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President-Elect Obama and Getting the Change We Deserve

By Dave Lindorff

Now that the street dancing is over, and President-elect Barack Obama is measuring the drapes for the new Oval Office (let’s hope he loses the mounted Saddam Hussein matching pistol set and that he has the direct hard-wired link between the Vice President’s Office and the Pentagon severed), it’s time to start focusing on how to make this new president live up to his mantra of “Change We Can Believe In.”

Well over 65 million people voted Obama in on the belief that he meant what he said with that largely empty slogan. They are going to be hugely disappointed if he doesn’t deliver.

Yet Obama’s first steps as president-to-be are not promising. His first official appointment, naming Rep. Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff, was probably the worst possible sign of “No Change.” Emanuel, a fellow member of the Chicago political gang, far from being something new, is a relic of the Clinton administration, where he served as a political strategist, pushing the disastrous “triangulation” strategy that gave us the end of welfare benefits for poor women, the gutting of habeas corpus, deregulation of the banking system, and an economic program that favored bond traders over working people. Worse yet, the naming to such a key post of Emanuel, a rabid Zionist who actually holds dual US and Israeli citizenship and was a member of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), will poison Obama’s chances to broker a real, lasting peace deal between Israel and Palestine by aligning him clearly with the Israeli side in every Palestinian’s eyes.

Other appointments aren’t likely to be much better. Obama’s advisers during the campaign, especially on economics and foreign policy, have been not forward-thinking “change”-oriented outsiders, but rather hoary old-timers like Paul Adolph Volcker and Zbigniew Brezinsky (both veterans of the Carter presidency!). Why would we expect his cabinet appointments to be any different? (I recently attended a talk that featured Volcker, who was Federal Reserve Chairman under Carter and Reagan, along with Nobel economists Robert Mundell and Joseph Stiglitz. Volcker sounded almost senile as he rambled on and on in a barely comprehensible mumble about the need for a “global” currency.)

But the point is, no one should have expected anything different from Obama. Let’s face it; If he had run a campaign using Stiglitz as his chief economic policy guy and Ramsey Clark as his foreign policy expert, his candidacy would have gone down in flames. And don’t tell me `Good, we should have all voted for Ralph Nader.’” The political left in the US is a pathetic joke. Instead of a unified third party on the left, we had that 1-5% sliver of the electorate divided between independent Ralph Nader and Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney! How stupid is that? If the left cannot unite when its public standing and support is so pathetically small, how can it expect anyone to back it (I’m being generous here in using the singular to describe such a fractured group of people)?

No, it was correct to elect Obama. Failure to do so (and remember, he only won the popular vote by a slender 6-percent margin, and many of the key states that provided his much larger electoral vote victory were won by margins that thin or thinner including 034 percent in North Carolina), would have meant a President John “Bomb-Bomb” McCain and his loopy VP Sarah Palin.

But as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and others, myself included, have long said, change in America has not for the most part been made from the top down, or through the electoral process. It has been the result of political struggle in the workplace, on the campus and most importantly in the streets. And that brings us to where we are today.

Progressives should complain loudly at the pathetic nominations that Obama is making to his new administration. The new president-elect should take heat for appointing old Clintonian hacks and for “reaching out” to Republicans in the interest of “bi-partisanship.” But more importantly, we on the left need to work hard to organize, demonstrate, and protest to achieve our goals and to make President Obama and the new solidly Democratic Congress do the right (left) thing.

For me, the two most important issues we need to focus laser-like upon are ending the wars, and obtaining worker rights.

It is time to plan a massive march, to coincide with Inauguration Day, to demand a prompt end to the Iraq War and occupation, and a negotiated solution to the chaotic war in Afghanistan. The protest should also demand an end to the so-called “War” on Terror, beginning with the immediate closing of Guantanamo’s prison, and of all the black sites around the world.

Secondly, the left and the labor movement need to organize a million-worker march on Washington--hell, a two-million worker march--to demand immediate passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a long-delayed reform of US labor law that would end almost 50 years of bias against workers that has seen employers able to simply flout the law and prevent workers from forming unions. Under the proposed act, which already passed the House in the last session of Congress only to die in the Senate (before having a chance to be killed by the president), workers would no longer have to go through years of delay trying to get a secret-ballot election in the workplace; they would only have to obtain signed cards supporting a union from a majority of employees. It would mandate that employers bargain in good faith with a new union, and would mandate a contract if management stonewalled negotiations. It would also, for the first time, impose penalties for violating workers rights—for example firing union activists and their supporters.

