Obamessives and Obamicans

By David Swanson

A friend just described to me the scene last weekend in Richmond, Va., prior to the Tuesday Virginia primary in which Obama trounced Clinton. Both of them spoke at a Democratic Party dinner in Richmond, and a huge crowd outside and inside cheered and screamed, reportedly mostly for Obama. My friend said she’d not felt the same thing since the 1963 march on Washington. She said the crowd was mixed in terms of age and race in a way she hadn’t seen since then. She, like many of us, is used to attending peace rallies full of old white people. She said the crowd was for Obama, that after Clinton had spoken and left the Governor introduced Obama with “And now for the main event…,” and the place went insane with cheering.

Now, I suspect that a lot of Obama supporters think he is more progressive than he is, imagine he’s far less militaristic and corporate than he says he is ininterviews, debates, and in his second book. But my friend had read his first book, and she also knew what is needed to get past the corporate media guardians of U.S. election booths. She, as I suspect many are doing, put her hope in the notion that Obama is faking his corporate militarism in order to get past GE, Fox, Viacom, and Disney, and once he’s elected he’ll be a real progressive. I’m putting what little hope I have in a slightly different place. My hope is that the people filling the streets in Richmond will continue to fill the streets after Obama moves into the White House. My hope is that a movement can arise that will force Obama to be what we need him to be.

Obamessives, progressives enthused by Obama, may believe he’s a progressive now, or may place their faith in his imagined intention to be the intelligent decent author of his first book as soon as he’s elected, or may place their faith in their own power to compell him to be something great. In any case, there are millions of Obamessives roaming the country, many of them young and new to politics. I share the enthusiasm for two reasons: they exist, and together we are accomplishing the first good thing in US politics in a long, long time (except for Donna Edwards’ win): we are defeating Hillary Clinton.

But part of any plan to hold Obama accountable to our agenda post-election will have to factor in the Republican support he garners from what appear to be millions of Obamicans, former Republicans throwing their support to Obama over McCain. The corporate media will spin this as Obama moving to the right, rather than as Republicans moving to the left. Obama will be depicted as having become a militarist corporate shill in order to win the public’s favor, even as the public deserts Mr. 10,000 More Years in Iraq in order to vote for the one candidate (other than Cynthia McKinney) who opposed the invasion.

Of course there may be some Obamicans for the primaries only who run back and vote for McCain. They may be driven more by their crazy hatred for Clinton than by any sense that Obama is preferable to Senator Bomb-Bomb. And yet there is a chance that they are now opening their traditionally closed minds to what Obama has to say.

Here’s a report from the Richmond event written by a friend of a friend, an Obamessive in the making who sat next to some Obamicans:

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By Garrie Rouse

I’ve seen a lot of emails with comments/arguments regarding the candidates for the 2008 Presidential election. It tells me how important this election is becoming to the American people. Of course, the fellow I was pushing for (Dennis Kucinich) is no longer an option unless he decides to run as an Independent or on the Green Party ticket. And that seems very unlikely. And I’m really not sure I would want him too, because he’s pretty effective right where he is. Which brings me to another point …

As Americans, we give far more attention (and attach far greater significance) to the Presidential elections compared to the Congressional ones. But it is the House of Representatives which embodies the principles of democracy far better than the Presidency. And, the Congress is really where the power is, if only they could work collectively. This Administration certainly has tested (and demonstrated) the full extent of the power of the Executive Branch but … had the House and Senate been filled with two-thirds Progressives … Bush and his cronies would have been effectively castrated by the Congress on day one.

I never thought that Kucinich could win the Democratic nomination. But I did hope that, by running, he could get out some of his progressive messages and help rekindle a faint concept of the notion of integrity in the minds of the American people. But, as we now know, the MSM would have none of that.

I was left with the dilemma of what to do with my single (all important) vote in the upcoming Virginia primary now that Kucinich was out. When word got out that Hillary and Obama were coming to town to speak at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond, I thought … well this would be a good opportunity to hear them both (live and in person) right before the Virginia primary. And, I am something of a photography hound and thought there might be some good opportunities there. I had gotten some good images of Obama a little over a year ago when he came to a rally at VUU to stump for Webb. But I had none of Hillary to date. So I bought a couple of tickets and down to the Siegal Center my wife and I went with camera gear in tow.

We got there a couple of hours early but, already, Broad Street in front of the Siegal Center was thronged with hundreds of Obama and Hillary supporters, each competing with each other for the attention of passerbys. It really had the semblance of the (too) many antiwar protests that I have participated in, only the two camps were very congenial with one another. Everyone was smiling and bubbly. There was a feeling in the air as though this was “our time”, no matter who the ultimate Democratic nominee.

Well, the “theatre seats” were something of a fiasco. I remember when Hans Blix came to the Siegal Center. They set the podium up on the basketball court right in front of those seats. I was maybe 50 feet from him and got some great shots. But this time, the entire floor of the pavilion was filled with hundreds of dining tables (for the “real” Virginia Democratic big wigs) and the podium was set up on the opposite end of the arena. So, it became immediately clear that there wasn’t going to be the kind of “photographic opportunity” that I had hoped for.

We happened to seat ourselves right next to a couple who I immediately recognized as having butted into the long lines of people waiting to enter the Siegal Center. They were white/middle-aged. I was sitting next to the guy and he immediately struck up a conversation about Hillary and Obama. It turns out he was a Republican, disillusioned with the present Administration. Now, I had heard about these people in the news, but here I was sitting right next to one eager to talk about his views in a congenial manner. He said that he would never vote for Hillary (I think for very different reasons than I would, or would not, vote for her), but that he would vote for Obama. In fact, he said he would vote for Obama over McCain. Now, I had read about this stance among Republican men as well, but here was this guy corroborating all that for me. He went on to say … “either way I win”. Meaning … if Obama gets the Democratic nomination, Obama wins the Presidential election. If Hillary gets the Democratic nomination, all the would be, Republican “cross-overs” and conservative-leaning Independents vote for McCain and McCain wins the Presidential election.

Now, I’m not saying I agree with his logic. But it was very enlightening to get all this straight from the mouth of a white Republican male. Its encouraging to witness, first hand, that there are Republicans that are dissatisfied with their party, in general, and the Bush Administration in particular. It gives me a ray of hope that things could change. But its still disturbing to me to see the white, conservative, male hatred of Hillary. I have my issues with Hillary, as I know many Progressives do, but I do not hate her. In fact, I think she is very courageous, intelligent, hard-working and dedicated. My issue is more with the “political machine” that has helped get her to this point … a very much, pro-Israeli machine that will prevent any true solution to the Middle East crisis. And god knows we need a major “paradigm shift” in our approach there.

Anyway, the arena was “rockin” like we were at a VCU basketball game. But the energy from the crowd that arose when Obama took the podium was unmistakably different. And it became immediately clear to me … at that moment … that Obama was going to take Virginia in a big way. I’m not saying that I am fully on the Obama bandwagon. Just that there is a phenomenon there that is really worth sitting up and taking note of.

I’ve put my images from the event up on the Pbase and you can view them by following this link.

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