What will be the story of this election?

 In Election 2008


Like a lot of you, I have been consumed by the election mania, anxiously watching  the polls and following everything from substantive issue debates on foreign policy to 24-hour cable news fodder about expensive clothes and socialism.

One question we have been discussing here at Peace Action West is what will be the story of this election? We know an Obama victory is critical because of his policy differences with John McCain, but what will an Obama victory mean for the peace movement, and how do we lay the groundwork for real policy change in 2009?

Norman Solomon has some interesting thoughts on why we need not just a victory but a landslide, the problems with voting for a third party candidate in this election, and what that will mean for the progressive movement.  I recommend you read the whole thing, but here are some key excerpts:

A large margin of victory over the McCain-Palin ticket, repudiating what it stands for, is needed — and absolutely insufficient. It's a start along a long uphill climb to get this country onto a course that approximates sanity.

McCain's only real hope is to achieve the election equivalent of drawing an inside straight — capturing the electoral votes of some key swing states by slim margins. His small window of possible victory is near closing. Progressives should help to slam it shut.

Like it or not, the scale of a national rejection of McCain-Palin and Bush would be measured — in terms of state power and perceived political momentum — along a continuum that ranges from squeaker to landslide. It's in the interests of progressives for the scale to be closer to landslide than squeaker….

…Looking past the election, progressives will need to mobilize for a comprehensive agenda including economic justice, guaranteed healthcare for all, civil liberties, environmental protection and demilitarization.

The forces arrayed against far-reaching progressive change are massive and unrelenting. If an Obama victory is declared next week, those forces will be regrouping in front of our eyes — with right-wing elements looking for backup from corporate and pro-war Democrats. How much leverage these forces exercise on an Obama presidency would heavily depend on the extent to which progressives are willing and able to put up a fight.

It's a fight we should welcome.

An Obama victory is far from guaranteed. The number of progressives we can turn out to the polls will help determine the narrative.  If we want this election to be seen as a repudiation of Bush’s foreign policy, we need huge turnout.  Click on the "where I vote" button to find your polling place, and be sure to remind your friends and family to vote.

Matt Yglesias also shares some interesting thoughts about why it’s in our interest to portray Obama as a champion of progressive causes:

As I say, presumably it won’t actually all happen. And one key element in the struggle to prevent it from happening, will be the effort to argue, if Obama wins, that, eh, he didn’t really run on a bold progressive agenda. Under the circumstances, I think it’s important to argue that, yes, he in fact did run on strong progressive agenda and members of congress need to hear that if he wins, that signifies the political viability of a strong progressive agenda.

This is where I think some of the recent “socialism” scare talk and so forth gets interesting. Presumably, come January and February conservatives are going to be wanting to argue that Obama’s got no mandate, that Republican legislators have no need to fear him, and that Democratic legislators should live in terror of overreaching. To that end, it’ll be helpful to argue that Obama got elected as a tepid centrist. But in their last-ditch efforts to beat him, they’re doing the reverse, and dramatically overpainting Obama as a wild-eyed radical ready to unleash Marxism on the country. Well, if you spend a month or two running around saying that, and then the voters back the Marxist anyway, he’s got pretty much carte blanche to do what he wants if he wins.

Whatever happens this election, we will have our work cut out for us, and we are ready to hit the ground running building grassroots pressure for a more just and sane foreign policy.

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