Thursday, April 10, 2008

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama's Visit to South Bend's Washington High School

South Bend, Indiana--No presidential candidate has visited the city since the appearance of Bobby Kennedy in 1968 at our local Democratic Club. Since then, there was no reason. Many Hoosiers in Indiana's 2nd District and the rest of the state were dead-set on voting against their own interests by voting Republican since that pivotal year. Now the fruits of that foolish behavior have been borne-out, and the reality behind the last few decades of political rhetoric are being seen for what they always were: a way to disenfranchise the general public on-all-fronts, and the dismantling of a civil society with a regard for the social contract.

But that changed with the 2006 midterms, when a historical-shift in voting behavior in the state upended expectations. Once an easy domain for the GOP, Indiana is now going to determine who the Democratic president-elect will be. It cannot be repeated enough that this change in voting-patterns was unexpected. Bigotry and racism are extremely entrenched in Indiana, and the 2nd District is no-exception. Yet, even many of the holders of these attitudes are having a change-of-heart. The message of the civil rights, social justice, and labor movements of the 20th century are beginning to sink-in.

The changes could end-up being much deeper for the nation, and the tribes are restless again, just as they were during the Great Depression and the 1960s-70s. While this writer doesn't believe radically fundamental changes would come about from an Obama presidency, sweeping reforms would be possible under his stewardship. This would at least restore some of the traditional cycles-of-correction in our political process, swinging from drastic economic excesses without oversight under Republican rule, with the cleanup being relegated to the Democrats afterwards. We didn't get that under Bill Clinton, and it was a good cause for alarm. But what are some of the roots of the problems we face? Surely, they are economic. America is a business-dominated society unlike most others, and there's the challenge.

Limiting the influence of lobbyists is going to be very difficult, and so too will GOP opposition to a reasonable social agenda--but that's not going to stop a determined American public, and Congress is going to have to start delivering. It really is up to all of us, and apathy isn't going to accomplish change, only willpower ever has. Divisions that seemed so potent very recently don't seem so important anymore. When you cannot pay your bills, you don't care about gay marriage or the color of someone else's skin. That hasn't always been the case, and certainly so in backwards Indiana. Let us return once again to the 1920s...

In times of economic downturn and decline, Americans have tended towards race-baiting and the scapegoat. We like to blame minorities who cannot hit back. The issue of illegal-aliens and immigrants is nothing new to this country, and it was at an even higher pitch during the run-up to the Great Depression (which would have been impossible without an era of Republican control of government much like our own). It remains-to-be-seen if this gap can be breached with the immigration issue, but it would behoove our national unions to start organizing migrant workers as Cesar Chavez did forty-years-ago to break the scapegoating spell. The time for a working-class solidarity that rejects racism and sexism--only just imagined a century ago by unions like the IWW--could finally be arriving. The rest is up to us.

In this spirit, Senator Obama spoke of many of the problems facing this nation last night at Washington High School, and he knows how to speak to and with the poor and the working-class. It's obvious that he understands what Americans need, and he understands our aspirations for a just and sustainable society. If we give him the support to do so and he fails to muster the will to seize those opportunities, the onus will be on him and Congress. One of his strongest statements--and promises--last night was a pledge to end NAFTA in his first term, as well as a full-rollback of all Bush tax-cuts to the wealthiest. That's a return to progressive taxation folks, you read it right here.

Even traditional Republicans in the 2nd District are being very vocal about the fact that they will be voting for Barack Obama, and not John McCain or Hillary Clinton. It's not hard to understand why when you look at the records of the other two candidates. Barack isn't untainted either, but there is the hope that as he's only been in Congress for a short time that the compromises have been fewer. I have worked on the West side of South Bend. I know the people there. They are good people who want a better life, and they deserve it. Forty-years-ago, the West side of South Bend was in-flames after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For a long-time hope was dead. It's alive again, and we owe it to future generations to make life better. Did we ever expect this day to come? No.

But imagine this: a political-shift in this region is occurring that few would ever have predicted, even a mere four-years-ago during the dark days of the stolen 2004 national elections. Not even race is stopping this Populist trend, and individuals who would never have thought they would vote for a Black American are going to do so in November. That's right: even the rednecks. It took eight years of Republican mismanagement of the economy, an illegal war, renditions, torture, Mark Foley, daily and weekly corruption scandals, and endless abuses of power, for the American public to finally understand why they have to pay-attention to politics and participate in it. People who have never voted are registering like never before because they finally understand how much politics affects their lives directly.

Senator Obama stayed the night in South Bend, and had his breakfast at a locally-owned restaurant. Of all of the candidates, he understands what the average person needs: stability, and a sense that they have a stake in their nation, and that there can be justice. The alternative is social chaos, a predictable repressive reaction and possible tyranny, with an untimely demise of what could have been a great nation. In that spirit, it's hoped that a president Obama will prosecute the current president after January 21st, 2009, and the rest of his administration for their profoundly criminals acts of corruption, war crimes, and treason. Every major law they had a hand in creating must be reversed. There's more hope for that in candidate Barack Obama than the other two candidates, hands-down. Out of all of the remaining candidates, I trust him to restore habeas corpus.