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Is Obama Clinton 2.0?
WASHINGTON - August 22 -
KEVIN GRAY Gray is author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and the forthcoming The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.
Gray said today: "Obama is slipping in the polls and I think it's because he's seen as going with the flow. He's not taking on the crucial issues -- instead he frequently sounds like he's reading the lines from [the book] 'Primary Colors.' ... Many people seem to think that just getting Obama into the White House would be a great victory because of the symbolism, but do we really know that policies that affect people's lives will really change? That will only happen if movements propel that change." More Information
GWENDOLYN MINK Co-editor of the two-volume Poverty in the United States: An Encyclopedia of History, Politics and Policy and author of Welfare's End, Mink is scrutinizing various portions of the Democratic Party platform on her blog.
She said today: "The mystery to me is the widespread assumption that Obama is a progressive. That assumption arose from and rested on Obama's stated opposition to the Iraq invasion before he was in the Senate. But that does not feed automatically into a progressive position on other issues; and it shouldn't buy Obama a pass on the broader social justice agenda. Folks who now see Obama shifting to the center are only partly right. Obama has abandoned strong progressive positions on the FISA bill, NAFTA, the D.C. gun ban, abortion rights ... But just as important, his starting positions on many other issues are actually centrist or even a little conservative.
"That these positions are now coming into view is not evidence of a centrist shift; it is evidence that Obama's bare record contains many longstanding issue commitments that should be -- and should have been -- alarming to progressives. For example: Obama's instructions to African Americans about paternity and fatherhood are not new; he introduced 'responsible fatherhood' legislation very soon after entering the U.S. Senate. Obama's related paeans to 'personal responsibility' pre-date his entry onto the national stage; as he says in his TV ads, he 'passed welfare to work.' Similarly, Obama's call to church-state partnerships in social policy -- similar to George Bush's 'faith-based initiative' -- repeats his view that 'faith' has a role in politics and policy, a view articulated long before the presidential campaign. The list of Obama's centrist and/or conservative positions goes on: he voted to limit corporate tort liability; he voted to reauthorize the Patriot Act; he supports expanding the death penalty; he defends states' rights against universal liberty; he opposes marriage equality for same-sex unions; he's for patchwork health care reform rather than comprehensive provisions.
"In many respects, Obama promises a re-run of the Clinton presidency, which in some ways was the last Republican presidency of the 20th century. Clinton, too, pushed a fatherhood agenda; he initiated the welfare-to-work policy; he expanded the death penalty; he signed the Defense of Marriage Act; he secured NAFTA. As a re-run of Bill Clinton, Obama's candidacy and possible presidency may not be surprising: it's more a comment on the present state of the Democratic Party than a revelation about individual leaders. But progressives endured Bill Clinton without posing strong and broad critiques, in the name of supporting a Democrat after those long, harsh years in the Reagan wilderness. And look where it got us. So, instead of apologizing and parsing for Obama, we should stake out our differences and mobilize our critique."