Obama Forsakes His Controversial Church Of Twenty Years

May 31, 2008


Saturday evening news headlines are always telling. Particularly because fewer people are watching. So, what a non-surprise that media-savvy presidential hopeful Barack Obama picked a Saturday evening to quit his own church, Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. NYT reports that he will be explaining this latest denunciation tonight in South Dakota.

The 47-year-old junior senator from Illinois has been a member of Trinity’s congregation for about two decades — that’s almost half his life. It’s also the church where he and wife Michelle were married, and his two daughters were baptized. Like his public denunciation last month of Trinity’s pastor and his longtime mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. (from whom Obama adopted the phrase, “The Audacity of Hope”), this could not possibly have been an easy decision. Is it the right one?

While the church has certainly been a lightning rod for controversy during Obama’s campaign, what does quitting it accomplish?

In stark contrast to Bush’s “stay the course”, Obama’s openness to “change” has won an unexpected show of support over the past few months. But these public denunciations of longtime friends or we-weren’t-really-friends, are beginning to turn this pro-change stance into a flip-flop dance (remember Kerry?) What happened to sticking by your people? Working with your people (one of them being, your longtime pastor) to CHANGE their minds? What does it mean to quit your church, of all things? (And I’m not even religious.)

Disappointing news indeed. Obama certainly has the gift of oratory. He’s going to need it in bundles and busloads to explain this one.

If he can quit his pastor and church of twenty years just like that because he disagrees with what they’re preaching (apparently different from what they’d been saying before he entered the race), how fast till he drops YOU, a total stranger? What if we say we don’t agree with his definition of “change”? Will he quit you and me too?

Stop the bus, I want to get off.

Multi-Party System is Way Overdue in America

May 21, 2008

flagsClinton wins Kentucky — overwhelmingly. Every time Obama and McCain supporters declare the numbers game over, an undeniable wave of support for Clinton breaks. The salaried media says people are tired of this. I find it incredibly refreshing. People are finally speaking out, through their votes. Not for Obama. But for the bigger dream of Change. The two-party system of Democrats and Republicans no longer fits. America is a nation with over 304 million people who must continue to seek representation between two political machines that are directly plugged into Capitalist, Patriarchal, Christian traditions. We are a nation with multiple voices, visions, brains, hearts, and souls. And we are in dire need of MORE political choices, MORE candidates. THIS is change.

A couple days ago, Arianna Huffington wrote a memorably lucid post, shockingly supportive of Clinton’s run for president and its monumental implications:

“[Clinton] has…forever demolished the question mark hovering over the issue many (wrongly, in my opinion) have felt would be a woman candidate’s biggest weakness: the ability to be seen as a plausible commander-in-chief.

It is to her great credit that very shortly into the ’08 race, when you saw Clinton on television, you didn’t think, “Oh, there’s the woman running for president.” That is no small feat for a woman trying to break into a male-dominated arena. So the next time a woman — or two or three — runs for president, it won’t be seen as a novelty act. Because Hillary certainly wasn’t.

Personally, I’d love to see a presidential race in November that allows us to choose between Clinton, Obama, McCain, and Paul. That is not going to happen this year. But it will sooner than later. As Arianna writes, the rules of the game have already changed:

“Campaigning in Pennsylvania in early April, Clinton compared herself to Philadelphia icon Rocky Balboa. “Let me tell you something,” she said. “When it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up.”

The comparison was meant to reinforce her image as a tireless warrior — but it was more accurate and prescient than she intended. Because Rocky actually lost his initial fight with Apollo Creed. After 15 punishing and bloody rounds, he was satisfied just to have gone the distance.

…Even though Rocky didn’t win, he was ultimately seen as a triumphant figure. And that’s how Hillary will be seen too…Hers will have been a game-changing defeat.”

Unlike Arianna (and while we still face a two-party race), I’m not ready to submit to Obama as the democratic nominee. Clinton is still in the ring. So I’m holding out for change.

Obama’s “Unity” = China’s “One World One Dream”

April 19, 2008

Insight Analytical‘s Friday post on Obama’s ongoing “Unity” campaign linked to an article written by Barry Grey for WSWS back in January 2008 (before the New Hampshire primary and in response to a conference on bipartisan unity). As IA notes, Grey’s article raises a critical issue. Titled “The U.S. Elections: In whose interest is the campaign for bipartisan unity?”, Grey writes:

“The demand, made in the name of the American people, for an end to what [ex-Democratic Senator, just-named-Obama-advisor Sam] Nunn called “rampant partisanship” is as brazen as it is absurd. What is an election about—if it is anything more than an empty ritual—if not the airing of political differences and the advancement of competing programs?

It is all the more ludicrous in a country where political discussion is suppressed as in no other “democracy” and the substantive differences between the two officially sanctioned parties are increasingly negligible. The Democratic 110th Congress is a testament to the fundamental unity of the two parties on all issues—war, the further enrichment of the financial aristocracy, the assault on democratic rights—that are critical to the American ruling elite.

The demand for bipartisan unity serves to obscure the objective reality of a society that is riven by class and social divisions. The agents of Wall Street who preach the gospel of “unity” have good reason to suppress any genuine political discussion. They preside over a country where the concentration of wealth has reached unprecedented levels, with the top 1 percent of families owning 40 percent of the nation’s net worth. And the economic disparities continue to grow.

The “unity” demanded by Messrs. Boren, Hagel & Co. is essentially unity of the corporate elite against the working class…”

This call for unity, backed by Big Media and Obscene Wealth, has swallowed up the Democratic Party, chewed away any platform for multiple voices, and spat it out in the willing form of “frontrunner” Barack Obama. Newbies, particularly if they can be seen to “represent” certain marginalized constituencies, are always excellent fodder for the ruling class.

We are not all the same and we are not all equal. We are multiple voices, living in multiple worlds with multiple ideologies, working towards multiple dreams. Democracy is the persistent struggle to keep these all alive, visible, and contemporary. If we give this up, as Obama preaches, would we not be participating in the construction of a new hegemonic order, the same neoliberalism behind China’s Olympic slogan “One World One Dream”? Monsters often have many heads.

Grey ends in a depressing note:

“The campaign for bipartisanship thus has a distinctly antidemocratic and sinister aspect. It is an effort to discipline the political squabbling within the US ruling elite in order to face a far greater danger: an eruption of social conflict produced by the increasingly desperate conditions facing the vast majority of the American people.”

With a population of over 300 million people, we don’t just need unity. We desperately need more political platforms and agonistic arenas within which to debate and negotiate our differences.

In the meantime, I’m voting for ch-ch-ch-changes I CAN believe in. Vote for Ru Paul. (We sure hope someone’s explained to McCain what LGBTQ means by now.)

CREDITS: Top Image of Obama by Charis Tsevis in Athens, Greece (or tsevis on flickr). Image of Ru Paul (right) by Josh McCormick of Tulsa (or jmccorm on flickr). Usage for both images via Creative Commons license.