Why is this bill so important? Because without a powerful labor movement, we will never see the Democratic Party, or any third party of the left, become a serious force for progressive change. It is working people, and only working people, organized into powerful unions, who have the potential of pushing the government into making progressive change, but with union representation now down to less than 8 percent of the private workforce, and 13 percent of the entire workforce, counting public employees, what chance is there of such a thing happening?

Polls over the years have consistently shown that, despite all the media propaganda against unions, and the lack of any education about the union movement or the importance of unions in our schools, between 60% and 70% of American workers nonetheless say that they would like to have a union on their job if they could get one. The problem is, with the laws and the Labor Relations Boards stacked against them, they cannot get a union, and indeed, put their jobs and their families at risk by even trying to get one.

Obama and most of the Democrats who won election in this cycle have pledged to pass this act this year. They also owe their victories to the extraordinary effort that what’s left of the labor movement put into getting them elected. Workers and leftists of all stripes need to act now to demand that they make good on that promise and on the debt that they owe.

It is the first essential step in moving a President Obama and a Democratic Congress—as of now still in the grip of the corporatocracy, with little in the way of any countervailing organized pressure from the left—in a progressive direction.

The time for dancing is over, but nothing is easy. Now it’s time for marching, for shouting, for sitting in and for organizing to get the “Change” we’ve earned.
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphie-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at

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Our job is to organize mass mobilizations saying “Yes We Can!” to:
• End imperial wars of aggression now
• Return our country to the rule of law
• Hold accountable those in charge who have violated both the law and the sacred trust given to them
• Rebuild out country by committing to a policy of full employment at a livable wage for all Americans
• Eliminate health insurance companies with single payer healthcare for all
• End corporate welfare for Wall Street
• End the stranglehold on our democracy by the Democratic and Republican Parties

“That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Nick Egnatz
NW Indiana Veterans For Peace

This is unacceptable, please tll me what is going to change these folks Obama, Emanuel,Pelosi,etc all carried out the agenda put forward the corperate run war government. We need to make this stop. Chris Dorsey, RVA4Peace

Dave, "They are going to be hugely disappointed if he doesn’t deliver." Huh?

The slogan is "WE", not "he". WE now have opportunities we never had under the Bush Regime .

I hope nobody expects him to clean up this Neocon mess all by himself, after all, these neocons have been plotting this coup since 1996 (Telecommunications Act of 1996, IASPS "Clean Break" in 1996, PNAC in 1997). His supporters do not believe Obama is "Jesus" , but his detractors are going to spin it that way. Let's stay focused on the WE in "Yes, we can!". We can always help Obama to stay focused too, remember he IS human.

IMPEACH BUSHCO & RICO PNAC/FARA AIPAC...PNAC is Bush/Cheney's "Helter Skelter" !


The neocons who devised this coup, beginning with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, IASPS "Clean Break" in 1996 and PNAC in 1997 -- all of which came about due to a partially impeached Bill Clinton, who in turn, became the neocons' puppet -- are the ones who must be driven out, especially from those institutions which are part of the institution of the U.S. Presidency, as well as prodding the American people to not lapse back into a state of apathetic complacency by encouraging them to get involved in the task of assisting in cleaning up the neocon mess.

In his acceptance speech on Election Night, Obama made it very clear that he can't clean up this mess all by himself; it will also take the participation of the American people to get the job done. So, we've been given the challenge to start making lemonade, and preparing ourselves to act like the owners of this unique form of government (which we are).

Have you got that juicer ready, along with a 10 lb. bag of sugar, several gallons of good, cold water and plenty of biodegradable plastic cups? I hope so, 'cause we've got a ginormous bag of lemons which are ready to become gallons of tasty lemonade...

I must admit though, I had champagne election's just a landslide thing (tee~hee).
I'll get busy with that juicer now, WOO-HOO I sure do luv homemade lemonade !!!

