Thursday, November 6, 2008


This morning, at a Democracy journal forum on the future of the Democrats, the main message conveyed was that Obama must stick to his "narrative" about the middle class. One panelist observed that moderates gave Obama his victory, showing that his message of moderation made sense to lots of people ("he out-moderated the Clintons," said one panelist). Another panelist suggested that the First Hundred Days be dedicated to the Middle Class. That means choosing the right issues, yet another panelist agreed, noting that "Obama didn't really talk about the minimum wage during the campaign because middle class people aren't affected by the minimum wage, they're not minimum wage workers. So he shouldn't focus on those sorts of issues now." The panelists, by the way, were described and/or self-described as part of the progressive community.

Who exactly is the Middle Class that moderate politicians aim to please? The political middle -- as in "centrists"?....Or as in the statistical mean? People who earn less than $250,000/year, as the president-elect suggests? People who earn between $30,000 and $75,000/year, as Charles Schumer implied when he identified the "middle quintile" in his 2007 paean to the Middle Class, Positively American?

At this political juncture, it's useful to remember what Schumer wrote in his book. He exerts enormous, centralized power over the Democratic message as chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Candidate Obama promoted Schumer's version of the Democratic message as he courted Middle Class support over the course of his campaign.

In Positively American, Schumer assigned the following characteristics to the Middle Class. According to Schumer, a middle class person is:

*a homeowner with a mortgage

*a property taxpayer

*someone whose wife works because she "has to" (I guess the iconic middle class person is a man)

*has an income between $30,000 and $75,000 per year

*is a "regular" person

The Middle Class, then, does not include poor people. Later in the book Schumer adds some normative qualities to the Middle Class, most important among them that the Middle Class represents "homogenization," as compared to folks who are "group-identified" (I think that means women and people of color).

If the Democratic Party is going to make the Middle Class its defining cause, we need to agree on some common definitions about who's in and who's out -- both of the class itself and of the bounty of power.

Does being for the Middle Class mean being for or against unions? For or against free trade agreements? For or against Paid Family and Maternity Leave? For or against affirmative action? For or against including transgendered people in the expansion of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual/gender identity/orientation? For or against more war in Afghanistan?

INTERPRETING the ELECTION: The End of the Equality Era?

The end of the Bush Era is something to celebrate, as are the progressive possibilities opened up by Democratic control of both Congress and the White House. But it's not clear to me that we've reached the end of the Republican Era, or that Democratic control means progressive policy outcomes.

President-elect Obama explained his victory Tuesday night as a "defining moment," but given his temporizing, moderating, and triangulating discourse throughout the campaign it is fair to ask what, exactly, has been "defined"? If we look to simultaneous electoral blows to equality and social justice, we need to wonder who will win the war of mandates and how the Democrats will define their agenda.

In California marriage equality endured a fatal collision with an electorate intent on making heterosexual marital privilege a constitutional protection. Florida and Arizona also banned gay marriage. In Nebraska, the war against affirmative action scored another victory, and in Colorado a similar ban on affirmative action is on the brink of an electoral majority (at this writing). Voters in Arkansas, meanwhile, prohibited unmarried couples from adopting or serving as foster parents.

President-elect Obama spoke little about equality issues on the campaign trail. In fact, he won admiration from the white commentariat for not discussing race and for not discussing poverty. The commentariat didn't notice (or didn't care) that he barely mentioned gender issues, other than the relatively safe issue of "equal pay for equal work," and few took issue when he justified his bigoted same-sex marriage policy position on religious grounds. So it should be no surprise, really, that voters in California and elsewhere embraced exclusionary measures aimed to enforce inequality even as they cast their ballots for the first Black president.

If the commentariat (and many Democrats) have their way, Obama's silence on equality issues will mark the end of the Equality Era. By "equality era" I don't mean that equality actually has been achieved. But grassroots struggles for equality -- of rights, opportunities, resources, recognition, respect -- as well as policy steps toward equality have been at the core of progressive politics for several decades.

The revival of the Clinton-era mantra of "helping the middle class" (read: White, genderless, not-poor) and the rise of its cousin, the new mantra of "post-racial politics," further disfranchises the economically, socially, and politically disfranchised by stigmatizing the politics of democratization as divisive and anti-majoritarian.

