A seismic shift, a watershed moment, an electoral landslide or the dawn of a new era. No matter what the turn of phrase, Nov. 4, 2008, will go down in the history books as the beginning of the end of the 30-year political reign of the ultra-right and its vicious pro-corporate agenda, and the end of a beginning of new politics in the United States of America.
Convinced by the power of one man’s arguments for hope, unity and change, his program and example, a 52 percent majority of voters rejected the old politics of fear, racism and red-baiting and elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.
Perhaps it was historically inevitable that this country elected its first African American president. The dynamics of slavery, race and racism, together with the historic role of the African American freedom movement in helping propel the expansion of democracy for all people, have always been a central narrative to the making of America.
An accident of history, maybe, is the fact that in 2009 the country will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of another tall, lanky, transformative figure from Illinois: Abraham Lincoln.
In this age of 24-hour news cycles and instant information, when a seismic victory happens it’s important to take a breath and reflect even while celebrating. There will be analysis in the coming weeks in our pages and web site. We’ll be taking closer looks at the many different actors, issues and developments.
But here is an initial take, a basic framework to ponder and analyze such a momentous moment. This was a victory for the whole U.S. working class. And workers of all job titles, professions, shapes, colors, sizes, hairstyles and languages put their indelible stamp on this victory.
This is an important point to ponder, not only for people here in the U.S., but also for our sisters and brothers around the world. The U.S. working class is pushing for a new day — in which our country can be a good global citizen and not the “rogue state” the Bush administration has projected.
The most organized section of the working class — the labor movement — played a stellar role in this election, organizing more than 250,000 labor activists in critical battleground states. But it was its role in challenging and educating union members on racial bias, coupled with a program for economic recovery, that labor proved its invaluable mettle.
A powerful coalition of forces, inspired towards a new kind of politics, bubbled up from the ground of discontent sown by the authoritarian, reckless and greed-driven policies of the Bush administration. Union members and retirees of all races and the African American people as a whole joined with the emerging political might of Latinos — Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans and others — and with women and young people en masse to successfully challenge the power of the ultra-right. And the seeds of a renewed and strengthened Jewish-Black unity — historically so key to civil rights progress — are taking root.
Such unity — as President-elect Obama said — of “young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled” is an idea that has been grasped by millions of people and made into a material force shattering the Republicans’ “Southern strategy” and forcing this party of the reactionary right into a meltdown.
The election outcome represents a clear mandate for pro-people change on taxes, health care, the war in Iraq, job creation and economic relief, union organizing and the Employee Free Choice Act. Reform and relief are in the air. Their scope and depth will be the arena of struggle. The best thing the coalition that won this victory can do is to stick together and help the new administration carry through on its promises. We suspect an Obama administration will have to govern from the center with progressive and left voices included in the dialogue along with conservatives. The ultra-right and corporate interests will do everything in their power to limit, and even steal, the people’s victory.
Jubilation and celebration, yes, along with realization that the hard work is just beginning.