by Carl Arnold, Green Party of New York State
All commentators, from mass media pundits to the call-ins on progressive radio WBAI, are using the word ëhistoric’ to describe the election of Barack Obama. Indeed they should. For all the reasons repeated incessantly, everyone should feel profound respect for the watershed nature of this extraordinary event.
And yet ó it is not too soon to look beyond.
Consider what needs to be accomplished: a realistic, wide-ranging and immediate response to climate change, single-payer healthcare reform, an enormous shift in foreign policy, and rearranging the U.S. electoral system to wrest control from the monied puppeteers. This last point would be to establish a democracy where every vote counts and is counted, is genuinely inclusive of all legitimate points of view, and no presidential candidates are barred from participating in a presidential debate. The list is, of course, far longer.
Most people I speak with, even if highly educated, are largely unaware of Obama’s main positions: he wants to expand the war in Afghanistan, is in favor of the death penalty, is not for single-payer healthcare, and has continually touted the oxymoronic “safe nuclear” and “clean coal.” I expect progressives and radicals, even many liberals, hope he follows a venerable American tradition and breaks these campaign promises.
The president-elect, at best a centrist, has said many times that “this is not about me, it’s about you.” Whether or not he really means to invite popular pressure for the things that matter to folks, in the final analysis it’s up to us to provide that pressure ó by finding and focusing on local races that we Greens might actually win. There’s no reason for anyone to take us seriously until we create a presence on the local level by building a local reputation by proving what we can do. That will eventually translate into higher office because we earned that shot at something bigger.
We should regard this moment as our chance for change. The American people are fed up and hungry, even impatient, for progressive change domestically and a more enlightened foreign policy. Greens must take full advantage of an extraordinary shift in mood to press for the kind of progress the Green Party has been striving for.