For example, in their naked exhuberance about "post-racial" (read: post-equality) America, numerous journalists and analysts on MSNBC on the morning of election day declared that an Obama victory would mean that "we have overcome," that "the era of racial recrimination is over," that there can be "no more blaming White America," and that "the left can't trash-talk America anymore." For many, the defining moment that was this election means that the social movements of the 1960s, along with their 21st century heirs, can be put out to pasture (along with the entire Baby Boom generation, if Tom Brokaw's analysis is correct).

While the "middle class agenda" does leave many progressives uncertain about the direction the Obama Administration will take, for some progressives race and gender are fringe issues that distort movement toward economic justice. Progressives who think this way imagine that universalistic economic guarantees will lift all boats, as if the intersecting inequalities of race, gender and class don't create separate inequalities that can only be cured by directly addressing race and gender as distinct, linked experiences of subordination and marginalizaton. There's no such thing as an economic policy that's good for all workers, for example, if elements of that policy do not correct wage discrimination against women and minorities, provide paid family and maternity leave, or target innovations to end the racialized distribution of poverty.

What a bitter irony, if the election of the first person of color to the presidency also dissipates equality imperatives and de-legitimizes equality politics. There is great danger that we are already on a course toward treating race, gender, sexuality, and poverty as irresponsible "wedge" issues promoted by irresponsible advocates from a bygone era. I hope "change" means we can change this course.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

GOING FORWARD: Economic Justice for Women

Here are 10 policies to start us on the path to economic justice for women:

*Strengthen laws prohibiting and remedying discrimination in employment, including pay discrimination

*Re-value work performed by women in the labor market through comparable worth policy for active workers and retirement income adjustments to correct for women's lifetime income losses due to wage inequality

*Index the minimum wage to provide a living wage

*Provide universal, quality child care

*Guarantee universal, quality health provision through a single-payer system

*Expand unemployment insurance for workers who leave or lose jobs when child care breaks down; to deal with domestic violence; or to avoid sexual harassment

*Amend the Family Medical Leave Act to provide paid family leave for workers who leave employment to bear or adopt a child; care for sick family members; or assist elderly kin

*Provide paid sick days for workers to deal with their own medical issues

*Guarantee a caregiver’s allowance to provide an income (and economic recognition) for the work of raising children or caring for family dependents

*Apply a caregiver's income credit to the Social Security system's income history and benefits calculation for retirees

Saturday, August 23, 2008


for a good discussion of the Trade plank, see

Friday, August 22, 2008

DEMOCRATIC PARTY PLATFORM - Faith, Fatherhood, and the Death Penalty

The platform repeats the 2004 celebration of faith, directly borrowing language: "We honor the central place of faith in our lives." (p. 48) This is part of a troubling new mainstream consensus that faith is a necessary public value that makes "our nation, our communities, and our lives...vastly stronger and richer." According to this view, the historic separation of faith/religion from public/policy decision-making and governance has been due to misundertandings of the Constitution and the secular base on which it stands.

In addition to articulating a political norm that good citizenship takes faith, the platform provision on faith embraces institutionalized faith -- religious institutions such as churches -- as government's partner. Notwithstanding the establishment clause, the platform summarily declares: "there is no conflict between supporting faith-based institutions and respecting our Constitution."

The platform section on "Children and Families" (p.49) spends a lot of time talking about making sure children are raised right. In addition to enumerating some policies (eg., Head Start, health care) and parental actions (turn off the TV, help with homework) that would benefit kids, the section also discusses the importance of fathers. Mothers are not mentioned at all (unless a reference to maternal health counts).

I have written extensively elsewhere about what's so troubling about redefining mothers'/children's economic insecurity as mothers'/children's need for fathers. See also the writings of Anna Marie Smith and Julia Jordan-Zachery. Let me draw attention here to the fact that the platform adopts wholesale some rather questionable assertions about the vile consequences for children of growing up without a father. The inevitable result of this argument is pressure on mothers to enter into marriages with biological fathers in order to do right by their children. This bodes a return to patriarchal (and heterosexist) norms and rewards in family policy -- norms and rewards that impede equality for women who are mothers.

Embedded in this section are some useful commitments -- especially a reform of the child support enforcement system to make sure that support payments go directly to families. Also, the notion that family leave can also be availed by fathers is an important addition to the discourse.

However, neither child support reform nor the prospect of fathers taking leave to help raise children justify defining fatherhood as a central component of social policy.

Death Penalty:
The 2004 platform did not advocate the death penalty. One big "change" in the 2008 platform is reference to the death penalty in the "Criminal Justice" section. Although the wording points to discrimination in the allocation of the death penalty, the sentence expresses concern by first endorsing the death penalty: "We believe that the death penalty must not be arbitrary."

