(First published in Sinhala and dated 18 January 2008)
Everyone, or so it seems, is willing Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party’s candidate in the US Presidential elections in November.
He appears to be everything Hillary Clinton -- the current favourite to win the Democratic nomination -- is not. From his relative youth; easy way with ordinary people; ‘outsider’ status in the political establishment (though he represents the state of Illinois in the Senate); criticism of US foreign policy in Iraq; and of course his race, he symbolises his own message of “change”.
In one of the most unequal societies in the world: where for every one dollar a white person is paid, a black person earns 62 cents; where a black person is 2.3 times more likely to be unemployed than a white person; where there are more black people in prisons than in higher education, it is remarkable that an African-American is being talked about as the 44th President of the United States of America.
However, if it is real change in US domestic and foreign policy that one is after, the difference between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is as paper-thin as the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.
Obama has flipped-flopped on the US occupation of Iraq and supports US military intervention in Afghanistan. In August last year he even threatened to bomb Pakistan if General (sorry “President”) Musharaf doesn’t root out Islamic terrorism in the form of Al-Qaida.
Obama is a safe choice for US corporate interests, which is why investment firms and corporate banks such as Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars each to his campaign.
Obama supports nuclear energy as his solution to the problem of US addiction to petro-carbons (oil and gas).
On every other issue, what Obama stands for, other than change, is unclear as he is purposely vague on specifics.
In fact, the real candidate for change on the Democratic ticket, is surprise, surprise, the one you don’t hear about in the media.
Dennis Kucinich, a Congressman in the House of Representatives from Ohio, has always opposed the US war in Iraq, he prevented the privatisation of Cleveland’s publicly owned electricity supply as Mayor of that city, he supports same-sex (gay) marriage, he supports not-for-profit universal health care in a country where 44 million citizens are too poor to afford health insurance; he is against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the neo-liberal North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Even Kucinich though believes in saving capitalism from itself through correcting its flaws, abuses and injustices.
Unfortunately, those who have most to gain from Kucinich’s policies are those who are excluded from the political system and who will never know of Kucinich because he has been excluded by the mainstream media which refuses to let him debate on air with other candidates.
US trade unions have overwhelmingly backed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to a lesser extent, associating themselves with candidates acceptable to employers who have kept the level of real wages for blue-collar workers at the same level as 1979!
The same candidates who can only shed crocodile tears for the hundreds of thousands of families whose homes are being repossessed as they bear the brunt of the banking crisis in the mortgage market because they will not intervene in the economy to protect them.
The unwillingness of organised labour to break from the Democratic Party prevented the US Labor Party in the 1990s from taking off, while the weaknesses of the Green Party make it a marginal force in US politics.
A third party that is also a social movement, capable of bringing down the corrupt electoral system and democratising US politics, remains the challenge.
Until then the twin parties of Corporate America guarantee government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.
Barack Obama in the White House can not and will not change that.