IMPEACH BUSHCO & RICO PNAC/FARA AIPAC...PNAC is Bush/Cheney's "Helter Skelter" !


I couldn't say it any better yankhadenuf.

Over the years I've heard many of my friends utter the words, "I don't want to get involved, because it won't do any good, for my input doesn't get counted."

If Obama had any message at all, it would counter all these old statements.

I think to, that the blame game being applied to corporations needs to be loosened, for if it wasn't for them there would be little or no employment, certainly a lot less. Another mis-truth in the United States, is the so-called employers paying employees under the table. If we are going to be a nation of laws, as out fathers founded us, then it must be applied equally. The scam by dishonest employers, including farmers, that break the law,,,should be held accountable. Otherwise, this is about as fair as electing Ted Stevens, from the state of Alaska, in spite of the fact he is a convicted felon. Seems to me, ever vote for Stevens was done by voters ignorant of the reasons why the United States stands proudly above others.

If you are relying on obama to make real change don't hold your breath.

Obama is bought and paid for by corporations and israel not "we the people"!

David misses the point. The reason Rahm Emanuel was chosen for this role is precisely because he is a pitbull - Salon describes him as Obama's "designated asshole". It'll be his task to tell Sweeney, Stern and others who expect the Administration to deliver on the Employee Free Choice Act or health care to sod off .. and point out that they really have no other choice but to support Obama in the future with 2012 looming in the distance.

It's the Chicago way.

As long as there are 'professional' politicians (WTF is with THAT anyway?!?), be prepared for more of the same...

Sadly, until there is real change in the attitudes of the collective, and in the human condition itself, expect no change at all...


The Doktor

"It's called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it." - George Carlin

"Sadly, until there is real change in the attitudes of the collective, and in the human condition itself, expect no change at all..."

Silly passive fatalism.

Dave, a most interesting thing I have noticed reading is that no other country in the world is obsessing, or even talking much in their press, about whether Obama should tone-down the mandate that he received in his majoritarian victory, and "govern from the center" despite the fact that he was elected by the widest swath of voters of all races, origins, ethnicity, geography, age, religion, and educational background in an American democratic election.

This strange caution, moderation, intimidation, retreat, quiescence, and deferral to the losing 'interests' in our election seems to be of unique concern only to the American media the world over.

While all foreign media the world over seem to delight in Obama's strong mandate and are speculating on what a favorable effect it will have on reducing US hubris and unilateral hegemony, only the US press seems to question this popular and salutary mandate.

Naturally, one would expect right-wing media and Republican biased newspapers and web sites to be licking their wounds and 'advising' moderation against any leftward shift. But I notice the whole spectrum of the mainstream media to be warning and preaching caution in 'rocking the boat' --- or maybe rocking the yacht.

Certainly, in reading Rahm Emanuel’s interview with the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, I now know how Obama is being advised to govern based on his massive popular mandate from all aspects and segments of the vast majority of voters including; race, origin, age, religion, geography, ethnicity, and education among the ‘working class’ who voted for him.

Emanuel said Obama will be bipartisan, pragmatic, flexible, and progressive, but without "over-reaching", or claiming any "mandate", and by governing “from the center”.

Talk about Clinton’s complex ‘triangulating’ with the right? Obama is being told to octangulate with the right, even though they lost the election --- by an historic margin!

In addition to the pressure to shrink and delay his agenda by the mainstream center-right, and center-left media, Obama is also getting it from the pseudo-left/progressive media and 'independent' web sites.

Sadly, I have noticed a number of supposedly left/progressive web journalism sites already implementing an iron clad 'no pressuring Obama' rule in what they publish, and in some cases even censoring and banning readers and posters who question or argue against articles recommending that Obama reduce, repress, and delay progressive issues in an attempt to 'appease' right-center, financial interests from both parties.

Naturally, most articles 'advising' such 'appeasement' are of the ilk of David Brooks' in the NY Times, WSJ editorials, right-wing 'think-tanks', as well as DLC types on the Democrat's side.

Don't be surprised to see any strongly-worded and genuine left/progressive posts that you may write to supposedly left/progressive sites starting to get 'filtered-out' (IE. censored) ---- its already happened to me.

Alan MacDoanld --- Sanford, Maine

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