This is not exactly a surprise to anyone who heard Obama's response to the Supreme Court's ruling against the death penalty in child rape cases. He denounced the decision, saying that the death penalty is appropriate in these cases, and embracing "state's rights" to make the decision to make certain crimes punishable by death.

Not a surprise, but distressing nonetheless.


This section of the platform signals an important change: it constructs "choice" in the reproductive context along a continuum of possibilities ranging from pregnancy termination to childbirth. (p.50)

The provision is clear and direct in announcing support for Roe v. Wade and opposing "any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right." One problem here, though, is that Roe already has been weakened. Not only has the recent ruling on late term abortions significantly eroded the protections of Roe; the 1992 Casey decision dramatically undermined the framework for determining when and under what circumstances women may decide to terminate a pregnancy. So while the platform's unequivocal support for Roe should be applauded, we still need to ask whether the party actually will fight for a return for Roe and/or will fight to reverse the regulations enacted by many states to choke off the exercise of the pregnancy termination right.

Obama's recent efforts to temporize on the abortion issue do not suggest an intention to actively -- as well as "unequivocally" -- support the right announced in Roe v. Wade. Recent comments indicate a fixation on women's subjective decision-making: on one occasion, Obama declared he didn't think women should get abortions just because they are feeling "blue"; on another occasion he told Pastor Rick Warren that "women don't make the decision lightly." These sorts of comments, along with the embrace of parental notification provisions, imply that the central issue is women's judgment, not women's rights.

The platform's defense of Roe is not new -- the 2004 platform contains similar language. What is new is the effort to expand how we think about "choice" by coupling support for abortion rights with support for the decision to bear a child. The elements of this support are briefly listed -- pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and adoption programs. There's potential here, but the devil will be in the details.


It's interesting that the Women's plank is titled "Opportunity for Women" -- not Equality for Women, Justice for Women, Economic Security for Women, or Rights for Women of All Races and Classes. "Opportunity for Women" is kind of a throwback construction of sex/gender inequality issues, a reminder of early second-wave agendas to let women into men's world.

There's nothing wrong with the plank's pledge to ensure "that our daughters ...have the same opportunities as our sons." (p.16) But is the right to aspire to men's jobs all the feminist struggle has been about?

The policy elements of "Opportunity for Women" emphasize the labor market -- eliminating the glass ceiling, combating pay discrimination, supporting women as entrepreneurs. The labor market policy pledges may contain one very important new direction: comparable worth. Unfortunately, the references to titles of legislation, rather than to content, make it a little difficult to be certain about intended meaning. The plank commits to enacting the Lily Ledbetter Act, which would counter a 2007 Supreme Court ruling by restoring the status quo ante regarding when the clock starts on employment discrimination claims. The plank also commits to modernizing the Equal Pay Act, but doesn't say how. Current legislative proposals call for improving available remedies under the Equal Pay Act -- is that what is meant? Finally, the plank declares "we will pass the Fair Pay Act" -- but again, I'm not sure what is meant here. The Lily Ledbetter Act is often referred to as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- so is the Fair Pay provision redundant of the pledge to enact the Ledbetter Act? Or does it refer to a current legislative proposal, introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton -- a proposal that calls for a comparable worth strategy to achieve pay equity? If the latter, this is important. The Fair Pay bill would require employers to pay employees in female-dominated jobs at the same rate as employees in equivalent male-dominated jobs.

Missing from the labor market fairness agenda is support for the Equal Remedies Act, which would lift the caps on damages available in sex discrimination suits under Title VII. Making the full menu of economic remedies available to victims of employment discrimination based on sex has been urgently needed since 1991, when the Civil Rights Act enacted the caps on damages in the first place. Support for the Ledbetter Act without support for Equal Remedies leaves women as second class citizens in the labor market.

The "Opportunity for Women" plank refers to the platform's work and family agenda, as well as to it's anti-poverty commitment, which together round out a strategy for opportunity. But the prize here is getting the same deal in the labor market as men get.

The only mention of women's gendered experiences come in strong language against sexism and domestic violence. So the victimization of women will be fought as antithetical to opportunity.

But the unique work done mostly and willingly by women -- caregiving -- figures here only as an exception to labor market participation (see the Work & Family plank). Attention to caregiving in its own right defies the opportunity paradigm and requires rethinking our framework for justice.

Real change -- bold thinking -- would incorporate consideration for caregiving into an agenda for women through such mechanisms as a caregivers' allowance, portable child care benefits, and remedies for income inequalities (including in retirement) that derive from the disproporationate societal allocation of caregiving responsibilities to women.

