Barack Obama is not a left candidate. This fact has seemingly surprised a number of progressive people who are bemoaning Obama’s “shift to the center.” (Right-wingers are happy to join them, suggesting Obama is a “flip-flopper.”) It’s sad that some who seek progressive change are missing the forest for the trees. But they will not dampen the wide and deep enthusiasm for blocking a third Bush term represented by John McCain, or for bringing Obama by a landslide into the White House with a large Democratic congressional majority.
A broad multiclass, multiracial movement is converging around Obama’s “Hope, change and unity” campaign because they see in it the thrilling opportunity to end 30 years of ultra-right rule and move our nation forward with a broadly progressive agenda.
This diverse movement combines a variety of political currents and aims in a working coalition that is crucial to social progress at this point. At the core are America’s working families, of all hues and ethnicities, whose determination to move forward does not depend on, and will not be diverted by, the daily twists and turns of this watershed presidential campaign. They are taking the long view.
Notably, the labor movement has stepped up its independent mobilization for this election. It is leading an unprecedented campaign to educate and unify its ranks to elect the nation’s first African American president. Last week, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka told the Steelworkers convention that there is “no evil that’s inflicted more pain and more suffering than racism — and it’s something we in the labor movement have a special responsibility to challenge.”
If Obama’s candidacy represented nothing more than the spark for this profound initiative to unite the working class and defeat the pernicious influence of racism, it would be a transformative candidacy that would advance progressive politics for the long term.
The struggle to defeat the ultra-right and turn our country on a positive path will not end with Obama’s election. But that step will shift the ground for successful struggles going forward.
One thing is clear. None of the people’s struggles — from peace to universal health care to an economy that puts Main Street before Wall Street — will advance if McCain wins in November.
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.