The Obama Victory: Handle as Little and as Gently as Possible

By Kevin Gosztola
 
Both Sunday editions of the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times provided souvenir pullouts or sections for those wishing to have another item to commemorate this historic election.
 
Since Wednesday, November 5th, Obama supporters and those who realized the historic significance of Obama's win have been buying up or grabbing anything with Obama on it so they can be sure they "remember" this moment forever and have memorabilia to share with their children and grandchildren later on in life.
The Tribune was aware of the fact that people would want to preserve this moment by hanging on to newspapers detailing the Obama win, and they included a section in the Sunday edition on how to keep newspapers "as good as new."
 
For people with Wednesday editions of the Sun-Times or Tribune (Nov. 5th), the director of conservation services at the Newberry Library in Chicago suggested that those wanting to keep newspapers as good as new should: keep it in a cool and dry place, keep it in a dark place, keep it away from the sun (if on display), never put tape or sticky notes on the paper, and suggests that everyone understand plastic bags (even those that lock out the air) aren't necessarily guaranteed to keep newspapers new.
 
Also, the Tribune encouraged people to check out the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) and posted a link on their website for readers to go to.
 
The AIC suggests that those with newspapers handle them as little and as gently as possible, make sure hands are freshly washed, transport them in folders and remove individual items with both hands, and do not undertake repairs on your own. They also emphasize that choice of materials for storage of exhibition and storage is critical and therefore, mats, folders, and storage boxes should be made of cotton rage or 100 percent chemically purified woodpulp with an alkali reserve equivalent to two percent calcium carbonate and buffered to a pH of 7.5 to 10.
 
Many may heed the suggestions of the AIC when choosing to conserve and protect their gathered treasures from the past week. (The AIC website also offers ways to conserve and protect items other than newspapers.) But, unfortunately, it seems like some of the suggestions may be considered when approaching Obama and his administration too.
 
Progressives/liberals might worry extensively about mucking up or tarnishing a good thing. This may prevention action toward real change.
 
The climate of defensiveness and fear created by the Bush Regime, the most recidivist criminal regime in the history of America, has had the majority of Americans paralyzed and demoralized for much of the past eight years. And those who dared to organize against the regime always doubted their ability to actually achieve a victory because they knew Bush would never listen.
 
Now, progressives and liberals and other Americans think Obama will listen. And, if his transition website, Change.gov, is any indication, they may be right that Obama will look to the bottom for ideas for changes to be implemented from the top.
 
But, it must be noted that Obama doesn't owe progressives and liberals anything. Progressives and liberals didn't put Obama over the top. The narrative will not give credit to progressives or liberals for giving Obama a win and the narrative will never properly show the role progressives or liberals played because it was always expected that they would vote for Obama.
 
Republicans, moderates, "centrists", and so-called independents are who Obama owes because they were responsible for his victory.
 
White people and corporations---that's who Obama owes. They were greatly responsible for his victory.
The Sun-Times on Sunday put the win into perspective saying, "None of this could have happened without white support." And, "Obama needs whites to make the American Dream work for all."
Progressives and liberals made few demands of Obama before the election and asked very few questions about his capitulation during his campaign preferring to believe the adage, "he's just saying it to get elected", and virtually ignore any of Obama's shortcomings.
 
Obama didn't earn the progressive and liberal vote and he didn't work to earn that vote because his campaign knew progressives and liberals wouldn't have the guts to risk their future by putting Obama's future at risk by voting for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. (Don't believe me? Glenn Greenwald showed how Obama could vote against progressives and liberals when the FISA Amendment came to the floor of Congress in the summer because they would not vote for John McCain.)
 
Since progressive and liberal voters were guaranteed to vote for Obama, after the primary Obama was free to practice the art of rhetoric accommodation and go about business as usual , which involved, according to the Sunday edition of the Sun-Times, a "cohesive" campaign that was "drama-proof" and had "discipline and consistency." Such discipline and consistency, certain positions staked out right of center, and lack of discussion on key issues allowed for Obama to ensure that moderates, "centrists", Republicans, and so-called independent voters would vote for him.
 
In addition to this discouraging reality, Obama was not and still is not a man with a challenging personality. He does not appear to have the capacity to speak truth to plutocratic power by organizing people to stand up to the plutocracy with democratic power. He does not appear to want to rally the masses to throw off the private economic power that controls Washington. He appears to not want to confront the rise of fascism.
Obama does not wish to oppose the white power structure. The white power structure, for Obama, is the elephant in the room and something progressives and liberals will have to encourage Obama to confront.
 
A significant amount of support for Obama came from the white power structure, and while confronting the white power structure might lead to a crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos and improve problems poor Whites, poor Hispanics, and poor African-Americans have with payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead, segregated public schools, voter disenfranchisement, predatory military recruiters, etc., the probability that Obama opposes the corporate power and special interests in Washington is unlikely. Obama would not do anything to alienate the powers that be.
Obama was largely victorious because of statements he made about being able to bring together all parties, be inclusive, and form a consensus on the most pressing problems America is facing. Therefore, Obama will most likely choose to not squander the reputation he built during his campaign by taking a decisive stand against corporate power, which is a parasitic leech on the backside of consumers and the people of America.
 