Real change would also match the affirmation of rights for all women across all class-based, race-based, and sexuality-based experiences of inequality as labor market participants and as caregivers.

Only in two other spots in the platform are women's rights mentioned -- in the provision on "Choice" and in one titled "A More Perfect Union." More on these pledges in a separate post.


Like the Work & Family plank, the poverty plank expresses promising commitments -- especially the goal of cutting poverty in half within ten years. Notably, the plank explicitly notices that the majority of adults in poverty are women and links fair pay and support for mothers to poverty's cure.

But beyond admittedly welcome platitudes, the plank is mostly bromide. Expand the EITC; raise and index the minimum wage; strengthen unions; increase affordable housing -- we've heard this before. These are important ingredients of an anti-poverty policy, but they are not enough.

Real change would include consideration of expanded income programs, especially for caregivers; reformed and expanded unemployment insurance to assure income to workers who must leave jobs, whose jobs are taken away, who are stuck in part-time employment, or who need to overcome barriers to employment such as domestic violence, substance abuse, or mental health issues; the addition of a caregiver credit to the social security benefits calculation; paid family leave; universal child care; universal, single payer health provision; transportation offsets for low-income workers who must commute long distances to jobs; economic assistance for education and training; an end to labor market discrimination; a living wage.


This plank is potentially promising -- depending on what the stated policy commitments actually mean and how they are to be operationalized. Unfortunately, there's lots of wiggle room, because broad pledges are not backed up by specifics. The one reference to a specific plan of action is disappointing.

What's promising here is the focus on family leave -- on expanding the conception of covered leave beyond pregnancy/adoption and personal/spousal illness. The family leave issue does not mark a new direction for the Democrats -- the 2004 platform called for expanding family leave, too -- but the idea that leave should encompass situations beyond parenting and nuclear family sickness is an important elaboration. The commitment expressed here is for the FMLA to cover workers who take leave to care for an elderly parent, address domestic violence and sexual assault, "or attend a parent teacher conference" (this last circumstance is not exactly in the same ballpark).

However, expansions of the categories or circumstances of guaranteed leave do not correct some of the fundamental deficits of existing law. For example, given the Defense of Marriage Act, the FMLA does not extend the leave guarantee to lesbian or gay workers in marriages who need it to care for a sick spouse. Nor does the FMLA extend the leave guarantee to same sex partners in civil unions or other non-marital relationships. Meanwhile, non-biological parents in same-sex unions who are denied adoption rights in some jurisdictions are not eligible for the parenting component of the FMLA guarantee. Without changes in the FMLA and/or marriage equality for same sex partners, the expansion of leave protections to domestic violence situations will not be useful to same sex partners exiting abusive relationships; and expansions of caregiving criteria for leave will repeat exclusions of workers caring for a sick same sex partner or raising a non-biological child in a same-sex parental union.

Other limitations of the current law include the exclusion of large numbers of workers due to the size of their employer and/or due to the loss of an income during the guaranteed leave. The federal family and medical leave law leaves out 40% of workers (because employers with fewer than 50 workers are exempted under the law) and many covered workers cannot avail themselves of leave because the guaranteed leave is unpaid. Seventy-eight percent of workers who have not been able to take leave report that the reason is that they couldn't afford it.

So imperative aspects of FMLA expansion include 1) covering employers with fewer than 50 employees so that more workers are covered and 2) providing paid leave so that more workers can avail themselves of the leave guarantee.

The platform plank does not affirm either change. There is no mention of expanding coverage to reach more workers (by reducing the minimum size of covered firms). The plank does mention the problem that leave is unpaid, but seeks to address this issue by "working with states to make leave paid." While a few states do have good temporary disability programs that cover parental and personal/spousal medical leave situations, bucking responsibility of providing paid leave to the states is a sure way to ensure uneven, patchwork protections that prolong rather than resolve problems. And it is no way to ensure that the expanded categories of leave (eg, domestic violence) would be provided in a meaningful way: one of the biggest problems for DV survivors is the lack of personal financial resources to exit an abusive relationship; unless a survivor has access to an income she cannot avail herself of leave, and may not be able to leave her abuser.

