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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.”

New York Times: White Nationalism Defeated....

Even though Barack Obama did not get a majority of the white vote, this Times article makes a strong case that white nationalism was defeated in this transformative election. While America might not be anew, American politics with Barack Obama as president will be anew. The divisiveness of white nationalism is no longer hegemonic. The discourse will be different. The anticipated overturning of right-wing Executive Orders, like more freedom when it comes to stem cell research, is just one example of a changed discourse. Political discourse in this country will no longer find support for Justice Department "hands off" when it comes to outrageous cases like the "Jena 6." Justice will be demanded and the political apparatus will find no need to capitulate to a "southern strategy." Elections have consequences and in this transformation white nationalism has been marginalized. RGN


November 11, 2008
For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics

VERNON, Ala. — Fear of the politician with the unusual name and look did not end with last Tuesday’s vote in this rural red swatch where buck heads and rifles hang on the wall. This corner of the Deep South still resonates with negative feelings about the race of President-elect Barack Obama.

What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics. By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.

The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”

One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their Confederate past and supporting Mr. Obama. Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years, pointing them in a different political direction than states farther west, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and Appalachian sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.

Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.

The increased turnout in the South’s so-called Black Belt, or old plantation-country counties, was visible in the results, but it generally could not make up for the solid white support for Mr. McCain. Alabama, for example, experienced a heavy black turnout and voted slightly more Democratic than in 2004, but the state over all gave 60 percent of its vote to Mr. McCain. (Arkansas, however, doubled the margin of victory it gave to the Republican over 2004.)

Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies on issues like welfare and tax policy, experts say.

That could spell the end of the so-called Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Richard M. Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics — which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many Congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton were from the South — appears to have ended.

“I think that’s absolutely over,” said Thomas Schaller, a political scientist who argued prophetically that the Democrats could win national elections without the South.

The Republicans, meanwhile, have “become a Southernized party,” said Mr. Schaller, who teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “They have completely marginalized themselves to a mostly regional party,” he said, pointing out that nearly half of the current Republican House delegation is now Southern.

Merle Black, an expert on the region’s politics at Emory University in Atlanta, said the Republican Party went too far in appealing to the South, alienating voters elsewhere.

“They’ve maxed out on the South,” he said, which has “limited their appeal in the rest of the country.”

Even the Democrats made use of the Southern strategy, as the party’s two presidents in the last 40 years, Jimmy Carter and Mr. Clinton, were Southerners whose presence on the ticket served to assuage regional anxieties. Mr. Obama has now proved it is no longer necessary to include a Southerner on the national ticket — to quiet racial fears, for example — in order to win, in the view of analysts.

Several Southern states, including Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, have voted for the winner in presidential elections for decades. No more. And Mr. Obama’s race appears to have been the critical deciding factor in pushing ever greater numbers of white Southerners away from the Democrats.

Here in Alabama, where Mr. McCain won 60.4 percent of the vote in his best Southern showing, he had the support of nearly 9 in 10 whites, according to exit polls, a figure comparable to other Southern states. Alabama analysts pointed to the persistence of traditional white Southern attitudes on race as the deciding factor in Mr. McCain’s strong margin. Mr. Obama won in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Birmingham, and in the Black Belt, but he made few inroads elsewhere.

“Race continues to play a major role in the state,” said Glenn Feldman, a historian at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “Alabama, unfortunately, continues to remain shackled to the bonds of yesterday.”

David Bositis, senior political analyst at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, pointed out that the 18 percent share of whites that voted for Senator John Kerry in 2004 was almost cut in half for Mr. Obama.

“There’s no other explanation than race,” he said.

In Arkansas, which had among the nation’s largest concentration of counties increasing their support for the Republican candidate over the 2004 vote, “there’s a clear indication that racial conservatism was a component of that shift away from the Democrat,” said Jay Barth, a political scientist in the state.

Race was a strong subtext in post-election conversations across the socioeconomic spectrum here in Vernon, the small, struggling seat of Lamar County on the Mississippi border.

One white woman said she feared that blacks would now become more “aggressive,” while another volunteered that she was bothered by the idea of a black man “over me” in the White House.

Mr. McCain won 76 percent of the county’s vote, about five percentage points more than Mr. Bush did, because “a lot more people came out, hoping to keep Obama out,” Joey Franks, a construction worker, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save.

Mr. Franks, who voted for Mr. McCain, said he believed that “over 50 percent voted against Obama for racial reasons,” adding that in his own case race mattered “a little bit. That’s in my mind.”