The Tribune on Sunday acknowledged that Obama will be "pulled by core Democratic groups who have waited years to advance their interests, by the weight of his campaign promises, and by the expectations of the beleaguered right." But, the response to all of this will most likely be "clear-eyed realism."
 
This is no reason for progressives or liberals to dampen the fervor or energy of their message and no reason to settle for less before making difficult and righteous demands of an Obama Administration. If progressives and liberals are willing to struggle and make it known to Americans that what they are fighting for his not for them but for all Americans, they may succeed in many of the battles waged.
 
For example, this presidential campaign saw a major shift in policy ideas discussed as possible solutions for confronting the economy and greening America. Progressives and liberals can take credit for that.
Earlier in the election, there was no widespread discussion which advocated for creating manufacturing jobs in alternative energy. That type of talk only came from Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who advocated for a Works Green Administration which harkens back to the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
 
Now, in the Tribune, talk of an imminent economic stimulus package that Obama says is "long overdue" may be built around energy development and the modernization of electric grids, the construction of mass transit lines, and as stated above, the creation of manufacturing jobs in alternative energy, which is a policy idea Kucinich advocated for when promoting a Works Green Administration.
 
The Tribune highlights the Center for American Progress" John Podesta who is behind a $55 billion proposal which "aims to immediately boost energy production and efficiency including weatherizing 1 million homes, encouraging solar panel construction, and funding transit projects in 23 states." Such a proposal would "cut heating costs, save energy and nudge the country away from its dependence on foreign oil."
 
John Podesta may become a member of the Obama Administration and is Obama's transition chief, a fact which should be refreshing to progressives and liberals.
 
But, any of these proposed changes would definitely be fought against by the white power structure, oligarchy, plutocracy, or the private economic power which controls the purse strings of Washington.

Obama would have to choose to challenge the corporations. He would have to turn to the people ask that they be organized and support him in his battle to squelch corporate opposition to his proposed reform. And progressives and liberals would greatly and gleefully support his effort, but would Obama take the chance? Would he risk losing to the corporations or would he come up with some compromise that only half fixes the dire situation we are in?
 
Would he form a consensus that eases everything in the short term but guarantees problems in the long term? How proactive would he be?

Would he depart from conventional politics and support unconventional politics?
 
Obama already faces critics who sense his presidency could be a lot like Jimmy Carter's. This criticism could significantly affect the decisions Obama's administration makes or does not make.
The Tribune compared him to Carter and then quoted the governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter, Jr., a man who seems to govern in the same unchallenging manner that Obama might exhibit.
 
Ritter said that Obama should make a good plan for dealing with legislators. He also recalled one of the first pieces of legislation that Colorado Democrats sent to his desk after his 2006 election, a bill that made union organizing easier. He vetoed this bill.
Ritter said Obama "certainly wants to avoid having that happen."
 
For those wondering, the Denver Post has the particulars on this guy:
 
His bold veto of an ill-timed labor union bill in the early days of his young administration buoyed the hearts of nervous business leaders who had bucked conventional wisdom just months earlier by supporting the Democrat over Republican Bob Beauprez.
 
But recent moves by his administration have more than a few in the business community scratching their heads.
 
The earlier bill would have made it easier to set up all-union workplaces in Colorado. Ritter, who supported its substance, vetoed it anyway, saying he didn't like the way the bill came about. Business leaders, he said, had been left out of the loop.
It was a savvy way out of the corner that Democratic legislators had forced him into, and it very well could have saved his governorship.
 
But shortly thereafter, he signed an executive order allowing state employees to have their union dues automatically withdrawn from their paychecks. (Gov. Bill Owens had overturned the rule.)
 
And during these sleepy summer months while lawmakers were away, there was quibbling over proposed policy changes that would give unions greater access to state buildings to organize. Then rumors began to surface about a collective bargaining bill for state employees. Suddenly, top Republicans were accusing Ritter of playing "footsie" with labor unions.
 
Documents released last week detailed his administration's quiet cooperation with two big unions on a proposed bill to allow state employees to bargain collectively for higher salaries. Ritter's spokesman has said it's no secret that the governor wants to strengthen "partnerships" with government employees, but denied anything surreptitious.
Even as he won over business leaders last year, Ritter never backed away, at least publicly, from his pro-union stance.
 
Here's the thing to know about Ritter. In 2005, when no one - and I mean no one, except maybe his wife, Jeanne - was giving the longshot candidate a chance, Ritter, a lifelong union man, went about quietly courting Big Labor.
 
When pundits were musing about who was going to jump into the fray to really challenge Beauprez - Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper? House Speaker Andrew Romanoff? Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald? - Ritter was busy building up a base of support.
 
By the fall of 2005, a full year before the election, he had wrapped up endorsements of the state's major unions, and the former union pipe layer had the Democratic nomination all to himself.
 