There are many ways to accomplish the goal of paid family leave; passing the problem along to the states is not one of them. Paid family leave could be made a stipulation of federal contracts; the federal government could provide such leave to all public workers; and the unemployment insurance system could be modernized to cover unemployment and/or leave spells due to personal circumstances involving care for a child, care for oneself, or care for dependent adult family members.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The retirement and social security plank (p. 13) is fairly staple Democratic fare: protect Social Security from privatization; protect workers' pensions from corporate raids, corporate bankruptcy, etc; strengthen retirement security. The only news in the plank is the pledge to "automatically enroll every worker in a workplace pension plan" -- but it's not clear what this provision means, how it would work, or whether it would strengthen or endanger Social Security.


Many progressives are cheering the health care plank of the DP platform because it commits to a goal of health care for all. Laudable language about a "guarantee" for individuals loses some lustre in the details, however. The system of health care provision described by the platform is a hodgepodge of individually-purchased and/or work-based private insurance, with an optional alternative "public plan" for those left out. That kind of patchwork does not get us out of the for-profit, hierarchical system of provision that is largely tied to employment. Progressives used to be for a tax-based (not employment- & premium- based) system much like medicare. Now many are settling for the promise of "affordability" -- which is a promised based on the assumption that individuals pay for insurance...and get what they can pay for. To back up its choice to tinker with the existing system -- expanding the public system to pick up some slack and otherwise making private coverage "affordable" -- the platform states that as health coverage becomes more affordable, "individuals should purchase insurance and take steps to live healthy lives." (platform p.10-11). Under the Democratic "guarantee" not only are individuals expected to bear the burden of health care provision but they bear blame for becoming unhealthy, too.

The 2004 DP platform declared health care "a right not a privilege." That platform contained different emphases, but not a different impulse. In 2004, the party was concerned with costs and affordability, the expansion of SCHIP, prescription price negotiation for seniors, and pushing scientific boundaries to fight disease -- concerns espoused this year, as well. Two commitments articulated in 2004 are not repeated this year: 1) to provide all Americans with access to the same coverage that members of Congress give themselves, and 2) a Patient's Bill of Rights.

Despite some differences of degree and formulation between 2004 and 2008, the two planks belong to the same tradition of health care reform. So much for "change".

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Obama the End of Black Politics?

Link to Matt Bai article from last Sunday's NYT Magazine.

Can you believe there are no women in an entire article about Black Politics?


His default position is that every controversial rights question is "a matter of state's rights". This was his response to Rick Warren's questions about a consitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage. This was his response to the Supreme Court's ruling against the death penalty in child rape cases. I suspect this will be articulated as his default position on abortion rights -- states have "rights" to require parental consent, ban late-term abortions (provided there's a health exception), etc. On the same sex marriage question, McCain and Obama gave the same answer!! After defining marriage as between a man and a woman, both said it's a matter of state's rights. Worse, Obama made it sound like he has an even greater reverence for the heterosexual bond "as a Christian" because marriage "is sacred."

We're supposed to drink the koolaid for THIS?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

An Obama Presidency: "Post-Racial," Cheap Salve for White Guilt, or Advance toward Racial Justice?

