By Jerry White
21 February 2008
On Tuesday night after his primary election victory in Wisconsin, Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, delivered a speech to a crowd of 20,000 supporters at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.Aye, there's the rub: To Obama, we NEED “leaders who can inspire the American people to rally behind a common purpose and a higher purpose.” Nobody asks "What "common" purpose? What "higher" purpose? I tell ya, friends, he's all smoke and mirrors. There's no 'there' there. He's a shiny, bright object--our first "black" candidate? Wahooo, there's 'progress.' Never mind that he's no better than second-rate senator (albeit a first-rate orator).
In his remarks, which lasted 50 minutes, the Illinois senator appealed to two disparate and, in fact, conflicting constituencies. First, he sought to tap into and channel the mood of social discontent and frustration among voters opposed to the growth of social inequality, war and the irresponsiveness of the two big business parties. At the same time, he gave several signals to corporate America that he was committed to defending its interests in the US and throughout the globe. (Emphasis supplied)
In an appeal aimed particularly at young people, Obama presented his campaign as a part of popular social movement, imbued with the same “hope for change” as earlier movements that fought for independence from Britain, against slavery and for trade union and civil rights.
“If we win this election in November,” he said, “then we are going to need your help and your time, your energy, your enthusiasm, your mobilization, your organization, and your voices to help us change America over the next four years.”
The country, he added, needs “leaders who can inspire the American people to rally behind a common purpose and a higher purpose.” His travels throughout the country had convinced him “that change in America does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.”
In his remarks, Obama deliberately sought to obscure the question of class and the fact that a genuine struggle for significant social change would require challenging America’s corporate and financial elite.
Obama has received the backing of leading sections of the corporate and political establishment because he is seen as a useful tool to establish a more popular base of support for the geopolitical interests of the American ruling class. At the same time, his talk of unity, renewal and his status as the first African American with a serious chance to win the US presidency has attracted the support of workers and young people in the first stages of their political awakening and shift to the left.
It is impossible to combine the popular demands for an end to war and militarism with the defense of US imperialist interests. Nor is it possible to put an end to social inequality while defending the “free market” and capitalism. In the end, as the economic crisis in the US and internationally deepens, it will be the expectations of ordinary people that will be dashed, not those sections of big business that are backing Obama.