Many people made it clear that they were deeply apprehensive about Mr. Obama, though some said they were hoping for the best.

“I think any time you have someone elected president of the United States with a Muslim name, whether they are white or black, there are some very unsettling things,” George W. Newman, a director at a local bank and the former owner of a trucking business, said over lunch at Yellow Creek Fish and Steak.

Don Dollar, the administrative assistant at City Hall, said bitterly that anyone not upset with Mr. Obama’s victory should seek religious forgiveness.

“This is a community that’s supposed to be filled with a bunch of Christian folks,” he said. “If they’re not disappointed, they need to be at the altar.”

Customers of Bill Pennington, a barber whose downtown shop is decorated with hunting and fishing trophies, were “scared because they heard he had a Muslim background,” Mr. Pennington said over the country music on the radio. “Over and over again I heard that.”

Mr. Obama remains an unknown quantity in this corner of the South, and there are deep worries about the changes he will bring.

“I am concerned,” Gail McDaniel, who owns a cosmetics business, said in the parking lot of the Shop and Save. “The abortion thing bothers me. Same-sex marriage.”

“I think there are going to be outbreaks from blacks,” she added. “From where I’m from, this is going to give them the right to be more aggressive.”

Ford Fessenden contributed reporting.

For graphics see the full article

Monday, November 10, 2008

Krugman, FDR, and Obama

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman gives Obama the license to be bold. He argues that FDR, while right on establishment of institutions, like FDIC and Social Security, he was timid in other aspects of his economic policies. His public works programs provide of the infrastructure that we take for granted. Though impressive the gains of these programs for the economy were offset by other policies and tax hikes. While the public spending will be helpful, the real growth and progress will be the legacy of the institutions, for example a universal health care system, and similar institutions that will be lasting and support a broad base of the American people. RGN

November 10, 2008
Franklin Delano Obama?
By Paul Krugman

Suddenly, everything old is New Deal again. Reagan is out; F.D.R. is in. Still, how much guidance does the Roosevelt era really offer for today’s world?

The answer is, a lot. But Barack Obama should learn from F.D.R.’s failures as well as from his achievements: the truth is that the New Deal wasn’t as successful in the short run as it was in the long run. And the reason for F.D.R.’s limited short-run success, which almost undid his whole program, was the fact that his economic policies were too cautious.

About the New Deal’s long-run achievements: the institutions F.D.R. built have proved both durable and essential. Indeed, those institutions remain the bedrock of our nation’s economic stability. Imagine how much worse the financial crisis would be if the New Deal hadn’t insured most bank deposits. Imagine how insecure older Americans would feel right now if Republicans had managed to dismantle Social Security.

Can Mr. Obama achieve something comparable? Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s new chief of staff, has declared that “you don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste.” Progressives hope that the Obama administration, like the New Deal, will respond to the current economic and financial crisis by creating institutions, especially a universal health care system, that will change the shape of American society for generations to come.

But the new administration should try not to emulate a less successful aspect of the New Deal: its inadequate response to the Great Depression itself.

Now, there’s a whole intellectual industry, mainly operating out of right-wing think tanks, devoted to propagating the idea that F.D.R. actually made the Depression worse. So it’s important to know that most of what you hear along those lines is based on deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. The New Deal brought real relief to most Americans.

That said, F.D.R. did not, in fact, manage to engineer a full economic recovery during his first two terms. This failure is often cited as evidence against Keynesian economics, which says that increased public spending can get a stalled economy moving. But the definitive study of fiscal policy in the ’30s, by the M.I.T. economist E. Cary Brown, reached a very different conclusion: fiscal stimulus was unsuccessful “not because it does not work, but because it was not tried.”

This may seem hard to believe. The New Deal famously placed millions of Americans on the public payroll via the Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps. To this day we drive on W.P.A.-built roads and send our children to W.P.A.-built schools. Didn’t all these public works amount to a major fiscal stimulus?

Well, it wasn’t as major as you might think. The effects of federal public works spending were largely offset by other factors, notably a large tax increase, enacted by Herbert Hoover, whose full effects weren’t felt until his successor took office. Also, expansionary policy at the federal level was undercut by spending cuts and tax increases at the state and local level.

And F.D.R. wasn’t just reluctant to pursue an all-out fiscal expansion — he was eager to return to conservative budget principles. That eagerness almost destroyed his legacy. After winning a smashing election victory in 1936, the Roosevelt administration cut spending and raised taxes, precipitating an economic relapse that drove the unemployment rate back into double digits and led to a major defeat in the 1938 midterm elections.