Could an Obama presidency hurt black Americans?
By John Blake
CNN, 7/22/08
(CNN) -- "We had a dream. Now it's a reality."
That's the slogan on a popular T-shirt linking Sen. Barack Obama's presidential run to the Rev. Martin Luther King's dream of racial equality. It's one of several T-shirts -- including "Barack is my homeboy"-- that reflect African-Americans' euphoria over Obama's White House bid.
But there are others who warn that an Obama presidency could hurt African-Americans. They say an Obama victory could cause white Americans to ignore entrenched racial divisions while claiming that America has reached the racial Promised Land.
Paul Street, author of the forthcoming book "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics," says Obama risks becoming an Oval Office version of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. She and former Secretary of State Colin Powell are African-American figures whose popularity allows some white Americans to congratulate themselves for not being racist, he says
"They're cited as proof that racism is no longer a significant barrier to black advancement and interracial equality," Street said.
"This isn't new. Go to the 19th century, and Southern aristocrats would point to a certain African-American landowner who was doing well to prove that whites are not racist."
Nick Shapiro, an Obama spokesman, says Obama believes that America has made tremendous progress in the past 50 years. Biggest challenges for black America
"However, the suggestion that somehow Senator Obama's campaign represents an easy shortcut is not realistic," Shapiro said in a statement. "Senator Obama believes that we still have a lot of work to do, and that's not just true for the issues facing blacks or Latinos, but for women and other communities struggling to secure the basic necessities in life like jobs, housing, health care and quality education."
Are we a post-racial society?
Any suggestion that an Obama presidential victory could set back race relations may seem odd or even inappropriate. His presidential campaign has been framed by many observers as a glowing example of America's move to a "post-racial" society.
"Racial polarization used to be a dominating force in our politics, but we're now a different, and better, country," Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist, wrote last month about Obama's political rise.
The reaction in the African-American community to Obama's success has also been celebrated with joy.
When Obama became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in June, many African-Americans cried because they said they never thought they would live to see such a day. Vendors soon started selling T-shirts of Obama's portrait pasted alongside King in Walgreens stores and at online stores.
Yet there are a few political commentators who warn African-Americans that an Obama victory could be twisted to suppress the push for racial equality. Most of these commentators are African-American, but they also include white, Latino and conservative pundits.
These commentators say that there is a subliminal appeal to Obama's presidential candidacy that has been ignored. Obama doesn't just represent change; he represents atonement for America's ugly racial past for others, they say.
Steve Sailer, a columnist for The American Conservative magazine, wrote last year that some whites who support Obama aren't driven primarily by a desire for change.
They want something else Obama offers them: "White Guilt Repellent," he wrote.
"So many whites want to be able to say, 'I'm not one of them, those bad whites. ... Hey, I voted for a black guy for president,' " Sailer wrote.
Sailer cited another reason why many whites want Obama as president:
"They hope that when a black finally moves into the White House, it will prove to African-Americans, once and for all, that white animus isn't the cause of their troubles. All blacks have to do is to act like President Obama - and their problems will be over."
Glen Ford, executive editor of the online journal, offered some white Americans a free solution to the race problem: "Millions of whites came to believe Obama could solve the 'race problem' by his mere presence, at no cost to their own notions of skin privilege," Ford wrote in an essay in January.
Other African-American commentators say the "post-racial" tag attached to Obama could be used to dismiss legitimate black grievances.
Andra Gillespie, an assistant professor at Emory University's political science department, says Obama's success doesn't mean America has become a post-racial society. She says it may signal the decline of individual racism but not another form of discrimination: systemic racism.
"It doesn't mean that there aren't prejudiced people anymore," she said.
Systemic racism is a form of racism that's entrenched in institutions. Some argue that it's the primary cause for intractable problems in the African-American community that range from substandard public schools to disproportionate rates of imprisonment, she says.
Electing a black president does not mean that America is ready to take on systemic racism, Gillespie says.
"A rising tide doesn't lift all boats," Gillespie said. "Just because gets elected doesn't mean the lives of poor black people are automatically going to improve."
It could actually get worse for poor African-Americans, she says.
"People could say if Barack can succeed and someone can't get off of the stoops in the hood, it's their fault, and it has nothing to do with systemic racism," Gillespie said.
D. Yobachi Boswell, a blogger for Black, wrote in January that the prospect of Obama victory was making African-Americans politically passive.
He wrote that too many African-Americans were "doping ourselves up on the euphoric opium" of a black president while forgetting that "we need fundamental change, not just Negroes in high places."
Boswell says he's concerned that an Obama presidency would discourage African-Americans from keeping leaders accountable.
"We can't give a pass because he's black," Boswell said. "We just can't have a black face in a high place. We have to have people fighting for policies that actually help us."
Obama has responded to such criticisms before. In his "A More Perfect Union" speech in March, he dismissed claims that his candidacy was fueled by the desire "to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap."
He acknowledged that racial disparities in education and wealth continued to exist and were linked to the legacy of Jim Crow and slavery.
"I have never been so naive as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy, particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own," Obama said during that speech.
A black backlash against Obama?
Despite what Obama has said, his presidency could provoke a black backlash because the expectations are so high, others say.
African-Americans who would expect a President Obama to be a vigorous advocate for their cause may be disappointed by Obama's approach to race if he becomes president, some say.
Author Street says Obama may be a symbol of bold racial change but he is personally cautious about race. A President Obama won't want to appear to favor blacks, because he might lose political support if he appears as the "angry black man" in the White House.
Street says Obama understands that risk and has run as a "race-neutral" candidate who talks about racial oppression as something largely confined to the past.
"Barack plays a very active role in damping down race consciousness," Street said. "Race neutrality is one of the great characteristics of his campaign."
African-Americans may also be disappointed by an Obama presidency because they may have forgotten what Obama is: a politician, says David Sirota, author of "The Uprising," a book that examines how populist movements in America shape public policy changes.
"He's like any politician. He's cautious," Sirota said. "He's a potential vehicle for change, and I think he is a good vehicle, but he is just a vehicle."
His presidency may represent fundamental change, but that doesn't mean he will initiate such sweeping changes if he's elected.
"Politicians, even the best-intentioned ones, are weather vanes," Sirota said. "If the wind isn't blowing in the right direction, they will perpetuate the status quo."
It will take more than a presidential candidate to change the status quo; it'll take a movement, Sirota says.
"My concern is that people will think that by simply electing Obama, change will come, whether it's on race or economic justice issues," he said.
"If people believe that, then real change will not happen."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

