election Day, prompting at least one news conference by a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Georgia.

A law enforcement official who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly said that during the campaign there was a spike in anti-Obama rhetoric on the Internet - "a lot of ranting and raving with no capability, credibility or specificity to it."

There were two threatening cases with racial overtones:

• In Denver, a group of men with guns and bulletproof vests made racist threats against Obama and sparked fears of an assassination plot during the Democratic National Convention in August.

• Just before the election, two skinheads in Tennessee were charged with plotting to behead blacks across the country and assassinate Obama while wearing white top hats and tuxedos.

In both cases, authorities determined the men were not capable of carrying out their plots.

In Milwaukee, police officials found a poster of Obama with a bullet going toward his head - discovered on a table in a police station.

Chatter among white supremacists on the Internet has increased throughout the campaign and since Election Day.

One of the most popular white supremacist Web sites got more than 2,000 new members the day after the election, compared with 91 new members on Election Day, according to an AP count. The site,, was temporarily off-line Nov. 5 because of the overwhelming amount of activity it received after Election Day. On Saturday, one Stormfront poster, identified as Dalderian Germanicus, of North Las Vegas, said, "I want the SOB laid out in a box to see how 'messiahs' come to rest. God has abandoned us, this country is doomed."

It is not surprising that a black president would galvanize the white supremacist movement, said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who studies the white supremacy movement.

"The overwhelming flavor of the white supremacist world is a mix of desperation, confusion and hoping that this will somehow turn into a good thing for them," Potok said. He said hate groups have been on the rise in the past seven years because of a common concern about immigration.

Associated Press writers Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington and Jerry Harkavy in Standish, Maine, contributed to this report.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Wallerstein on Obama's Victory

Wallerstein provides a sober progressive perspective on Obama's victory. First and foremost, he gives recognition to the historic importance of the election of Barack Obama as the first African-American to be President of the United States of America. He notes, however, that the "elephant in the room," "race" was not central to the Obama campaign. ("Race" may not have been a central issue for the Obama campaign, however, it goes without saying that it was for much of his white nationalist opposition.) On the other hand, the test of his importance will be how he deals issues of social and economic justice, with a high priority of withdrawing from the War in Iraq, righting the economy, and restoring civil liberties. The world has changed and Obama will be in the middle of that change. Wallerstein holds out "hope" for a successful Obama presidency. RGN

Commentary No. 245, Nov. 15, 2008

"Obama's Victory - Fear and Hope"

The whole of the United States and indeed the whole world was watching, and almost all of it was cheering, the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Although, during the electoral campaign, everyone tried to play down the centrality of the racial issue, on Nov. 4 it seemed that no one could talk of anything else. There are three central questions about what most commentators are calling this "historic event": How important is it? What explains the victory? What is likely to happen now?

On the evening of November 4, an immense crowd assembled in Grant Park, Chicago, to hear Obama's acceptance speech. All those who were watching U.S. television saw the camera zoom in on Jesse Jackson, who was in tears. Those tears reflect the virtually unanimous view of all African-Americans, who regard Obama's election as the moment of their definitive integration into the U.S. electoral process. They do not believe that racism has disappeared. But a symbolic barrier has been crossed, first of all for them, and then for all the rest of us.

Their sentiment is quite parallel to the feelings of Africans in South Africa on April 27, 1994 when they voted to elect Nelson Mandela president of their country. It has not mattered that Mandela, as president, did not fulfill the whole promise of his party. It will not matter if Obama does not fulfill the whole promise of his campaign. In the United States, as in South Africa, a new day has dawned. Even if it is an imperfect day, it is a better day than before. The African-Americans, but also the Hispanics and the young people in general, voted for Obama out of hope - a diffuse hope, but a real one.

How did Obama win? He won the way anyone wins in a large, complex political situation. He put together a large coalition of many different political forces. In this case, the gamut ran from fairly far left to right of center. He would not have won without that enormous range of support. And, of course, now that he has won, all the different groups want him to govern as each prefers, which is of course not possible.

Who are these different elements, and why did they support him? On the left, even the far left, they voted for Obama because of deep anger about the damage the Bush regime inflicted on the United States and the world, and the genuine fear that McCain would have been no better, perhaps worse. On the center-right, independents and many Republicans voted for him most of all because they had become aghast at the ever-increasing dominance of the Christian right in Republican party politics, a sentiment that was underlined by the choice of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate. These people voted for Obama because they were afraid of McCain/Palin and because Obama convinced them that he was a solid and sensible pragmatist.

And in-between these two groups were the so-called Reagan Democrats, largely industrial workers, often Catholics, often racist, who had tended to desert their Democratic party roots in recent elections because they viewed the party as having moved too far left and disapproved of its positions on social questions. These voters moved back to the Democratic party not because their outlook had changed, but because of fear. They were deeply afraid of the economic depression into which the United States has moved, and thought that their only hope was in a new New Deal. They voted for the Democrats despite the fact that Obama was an African-American. Fear conquered racism.

And what will Obama do now? What can Obama do now? It is still too early to be sure. It seems clear that he will move quickly to take advantage of a crisis situation, as his new Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, put it. I suspect we shall see a dramatic set of initiatives in the traditional first 100 days. And some of what Obama does may be surprising.

Still, there are two situations, the two biggest, that are largely beyond his control - the transformed geopolitics of the world-system, and the catastrophic world economic situation. Yes, the world received Obama's victory with joy, but also with prudence. It is notable that two major centers of power issued statements on the geopolitical scene that were quite forthright. Both the European Union in a unanimous statement and President Lula of Brazil said they looked forward to renewing collaboration with the United States, but this time as equals, not as junior partners.