What saved the economy, and the New Deal, was the enormous public works project known as World War II, which finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs.

This history offers important lessons for the incoming administration.
The political lesson is that economic missteps can quickly undermine an electoral mandate. Democrats won big last week — but they won even bigger in 1936, only to see their gains evaporate after the recession of 1937-38. Americans don’t expect instant economic results from the incoming administration, but they do expect results, and Democrats’ euphoria will be short-lived if they don’t deliver an economic recovery.

The economic lesson is the importance of doing enough. F.D.R. thought he was being prudent by reining in his spending plans; in reality, he was taking big risks with the economy and with his legacy. My advice to the Obama people is to figure out how much help they think the economy needs, then add 50 percent. It’s much better, in a depressed economy, to err on the side of too much stimulus than on the side of too little.

In short, Mr. Obama’s chances of leading a new New Deal depend largely on whether his short-run economic plans are sufficiently bold. Progressives can only hope that he has the necessary audacity.

Frank Rich on the Morning After

The morning after?? Frank Rich spells out what the transformation is looking like. From the omnipresent white nationalism of Karl Rove et al, the election of Barack Obama as president is indicative of a changed America. While there are and will be many bumps along the way, America elected a black man as the leader of the so-called Free World. RGN

November 9, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
It Still Felt Good the Morning After
ON the morning after a black man won the White House, America’s tears of catharsis gave way to unadulterated joy.

Our nation was still in the same ditch it had been the day before, but the atmosphere was giddy. We felt good not only because we had breached a racial barrier as old as the Republic. Dawn also brought the realization that we were at last emerging from an abusive relationship with our country’s 21st-century leaders. The festive scenes of liberation that Dick Cheney had once imagined for Iraq were finally taking place — in cities all over America.

For eight years, we’ve been told by those in power that we are small, bigoted and stupid — easily divided and easily frightened. This was the toxic catechism of Bush-Rove politics. It was the soiled banner picked up by the sad McCain campaign, and it was often abetted by an amen corner in the dominant news media. We heard this slander of America so often that we all started to believe it, liberals most certainly included. If I had a dollar for every Democrat who told me there was no way that Americans would ever turn against the war in Iraq or definitively reject Bush governance or elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama president, I could almost start to recoup my 401(k). Few wanted to take yes for an answer.

So let’s be blunt. Almost every assumption about America that was taken as a given by our political culture on Tuesday morning was proved wrong by Tuesday night.

The most conspicuous clichés to fall, of course, were the twin suppositions that a decisive number of white Americans wouldn’t vote for a black presidential candidate — and that they were lying to pollsters about their rampant racism. But the polls were accurate. There was no “Bradley effect.” A higher percentage of white men voted for Obama than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton included.

Obama also won all four of those hunting-and-Hillary-loving Rust Belt states that became 2008’s obsession among slumming upper-middle-class white journalists: Pennsylvania and Michigan by double digits, as well as Ohio and even Indiana, which has gone Democratic only once (1964) since 1936. The solid Republican South, led by Virginia and North Carolina, started to turn blue as well. While there are still bigots in America, they are in unambiguous retreat.

And what about all those terrified Jews who reportedly abandoned their progressive heritage to buy into the smears libeling Obama as an Israel-hating terrorist? Obama drew a larger percentage of Jews nationally (78) than Kerry had (74) and — mazel tov, Sarah Silverman! — won Florida.

Let’s defend Hispanic-Americans, too, while we’re at it. In one of the more notorious observations of the campaign year, a Clinton pollster, Sergio Bendixen, told The New Yorker in January that “the Hispanic voter — and I want to say this very carefully — has not shown a lot of willingness or affinity to support black candidates.” Let us say very carefully that a black presidential candidate won Latinos — the fastest-growing demographic in the electorate — 67 percent to 31 (up from Kerry’s 53-to-44 edge and Gore’s 62-to-35).

Young voters also triumphed over the condescension of the experts. “Are they going to show up?” Cokie Roberts of ABC News asked in February. “Probably not. They never have before. By the time November comes, they’ll be tired.” In fact they turned up in larger numbers than in 2004, and their disproportionate Democratic margin made a serious difference, as did their hard work on the ground. They’re not the ones who need Geritol.

The same commentators who dismissed every conceivable American demographic as racist, lazy or both got Sarah Palin wrong too. When she made her debut in St. Paul, the punditocracy was nearly uniform in declaring her selection a brilliant coup. There hadn’t been so much instant over-the-top praise by the press for a cynical political stunt since President Bush “landed” a jet on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln in that short-lived triumph “Mission Accomplished.”