OBAMA LOG cont'd

See Bob Herbert, "Lurching with Abandon," NYT 7-8-08:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

OBAMA LOG cont'd

Recanting Peace Now?

*“If current trends continue and we are at a position where we continue to see reductions in violence and stabilization and continue to see some improvements on the part of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, then my hope would be that we could draw down in a deliberate fashion in consultation with the Iraqi government at a pace that is determined in consultation with General Petraeus and the other commanders on the ground,” Mr. Obama said in the interview. “It strikes me that that is something we could begin relatively soon after inauguration. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a deteriorating situation for some reason, then that’s going to have to be taken into account.” Obama in an interview for Military Times, published July 7, 2008. (See related NYTimes story,

Sunday, July 6, 2008

OBAMA LOG cont'd

More triangulation...

*Adds to assault on third trimester abortion rights by gratuitously expressing opposition to allowing "mental distress" to justify late term abortion. Explains that while he supports a health exception to abortion restrictions, the exception can't apply just because a woman is "feeling blue."

*Reaffirms commitment to faith-based delivery of public social services in remarks to a conference of the African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Suggests he would apply the lessons of his church/faith to his policy decisions as president.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

OBAMA LOG cont'd

More split the baby...

*Opposes California Marriage Protection Initiative because it might impair domestic partnerships and civil unions. But also opposes marriage equality. Says domestic partnerships and civil unions are ok.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

OBAMA LOG cont'd

More centrism/triangulation:

Week of June 30, 2008

*Embraces the crux of George Bush's Faith-Based Initiative, calling for more funding for an expanded church-state partnership in social service program delivery.

(Is Barack Obama this year's Bill Clinton ca 1992?
See Paul Krugman,

Friday, June 27, 2008

OBAMA LOG - Why Progressives Should Beware

A log of Obama's split-the-difference/centrist/triangulating statements:

Week of 6/23/08:

*Runs television ad claiming (among other things) that he "passed" "welfare-to-work" welfare reform when he was a state legislator and offers his support for Clinton-era welfare reform as evidence of his midwestern values

*Backs off pledge to filibuster against the FISA bill. Now says he will vote for it, despite telcom immunity, etc.

*Condemns Supreme Court's ruling against extending death penalty to child rape. Says it should be "up to the states"

*Applauds Supreme Court's ruling striking down DC gun ban. Says the 2nd amendment guarantees and individual right to bear arms

*Some of his faith community surrogates begin talking about running on an "abortion reduction agenda"

Week of 6/16/08:

*Opts out of public financing for general election campaign so that he can raise and spend unlimited money

*In an interview with Fortune, dials back his opposition to NAFTA

*Plus ca change foreign policy team: (from Institute for Public Accuracy, news release, 6/19/08)

Some background on "Senior Working Group on National Security" members:

Albright was secretary of state and UN ambassador in the Clinton administration. When Lesley Stahl asked "We have heard that a half million children have died [in Iraq from the sanctions]. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it." (CBS News, May 12, 1996). During the Rambouillet talks prior to the bombing of Yugoslavia, Albright reportedly told Western media the U.S. government felt "the Serbs need a little bombing." Albright insisted that Yugoslavia comply with demands at Rambouillet that basically would have allowed NATO to occupy Yugoslavia: <>. Also, see "Albright's State Deportment" by Ian Williams:
< /kosovo/Kosovo-controversies21.html>.

Boren was chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Consortium News, in "Blackmail & Bobby Gates," reports on Boren preventing meaningful investigation into allegations of an October Surprise. See: <>. Boren has been called "my lifetime mentor" by former CIA head George Tenet. (CIA speech, May 10, 2003) See also SourceWatch: <>.