But Ritter needs to be careful about dancing too long and too close with the ones who brought him to the dance. Even though any proposed collective bargaining would impact only government employees, there are worries it could be just the beginning of unions gaining a stronger foothold in Colorado.

Ritter provides an example of how Obama might govern. But, should Obama become engaged in a balancing act between the white power structure and the American people, who at this moment have great expectations for him?
 
The problem is the people who would most benefit from an Obama presidency did not have a contingency plan ready for this moment. There is no well-organized force to begin pushing Obama while he is transitioning into the White House.
 
Progressives and liberals must be aware of how Republicans, moderates, "centrists", and so-called independent voters will think they are entitled to certain "changes" from Obama because they supported him. Their support may prove to be a great barrier to any advancement of ideas for change, which is why progressives must begin pushing and pulling Obama now. They must get out ahead of Republicans, moderates, "centrists", and so-called independent voters so that they can be, for once, on the offensive and not the defensive.
 
Until such an offensive is waged by progressives and liberals in America, we Americans may be at the mercy of a balancing act.
 
While we do not know that Obama has a balancing act planned for America, we do know, as the Sun-Times aptly put it, we were "all changed as a result [of Obama's win]. A new generation will [now] lead. But, America remains a divided nation. And massive problems plague us."
 
In the same vein, the Tribune said, "With his victory, America's tortured relationship with races has entered a new phase. The Obama presidency may be a sign that a country that all too recently tolerated segregation has moved irrevocably forward, or it may be mean only that the nation is so hungry for change that it set racial struggles aside."
 
We are entering an Age of Post-Racism. We have been transitioning into it for quite some time, with the election of Barack Obama, the transition is over. The age has begun.
 
Obama's victory was made possible because Americans did not feel like they were electing a black president. Americans were not voting for a Jesse Jackson and Americans found a guy who had no problem with disowning righteous African-American voices like Rev. Jeremiah Wright who used rhetoric that was highly critical of America and its history, which many whites found to be an affront to their values and core ideals.
 
Obama was able to acknowledge and incorporate African-American history and milestones in civil rights history in America into his campaign, but he had to do this with great caution.
 
The Obama family, which was compared to the Huxtables from "The Cosby Show" in the Sun-Times, will most likely rewrite the stereotypes Americans have engrained in their minds. They will make it known that black people are college educated too and they also take good care of their children.
The Obama family doesn't have to do this, but they will for people like Bill O"Reilly who suffer from racist tendencies.
 
Obama's family and administration will approach America like the Huxtables approached life because it will smooth the rough divides and allow for many to ignore white privilege in America. It will remove this stereotype that African-Americans are always about being the victim and are always fixated on civil rights.
How progressives, liberals, and other Americans confront this Age of Post-Racism will matter greatly.
If they handle the Obama Administration as little and as gently as possible in the same way Obama might handle racism as little and as gently as possible, an Obama presidency may not undo the damage Bush has done and an Obama presidency may not produce real change.
 
If progressives and liberals do not begin to organize now so that they may have the ability to force the Democratic candidate to earn their vote, and if they do not begin to organize now so that citizen groups can arrange and finance debates which will make the Commission on Presidential Debates irrelevant, the progressive and liberal agenda may be at risk.
If progressives and liberals do not adopt high expectations and seek to pressure Obama to follow high standards while president, America may not be able to dig itself out of the hole it is in.
 
This middle road the news networks say we are turning on to, this middle road that many who invested in this election want America to travel down may be paved nicely and offer Americans a smooth ride, but after eight years, why settle for less when we can have more?
 
The opening exists for real change to begin. And if we wait, we are squandering away a future we all know we could have if we show the courage and fortitude to fight for it.
 
Obama's win may be one of the most touching moments ever and one of the greatest moments in American history, but that does not preclude our duty to struggle with him to reform and redefine this nation and work with us to develop it into a better society.
Handle your Beatles vinyl record collection as little as possible. Handle your Star Wars action figure collection as little as possible.
 
Handle your stamp collection gently. Handle your book collection or your coin collection gently. Handle your antiques gently.
 
But not this Obama presidency. Nowhere in history do we the people have to handle a president as little as possible or be as gentle as possible. We just have to be defenders of liberty and fight for the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
 
Kevin Gosztola goes to Columbia College in Chicago where he is studying film. He hopes to become a documentary filmmaker. He is currently working as a production assistant on a documentary called "Seriously Green" which traces the development of the Green Party throughout the 2008 election. He has a passion for journalism and writes articles or press releases in his spare time. Kevin Gosztola is also a student activist who believes in questioning the way America's systems work(its electoral system, its military-industrial complex, its foreign policy of American exceptionalism, its media which has become the Fourth Branch of government,etc.)

His ambitions have him currently organizing and raising money for a Chicago Conference for Media Reform in April or May of 2009. It will be organized by college students to promote youth involvement in media reform and justice. Those interested in attending or helping with the organization of the program should contact him.

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.