This call has been drafted for immediate circulation, discussion, and action.
by Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Barbara Ehrenreich, and Danny Glover
All American progressives should unite for Barack Obama. We descend from the proud tradition of independent social movements that have made America a more just and democratic country.
We believe that the movement today supporting Barack Obama continues this great tradition of grass-roots participation drawing millions of people out of apathy and into participation in the decisions that affect all our lives. We believe that Barack Obama’s very biography reflects the positive potential of the globalization process that also contains such grave threats to our democracy when shaped only by the narrow interests of private corporations in an unregulated global marketplace.
We should instead be globalizing the values of equality, a living wage and environmental sustainability in the new world order, not hoping our deepest concerns will be protected by trickle down economics or charitable billionaires. By its very existence, the Obama campaign will stimulate a vision of globalization from below.
As progressives we believe this sudden and unexpected new movement is just what America needs. The future has arrived. The alternative would mean a return to the dismal status quo party politics that have failed so far to deliver peace, health care, full employment and effective answers to crises like global warming.
During past progressive peaks in our political history—the late Thirties, the early Sixties—social movements have provided the relentless pressure and innovative ideas that allowed centrist leaders to embrace visionary solutions. We find ourselves in just such a situation today.
We intend to join and engage with our brothers and sisters in the vast rainbow of social movements to come together in support of Obama’s unprecedented campaign and candidacy. Even though it is candidate-centered, there is no doubt that the campaign is a social movement, one greater than the candidate himself ever imagined.
Progressives can make a difference in close primary races like Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and in the November general election. We can contribute our dollars. We have the proven online capacity to reach millions of swing voters in the primary and general election. We can and will defend Obama against negative attacks from any quarter.
We will seek Green support against the claim of some that there are no real differences between Obama and McCain. We will criticize any efforts by Democratic super-delegates to suppress the winner of the popular and delegate votes, or to legitimize the flawed elections in Michigan and Florida. We will make our agenda known at the Democratic national convention and fight for a platform emphasizing progressive priorities as the path to victory.
Obama’s March 17 speech on racism was as great a speech as ever given by a presidential candidate, revealing a philosophical depth, personal authenticity, and political intelligence that should convince any but the hardest of ideologues that he carries unmatched leadership potentials for overcoming the divide-and-conquer tactics which have sundered Americans since the first slaves arrived here in chains.
Only words? What words they were.
However, the fact that Barack Obama openly defines himself as a centrist invites the formation of this progressive force within his coalition. Anything less could allow his eventual drift towards the right as the general election approaches. It was the industrial strikes and radical organizers in the 1930s who pushed Roosevelt to support the New Deal.
It was the civil rights and student movements that brought about voting rights legislation under Lyndon Johnson and propelled Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy’s anti-war campaigns. It was the original Earth Day that led Richard Nixon to sign environmental laws. And it will be the Obama movement that makes it necessary and possible to end the war in Iraq, renew our economy with a populist emphasis, and confront the challenge of global warming.
We should not only keep the pressure on, but we also should connect the issues that Barack Obama has made central to his campaign into an overarching progressive vision.
– The Iraq War must end as rapidly as possible, not in five years. All our troops must be withdrawn. Diplomacy and trade must replace further military occupation or military escalation into Iran and Pakistan. We should not stop urging Barack Obama to avoid leaving American advisers behind in Iraq in a counterinsurgency quagmire like Afghanistan today or Central America in the 1970s and 1980s. Nor should he simply transfer American combat troops from the quagmire in Iraq to the quagmire in Afghanistan.
– Iraq cannot be separated from our economic crisis. Iraq is costing trillions of dollars that should be invested in jobs, universal health care, education, housing and public works here at home. Our own Gulf Coast requires the attention and funds now spent on Gulf oil.
– Iraq cannot be separated from our energy crisis. We are spending an unheard-of $100/barrel for oil. We are officially committed to wars over oil supplies far into the future. We instead need a war against global warming and for energy independence from Middle Eastern police states and multinational corporations.
Progressives should support Obama’s 16-month combat troop withdrawal plan in comparison to Clinton’s open-ended one, and demand that both candidates avoid a slide into four more years of low-visibility counterinsurgency.
TOM HAYDEN is author of Ending the War in Iraq, a five-time Democratic convention delegate, former state senator, and board member of the Progressive Democrats of America, and was a founder of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS); BILL FLETCHER, JR., who originated the call for founding “Progressives for Obama,” is the executive editor of Black Commentator, and founder of the Center for Labor Renewal; BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of Dancing in the Streets and other popular works and, with Hayden, a member of The Nation’s editorial board; DANNY GLOVER is the respected actor, activist, and chairman of the board of TransAfrica Forum.
Hayden, Fletcher and Ehrenreich are members of the Board of Foundation for a Democratic Society, affiliated with MDS and SDS.