In January 1993, as Bill Clinton was about to take office, Clinton stated about Iraq: "I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Saddam Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior." Clinton was immediately and widely criticized for indicating he might lift sanctions and even normalize relations with Iraq if it complied with UN resolutions. Christopher, then Clinton's incoming secretary of state, actually joined in the criticism: "I find it hard to share the Baptist belief in redemption. ... I see no substantial change in the position and continuing total support for what the [Bush] administration has done." Clinton quickly backtracked: "There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present administration. ... I have no intention of normalizing relations with him." Thus the George H. W. Bush policy of maintaining the sanctions on Iraq regardless of Iraqi compliance with the weapons inspectors continued through the 1990s. See, from the Institute for Public Accuracy, "Autopsy Of A Disaster: The U.S. Sanctions Policy On Iraq": < /article.php?articleId=44>.

Craig was director of the State Department Office of Policy Planning in the Clinton administration.

Danzig was secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration.

Former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Hamilton also co-chaired the Iraq Study Group, the 9/11 Commission and the Iran-Contra congressional investigation. Consortium News writes: "Whenever the Republicans have a touchy national-security scandal to put to rest, their favorite Democratic investigator is Lee Hamilton. ... Hamilton's carefully honed skill for balancing truth against political comity has elevated him to the status of a Washington Wise Man." See "Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Hyde," which includes detailed information and suggested questions for Hamilton. See: <>.

President Reagan nominated Holder to become an associate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In 1993, President Clinton nominated Holder to become the United States attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997, President Clinton appointed Holder to serve as deputy attorney general.

In the Clinton administration, Lake was national security adviser as well as White House special envoy.

A former senator, Nunn was chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

From "Not Quite a Dream Team: Some of John Kerry's Foreign Policy Advisers Should Give Pause to Progressives" by Laura Flanders: "As Clinton-era secretary of defense, Perry spearheaded a post-cold war plan to restructure the defense industry, but the Perry plan wasn't quite the 'peace dividend' Americans had in mind. Perry pushed a government program that paid military contractors to consolidate, arguing that only vast conglomerates would have what it takes to compete in the 21st century. The Pentagon provided partial underwriting for defense industry mergers. In what critic Bernie Sanders, I-VT, dubbed 'payoffs for layoffs,' Perry's Pentagon picked up the costs of moving equipment, dismantling factories and providing golden parachutes for top executives. Foreign Policy in Focus reports that Perry had to get a conflict of interest waiver before he could greenlight the merger-subsidy program. He worked as a paid consultant for Martin Marietta immediately before joining the Clinton administration. "Today, Lockheed Martin, which was created in a merger announced just months after the start of Perry's policy, is the nation's top weapons maker. Its component parts include Martin Marietta, Loral Defense and General Dynamics. The mergers shrank company payrolls, but hugely expanded their political influence. When he retired in '98, Perry joined the board of one of the biggest -- the Seattle-based Boeing Corporation. For those who are interested, Perry also joined the Carlyle group, the Saudi-based firm whose partners include no end of world leaders, including former British Prime Minster John Major, former secretary of state James Baker and the first President Bush." (Feb. 18, 2004)

Assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, Rice has been a prominent foreign policy spokesperson for the Obama campaign. Here are some of her claims shortly before the invasion of Iraq: "I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don't think many informed people doubted that." (NPR, Feb. 6, 2003) "We need to be ready for the possibility that the attack against the U.S. could come in some form against the homeland, not necessarily on the battlefield against our forces. And I think there, too, is an area where the American people need to be better prepared by our leadership. ... It's clear that Iraq poses a major threat. It's clear that its weapons of mass destruction need to be dealt with forcefully, and that's the path we're on. I think the question becomes whether we can keep the diplomatic balls in the air and not drop any, even as we move forward, as we must, on the military side." (NPR, Dec. 20, 2002) "I think the United States government has been clear since the first Bush administration about the threat that Iraq and Saddam Hussein poses. The United States policy has been regime change for many, many years, going well back into the Clinton administration. So it's a question of timing and tactics. ... We do not necessarily need a further Council resolution before we can enforce this and previous resolutions. (NPR, Nov. 11, 2002)

A member of the 9/11 Commission, while he was a congressional representative, the South Bend Tribune (Indiana) reported: "U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer joined a bipartisan majority in the House in voting to give President Bush authority to use military force against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. 'The threat from Saddam is grave and growing and it's something we're going to have to address in the not-too-distant future,' Roemer said from his office in Washington after the vote. The resolution passed by a vote of 296-133, a clear indication of strong support for plans to eliminate Iraq's threat of chemical and biological weapons." (Oct. 11, 2002)

Steinberg was deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration.

Week of 6/2/08:

"Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," Obama declared Wednesday, to rousing applause from the 7,000-plus attendees at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.