Obama will pull out of Iraq more or less as promised, if for no other reason than the fact that the Iraqi government will insist upon it. He will try to find a graceful exit from Afghanistan, which will not be too easy. But whether he will do something significant in relation to the Israel/Palestine deadlock and whether he can look forward to a more stable Pakistan is very unsure. And he will have less to say about it than he may think. Can Obama accept the fact that the United States is no longer the world's leader, merely a partner with other power centers? And, even if he can, can he somehow get the American people to accept this new reality?

As for the depression, it will no doubt have to play out its course. Obama, like all the other major leaders in the world, is a captain on a very stormy sea, and can do relatively little more than try to keep his ship from sinking altogether.

Where Obama has some leeway is in the internal U.S. situation. There are three things where he is expected to act and can act, if he is ready to be bold. One is job creation. This can only be done effectively in the short run through government action. And it would be best done by investing in reconstructing the degraded infrastructure of the United States, and in measures to reverse environmental decline.

The second is the establishment, at last, of a decent health care structure in the United States, in which everyone, without exception, will be covered, and in which there will be considerable emphasis on preventive medicine.

And the third area is in undoing all the damage that has been done to basic civil liberties in the United States by the Bush administration, but also by prior administrations. This requires an overhauling both of the Department of Justice and the legal and paralegal apparatus that has been constructed in the last eight, but also the last thirty, years.

If Obama acts decisively in these three arenas, then we might say that this was a truly historic election, one in which the change that occurred was more than symbolic. But if he fails here, the letdown will be momentous.

Many are trying to divert his attention into the arenas in which he cannot do much, and in which his best position would be that of a lower profile, the acceptance of new world reality. There is much about Obama's future actions to fear, and much that offers hope.

by Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Obama Victory: Portrayed Around the World

Check out how the Obama victory played around the world~~!~~

Must see. Check it out!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Reagan Democrats: Their Demise

In reaction to the 1960s, Reagan catered to the racism and resistance of white autoworkers created the so-called "Reagan Democrats." In 1980, he brought his appeal to racism to Detroit for his Republican National Convention. Then he took off for Philadelphia, Mississippi for the Neshoba County Fair to deliver his first campaign speech. With Barack's election, this northern version of the Republican's "southern strategy" is likely dead as well. Stanley Greenberg's "Goodbye, Reagan Democrats" tells the story. RGN

November 11, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
Goodbye, Reagan Democrats

I’M finished with the Reagan Democrats of Macomb County in suburban Detroit after making a career of spotlighting their middle-class anger and frustrations about race and Democratic politicians. Bill Clinton wrote in his autobiography that my “extensive research on the so-called Reagan Democrats and what it would take to bring them home” was the reason he hired me as his pollster for his presidential campaign.

For more than 20 years, the non-college-educated white voters in Macomb County have been considered a “national political barometer,” as Ronald Brownstein of National Journal described them during the Democratic convention in August. After Ronald Reagan won the county by a 2-to-1 margin in 1984, Mr. Brownstein noted, I conducted focus groups that “found that these working-class whites interpreted Democratic calls for economic fairness as code for transfer payments to African-Americans.” So what do we think when Barack Obama, an African-American Democrat, wins Macomb County by eight points?

I conducted a survey of 750 Macomb County residents who voted Tuesday, and their responses put their votes in context. Before the Democratic convention, barely 40 percent of Macomb County voters were “comfortable” with the idea of Mr. Obama as president, far below the number who were comfortable with a nameless Democrat. But on Election Day, nearly 60 percent said they were “comfortable” with Mr. Obama. About the same number said Mr. Obama “shares your values” and “has what it takes to be president.”

Given Macomb’s history, this story helps illustrate America’s evolving relationship with race. These voters, like voters elsewhere, watched Mr. Obama intently and became confident he would work for all Americans and be the steady leader the times required. But focusing on the ways that Macomb County has become normal and uninteresting misses the extraordinary changes taking place next door in Oakland County — a place that played a bigger role in Mr. Obama’s success and perhaps in an emerging national Democratic ascendancy.

While Macomb County is home to the white middle class that America’s auto industry made possible, Oakland County is home to the affluent, business-oriented suburbanites of Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, some of the richest townships in America. Just a quarter of Macomb County residents have college degrees, but more than 40 percent do in Oakland.

Oakland County has formed part of the Republican heartland in Michigan and the country. From 1972 to 1988, Democratic presidential candidates in their best years lost the county by 20 points. From Bill Clinton to John Kerry, however, Democrats began to settle for a draw. Over the past two decades, Oakland County began to change, as an influx of teachers, lawyers and high-tech professionals began to outnumber the county’s business owners and managers. Macomb has been slow to welcome racial diversity, but almost a quarter of Oakland’s residents are members of various racial minorities.

These changes have produced a more tolerant and culturally liberal population, uncomfortable with today’s Republican Party. When we conducted our poll of 600 voters in Oakland County on election night, they were a lot more open than voters in Macomb to gay marriage and affirmative action. We asked those who voted for Mr. Obama why they made that choice. At the top of the list was his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq, followed by his support for tax cuts for the middle class and affordable health care for all, and the idea that he will bring people together, end the old politics and get things done.

On Tuesday, Oakland County voters gave Mr. Obama a 57 percent to 42 percent victory over John McCain — those 15 points translated into an astonishing 96,000-vote margin. That helped form one of the most important new national changes in the electorate: Mr. Obama built up striking dominance in the country’s growing, more diverse and well-educated suburbs.

So, good riddance, my Macomb barometer. Four years from now, I trust we will see the candidates rush from their conventions to Oakland County, to see the new America.

Stanley B. Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, is the author of the forthcoming “Dispatches From the War Room: In the Trenches With Five Extraordinary Leaders.”