by Tom Hayden
Posted January 27, 2008
With the California primary ten days away, it's time to decide. And
for me, it's not been easy.
My paramount concern is to prevent a Republican victory in November.
Even though it seems to be a Democratic year, no one can say which
Democratic can defeat, say, John McCain, the full-throated advocate
of "winning" the Iraq war. At stake are many issues beyond Iraq, not
least the appointment of the next generation of federal judges.
I will vote without hesitation for the Democratic nominee, if only to
stop to the neo-conservative usurpation of power which began in
Florida in 2000.
One must choose a candidate based on the issues for which they stand,
the spirit they invoke, and the people they are able to mobilize.
As for issues, the differences between Obama and Clinton on Iraq are
difficult to pin down. Obama was against the Iraq war five years ago,
and favors a more rapid pullout of combat troops than Clinton. But
both would replace combat troops with an American counterinsurgency
force of tens of thousands, potentially turning Iraq into Central
America in the 1970s. Obama seems more supportive of diplomacy than
Clinton, but he supports military intervention in Pakistan's tribal
areas. Edwards favors a more rapid pullout from Iraq, but is unlikely
On Iraq, the anti-war movement has helped turn a public majority
against the war, a historic achievement. But the movement alone lacks
much capacity to forge anything beyond the slogan of "bring the
troops home." Our most achievable goal is a strong voter mandate for
peace in November, the election of more Congressional Democrats, and
spreading public awareness of the dangers of counterinsurgency. The
election of a Democratic president is a necessary condition for
ending the war, but sadly not a sufficient one.
So the choice remains.
I do not like the Hillary haters in our midst. As president, her
court appointees alone would represent a relief from the present
rigging of the courts and marginal improvements for working people.
On Iraq, I believe she could be pushed to withdraw. She is a
centrist, and it will be up to social movements to alter the center.
Nor do I like the role being played by President Bill Clinton, who is
telling lies about Iraq and Obama that are unbecoming a former president.
Neither do I agree with Gloria Steinem's divisive claim that the
gender barrier is greater than the racial one. Who wants to measure
slavery against the Inquisition? In the case at hand, who among us
would argue that the barriers against Hillary Clinton are greater
than those facing Barack Obama? What is compelling is that most black
women support Obama.
I respect John Edwards' campaign and the role he has played in
driving the Democratic Party towards a progressive agenda. At this
point, however, I cannot foresee a primary he will win.
That leaves Barack Obama. I have been devastated by too many
tragedies and betrayals over the past 40 years to ever again deposit
so much hope in any single individual, no matter how charismatic or
brilliant. But today I see across the generational divide the spirit,
excitement, energy and creativity of a new generation bidding to
displace the old ways. Obama's moment is their moment, and I pray
that they succeed without the sufferings and betrayals my generation
went through. There really is no comparison between the Obama
generation and those who would come to power with Hillary Clinton,
and I suspect she knows it. The people she would take into her
administration may have been reformers and idealists in their youth,
but they seem to seek now a return to their establishment positions
of power. They are the sorts of people young Hillary Clinton herself
would have scorned at Wellesley. If history is any guide, the new
"best and brightest" of the Obama generation will unleash a new cycle
of activism, reform and fresh thinking before they follow pragmatism
to its dead end.
Many ordinary Americans will take a transformative step down the long
road to the Rainbow Covenant if Obama wins. For at least a brief
moment, people around the world -- from the shantytowns to the
sweatshops, even to the restless rich of the Sixties generation --
will look up from the treadmills of their shrunken lives to the
possibilities of what life still might be. Environmental justice and
global economic hope would dawn as possibilities.
Is Barack the one we have been waiting for? Or is it the other way
around? Are we the people we have been waiting for? Barack Obama is
giving voice and space to an awakening beyond his wildest
expectations, a social force that may lead him far beyond his modest
policy agend. Such movements in the past led the Kennedys and
Franklin Roosevelt to achievements they never contemplated. [As
Gandhi once said of India's liberation movement, "There go my people.
I must follow them, for I am their leader."]
We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It
is better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our
planet's future as only a reliving of the past.
So I endorse the movement that Barack Obama has inspired and will
support his candidacy in the inevitable storms ahead.