You aren't going to learn anything here about the overwhelming Obama victory in South Carolina that you haven't heard anywhere else, but for the first time I am beginning to think the Clintons are in trouble. Why? Because here is someone who has almost never, in my memory, in a long life devoted to public service, endorsed a candidate: go to this link for Caroline Kennedy's reasons why she believes that Obama can inspire the nation like her father did. Better yet, if you can, go to the New York Times Op-Ed piece where she states her position in full. To quote a piece of the Op-Ed that I found particularly moving: "I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it," Kennedy writes; "who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved."
Wow. If the Kennedy family hits the campaign trail for Obama, it's all over but the shouting, friends.
Now, that Obama took many Edwards votes -- even in the white Piedmont and the North Carolina border, where Edwards has run strongbefore -- means something to me about Obama's electability among the poor who have suffered most from conservative and neoliberal market-based economics: textiles and manufactured clothing are at the top of the list of jobs lost to the global economy. And, this is also that South Carolina, where some of the saddest and most violent moments of the sorry history of Reconstruction played out, the state that came to define white domination before and after the Civil War. That a candidate could also muster such solid support across the racial lines also means something to me: there is perhaps something quite historic being played out here.
I still believe in Edwards. Deeply. But recent events that have left Edwards solidly out of the running are impressive, I must say. And while I am sure that there are many feminists who would see the failure of Clinton to make the ticket at all as a real slap in the face, what would mean most to me at this juncture would be to see Obama and Edwards come to some accord about national priorities -- either by putting Edwards on the ticket (unlikely, given what many in the Democratic leadership perceived as a me-first campaigning philosophy on his part when he was bottom-dog on the Kerry ticket) or by Obama pledging that he will give Edwards a cabinet post and give him the power to craft anti-poverty programs. And although the Obama campaign is maintaining what I think is an icky, feel-good take on race that makes me really uncomfortable (last night, prior to the victory speech, the crowd chanted "Race doesn't matter," which personally I think is a little odd since it is exactly the point that he is a black candidate who is breaking into demographics who have not voted for a black candidate in such numbers for over 125 years, or perhaps ever) I am coming around. And what would make a big difference to me also would be for whites and blacks associated with the Obama campaign not to act like thinking about race in a critical way is a poison pill. This country has a lot of work to do on race, and pretending it doesn't matter is not persuasive to most of us who have been working for racial justice for decades and see that work -- particularly as anti-racism has been associated over time with attempts to alleviate social inequality, poverty and violence more generally -- as unfinished and often reviled in the political mainstream.
So let's start with the white people: Step up, why don't you, as few people have since the 1960's, to say that you are willing to form an alliance with progressives of color in which you are not demanding leadership as the price for your participation. And while you are at it -- everybody needs to start talking to the Hispanic and Asian communities. Because when we talk about black-white all the time, guess what we are not talking about? That's right, Papi. Immigration, borders and undocumented workers.
This is also, I think, what John Edwards could do on a presidential ticket, and why I will continue to support him, even though it is clear that the mandate for the presidency is going in another direction. I do think it would be a big deal for a Northern black man and a southern, white progressive to share a national, major party ticket, and for the black candidate to be in the top spot. It would be historic, and not just because of the black man. Better yet, it might produce a national progressive alliance that in itself would be historic in its efforts to not just lift up the middle class (a rhetoric I will always be wary of because of what a critical role it played in the Reagan revolution), but to wed the middle class to the interests of the poor. Because the poor built America: slaves, servants, workers, wage laborers, immigrants, farmers. You name it, they built it, grew it, cleaned it, slaughtered it, wove it, drove it. And its past time that we paid them back.
Afternoon Update: As tipped by Tony Grafton in the comments section of this post, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass) is reported to be on the verge of a press conference where he too will endorse Obama. I guess it's about time to get on the Obandwagon -- there goes New England, Hillary. Does this mean that Barack is not afraid of the L-word? Stop laughing, Lesboprof -- you know which L-word I mean! But I hope he isn't afraid of the other one either. And sources close to the Tenured Radical report that she is ready to declare party unity as soon as Edwards throws his support to Obama.
New Student Orientation Reading, Baylor University.
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