US elections

Why Obama won

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Obama won a second term as US president despite his record. Here US socialist Eric Fretz argues he benefitted from a shift to the left in US society. But what are the prospects for the growth of movements from below that challenge big business and the two-party system?

Four years ago Barack Obama won a historic victory during an economic downturn and widespread opposition to the Bush administration by running as the candidate of hope and change. This year Obama won re-election, in the face of a still bleak economy and widespread disappointment in his own administration, by not seeming as bad as his opponent. The Republicans wanted the election to be a referendum on Obama's first term. Noting the disappointment with "hope and change".

Hope and despair - the experience of the 1930s and the crisis today

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As he reaches his 80th birthday this month, Noam Chomsky looks at Barack Obama's victory, today's economic crisis and his memories of a childhood shaped by the 1930s Depression.

I'm old enough to remember the Depression. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of people coming to the door trying to sell rags. Most of the extended family was unemployed, all my aunts were seamstresses, and there were shop boys, things like that. My most striking memories are of things like riding a trolley car with my mother past a textile factory where security forces were beating women strikers, and I remember going with my father to what looked like an extremely imposing building where he was trying to get some money and couldn't - his bank had closed.

The four legged stool that won the US presidential election

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What are Barack Obama's political roots? Manning Marable considers his historic election and argues that he is part of a new generation of post-racial black politicians.

My initial reaction to Barack Obama's victory is that of a historian - race has been the fundamental chasm in US democracy for 400 years. Blacks arrived here as slaves in 1619, about 150 years before the American Revolution and 170 years before the US constitution was ratified founding the nation state. All of that rested on slavery and the exploitation of black labour. So in 1790, in the very first law passed by the incoming administration of George Washington, the definition of a US citizen was a free white person, preferably with property.

Getting out the vote for Barack Obama

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I am normally a Politics professor, but in late October I entered a parallel universe doing "participant-observer research" as a Democratic Party activist in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

I began to understand the extraordinary ground-level campaign to elect Barack Obama as a social movement fusing aspirations for economic levelling with hostility to racism, sexism, homophobia, militarism and environmental degradation.

People not normally involved in elections were engaged and enthused. Campaigners chattered about replacing the discredited "trickle-down effect" with a "trickle-up effect". Grotesque degrees of class inequality angered people as much as the war on Iraq.

Barack Obama and the working class

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I always say that if Obama was delivered to the White House with Jesus Christ, a five-piece band and six gilded seraphims holding up his fucking balls he still won't be able to do anything because the country's broke and Congress is bought and sold.

We'll get things that don't cost money. We'll get our civil liberties back to some degree, habeas corpus will be restored. And god knows he's not trigger-happy, he won't be bombing Iran. Damn, I voted for him, I'm glad to see him there. A brilliant campaign went out and found everybody in every cubbyhole that would possibly vote for him and registered them like crazy. That was a massive accomplishment.

After the election

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I was with an African American guy on the morning of the election; a thoughtful working class guy who must have been in his 50s. When I asked him what it felt like to come out from voting he started crying. Even he didn't know where it came from.

I met up with him later that evening in a bar on the south side of Chicago. People were out celebrating the possibility of what the US might be. That sense of possibility had all but been extinguished over the past seven years. There had never been a consensus for George W Bush. Bush didn't win his first election and in the second he only got around 52 percent of the vote. People felt that they had been excluded from the national conversation, and therein comes the symbolism of this black man who is the kind of anti-Bush.

Barack Obama as president symbolises change

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Barack Obama as president symbolises change and finally something I'd consider a revolutionary transformation.

People often see revolution as being an event where people have picked up guns and have seized the state. That is certainly one manifestation of it, but revolution is also a process and not necessarily a conclusion.

After Barack Obama's historic victory, what's next?

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What will Barack Obama's presidency bring? That depends on the balance of forces argues Jonathan Neale.

I've lived abroad for many years, but I grew up in the US, and still carry a US passport. I cried for joy the night Barack Obama was elected. But I didn't vote for him. I want to explain both of these things as a way of explaining what his election means for the future.

US elections - the new deal?

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The US ruling class are desperate to rescue their system from catastrophe. Mike Davis looks at what the new incumbent of the White House faces and what this means for ordinary Americans.

Let me begin, very obliquely and strangely, with the Grand Canyon and the paradox of trying to see beyond cultural or historical precedent. The first European to look into the depths of the great gorge was the conquistador García López de Cárdenas, in 1540. He was horrified by the sight and quickly retreated from the South Rim. More than three centuries passed before Lieutenant Joseph Christmas Ives of the US Army's Corps of Topographical Engineers became the second visitor. Like García López, he recorded an "awe that was almost painful to behold".

Beyond the Palin effect

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I was rather surprised when someone said to me recently, "You almost have to admire Sarah Palin."

My surprise came from the fact that the person announcing his half admiration for the Republican vice-presidential candidate in the US elections was a longstanding socialist and anti-war activist. He certainly would not approve of Palin's creationist religious beliefs, nor of her recent chant of "Drill, baby, drill" as she urged more oil drilling in Alaska to cut the price of petrol.


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