July 2, 2008

      "I'm asking you to believe."

Listening to Barack Obama speak on race relations shortly after the Reverend Wright story broke, I was deeply moved. I wanted, as Obama implored, to believe. Here was a man I thought who truly understands what it means to be both black and white in America. More like a sermon than a speech, his words -- delivered under the title "A More Perfect Union" -- were honest and sincere. They spoke to the heart and they spoke basic truths that rarely pass through the lips of politicians on either side of the partisan divide.

Having secured the nomination for president, voting for Barack Obama in November should be a no-brainer for any sane person. The question which arises for me is not whether to lend Obama our support, but rather what should be the relationship between the millions of rank and file Americans who want the changes in America Barack Obama speaks of, and Obama himself and his campaign?

In a country in which all branches of government are increasingly if not completely beholding to corporate interests, whose president is Barack Obama going to be? This is no academic question to be put off until after the election, assuming Obama can pull out a victory. The eight year presidency of Bill Clinton failed to accomplish anything meaningful not because of the Monica Lewinsky affair, but because Mr. Clinton proved unwilling or incapable of acting against the corporate agenda on any meaningful issue.

The wheel that squeaks gets the grease.

In reality, there are two Americas: the idealistic vision of America that Obama so eloquently speaks of, which stands for democracy and liberty and justice for all; and the America of Emperor George W. Bush, the oil companies, and the military industrial complex. The former is our hope, the latter is the reality.

In the coming months battles will be fought on two basic fronts. There's the struggle to defeat the dangerous militarist from Arizona, Senator John McCain, and there's the battle to keep Barack Obama's campaign and his presidency true to its ideals and out of the direct unfettered control of the same corporate interests that gave us Bush's imperial presidency.

The proverb, "The wheel that squeaks gets the grease," was never more true than it is in politics. Washington was not set up with working people's interests in mind; left to its own devices it can easily swallow up the sincerest of politicians. The best way to make sure than Obama can deliver on some of his promises is to keep him away from the control of Washington lobbyists and the corporate class as much as possible. The legitimacy and progressiveness of any Obama presidency will be measured in direct proportion to the extent that the grass roots can also command his ear.