I read with interest a recent article by Tom Hayden that appeared on Common Dreams. It compares the political possibilities of the 1968 and 2008 elections, mentions the transformative potential of Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama ( having finished a new book on Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign a few days ago made me appreciate Hayden's observations all the more), notes the remarkable entry of youth and the African American people on each occasion, and reveals a political imagination that correctly allows for contingency and novelty in the political process.
Hayden also writes that it makes no sense for progressive and left minded people to allow moss to grow underneath our feet in this election season. Who can disagree?
In fact, sitting out the elections in my view gives up the battle before it is joined and fails to appreciate the incredible opportunities that this election offers to throw our country onto a progressive and peaceful trajectory. It also privileges form over content in so far as it gives faint praise or no praise at all to the mass upsurge and struggle that erupted over the past five months because they happened within the shell of the Democratic Party and the two party election system.
If I had any quarrel with Hayden (and quarrel is not the right word) it would be that he doesn't mention the broadly based electoral people's movement that began gathering in the primaries and will gain in size and strength this summer and fall. Young people and African Americans are at the core of this movement as he mentions, but its core also includes labor (we didn't see it full power in the primaries, but that will change now that Obama is the nominee), other nationally and racially oppressed people, women (their entry into the primary process was remarkable as well) and seniors - not to mention social movements of all kinds.
In a blog yesterday I said that the social forces and movements marching into this year's election in opposition to McCain and the rest of the Republican right will be broader in their reach than anything witnessed in US history. I still believe that, but I would go a step further. I would argue that this loose, but broad people's coalition has the potential to defeat McCain and gang in a landslide and shape the post election agenda.
On another note, this evening I plan to set the elections aside and instead plant myself in front of a TV set and watch game three of the NBA finals. Growing up in New England, I have to say, "Go Boston, Beat LA."