Can the Campaign that Elected Obama Become a Movement for a Progressive Agenda?

In the days following his election, there’s been intense speculation as to whether Barack Obama will run a centrist or left-leaning presidency. Lists of potential appointees are read like runes of tea leaves. Fragments of press releases are parsed like Maoist wall posters. But the reality is that one thing alone will determine whether or not we have a progressive presidency: the building of a movement across America that fights for it.

Obama will meet intense pressure to govern on the right from the entrenched powers in Washington – the big corporations and their flacks in the lobby and the media. Only a movement based on the groups that won h im office - African Americans, the young, immigrants and trade unions - can counter this bulldozing and create space for an alternative. Such a movement needs to be dynamic and democratic, standing up for individual demands, but also capable of uniting different groups around an inclusive left program. The campaign to elect Obama was a marvel of participation and planning. But, centered on the election of a candidate, and structured entirely through his organization, it was not a movement.

So can the left help transform the forces active in the Obama campaign into a powerful lobby for progressive change? And what are the demands and organizational forms that might make this possible? Our panel of eloquent and informed speakers will tackle these and other questions in a discussion that all are invited to join.

Anthony Arnove is co-author of Voices of a People's History

Laura Flanders is the host of GRIT TV and author of Blue Grit

Brian Jones is an actor and teacher

Terry Marshall works with the 1199 Generation H Healthcare Project and the Hip Hop Media Lab

Gary Younge
is a writer for The Guardian and The Nation

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