The rave reviews for Palin were completely disingenuous. Anyone paying attention (with the possible exception of John McCain) could see she was woefully ill-equipped to serve half-a-heartbeat away from the presidency. The conservatives Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy said so on MSNBC when they didn’t know their mikes were on. But, hey, she was a dazzling TV presence, the thinking went, so surely doltish Americans would rally around her anyway. “She killed!” cheered Noonan about the vice-presidential debate, revising her opinion upward and marveling at Palin’s gift for talking “over the heads of the media straight to the people.” Many talking heads thought she tied or beat Joe Biden.

The people, however, were reaching a less charitable conclusion and were well ahead of the Beltway curve in fleeing Palin. Only after polls confirmed that she was costing McCain votes did conventional wisdom in Washington finally change, demoting her from Republican savior to scapegoat overnight.

But Palin’s appeal wasn’t overestimated only because of her kitschy “American Idol” star quality. Her fierce embrace of the old Karl Rove wedge politics, the divisive pitting of the “real America” against the secular “other” America, was also regarded as a sure-fire winner. The second most persistent assumption by both pundits and the McCain campaign this year — after the likely triumph of racism — was that the culture war battlegrounds from 2000 and 2004 would remain intact.

This is true in exactly one instance: gay civil rights. Though Rove’s promised “permanent Republican majority” lies in humiliating ruins, his and Bush’s one secure legacy will be their demagogic exploitation of homophobia. The success of the four state initiatives banning either same-sex marriage or same-sex adoptions was the sole retro trend on Tuesday. And Obama, who largely soft-pedaled the issue this year, was little help. In California, where other races split more or less evenly on a same-sex marriage ban, some 70 percent of black voters contributed to its narrow victory.

That lagging indicator aside, nearly every other result on Tuesday suggests that while the right wants to keep fighting the old boomer culture wars, no one else does. Three state initiatives restricting abortion failed. Bill Ayers proved a lame villain, scaring no one. Americans do not want to revisit Vietnam (including in Iraq). For all the attention paid by the news media and McCain-Palin to rancorous remembrances of things past, I sometimes wondered whether most Americans thought the Weather Underground was a reunion band and the Hanoi Hilton a chain hotel. Socialism, the evil empire and even Ronald Reagan may be half-forgotten blurs too.

If there were any doubts the 1960s are over, they were put to rest Tuesday night when our new first family won the hearts of the world as it emerged on that vast blue stage to join the celebration in Chicago’s Grant Park. The bloody skirmishes that took place on that same spot during the Democratic convention 40 years ago — young vs. old, students vs. cops, white vs. black — seemed as remote as the moon. This is another America — hardly a perfect or prejudice-free America, but a union that can change and does, aspiring to perfection even if it can never achieve it.

Still, change may come slowly to the undying myths bequeathed to us by the Bush decade. “Don’t think for a minute that power concedes,” Obama is fond of saying. Neither does groupthink. We now keep hearing, for instance, that America is “a center-right nation” — apparently because the percentages of Americans who call themselves conservative (34), moderate (44) and liberal (22) remain virtually unchanged from four years ago. But if we’ve learned anything this year, surely it’s that labels are overrated. Those same polls find that more and more self-described conservatives no longer consider themselves Republicans. Americans now say they favor government doing more (51 percent), not less (43) — an 11-point swing since 2004 — and they still overwhelmingly reject the Iraq war. That’s a centrist country tilting center-left, and that’s the majority who voted for Obama.

The post-Bush-Rove Republican Party is in the minority because it has driven away women, the young, suburbanites, black Americans, Latino-Americans, Asian-Americans, educated Americans, gay Americans and, increasingly, working-class Americans. Who’s left? The only states where the G.O.P. increased its percentage of the presidential vote relative to the Democrats were West Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas. Even the North Carolina county where Palin expressed her delight at being in the “real America” went for Obama by more than 18 percentage points.

The actual real America is everywhere. It is the America that has been in shell shock since the aftermath of 9/11, when our government wielded a brutal attack by terrorists as a club to ratchet up our fears, betray our deepest constitutional values and turn Americans against one another in the name of “patriotism.” What we started to remember the morning after Election Day was what we had forgotten over the past eight years, as our abusive relationship with the Bush administration and its press enablers dragged on: That’s not who we are.

So even as we celebrated our first black president, we looked around and rediscovered the nation that had elected him. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” Obama said in February, and indeed millions of such Americans were here all along, waiting for a leader. This was the week that they reclaimed their country.