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Super Tuesday Roundtable with Bill Fletcher of The Black Commentator, Sociologist Frances Fox Piven, Roberto Lovato of New America Media, and Progressive Democrats of America Director Tim Carpenter

StoryFebruary 06, 2008
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We host a Super Tuesday roundtable with four guests: Bill Fletcher, executive editor of The Black Commentator and former president of TransAfrica Forum; Frances Fox Piven, a distinguished professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of many books; Roberto Lovato, a writer with New America Media and a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine; and Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Super Tuesday, we’re joined by four guests: Bill Fletcher, executive editor of The Black Commentator

, former president of TransAfrica Forum, he’s joining us from Washington; here in our firehouse studio, we’re joined by Frances Fox Piven, distinguished professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY, City University of New York, author of many books; Roberto Lovato, writer with New America Media, frequent contributor to The Nation magazine; and in Chicopee, Massachusetts, Tim Carpenter joins us, he’s the national director of the Progressive Democrats of America. We welcome you all to Democracy Now!

Tim Carpenter, let’s begin with you in Massachusetts. Give us a rundown of what happened last night. What happened in Super Tuesday?

TIM CARPENTER: Well, good morning, Amy. I think it’s safe to say this morning that despite the corporate media’s best attempt, and the inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party, that the Democratic primary is far from over. I think what we witnessed last night was a grassroots movement that has made it clear that in thirteen states across the country, from states that aren’t traditionally Democratic strongholds, from Utah to Idaho, that this race is far from over, despite every attempt to say that it would be over this morning. We find that we have a dead heat, as you said when we began the show this morning, that when it looks — whether it be delegate count or popular vote, that the Democratic Party is divided and that the grassroots is challenging the Clinton machine and the inside-the-party Beltway. And the next ten days are going to be very pivotal as we shift out of Super Tuesday and on to this primary season.

AMY GOODMAN: While the Democrats are in a dead heat, the fact is that Hillary Clinton did win the big states, though Obama won more states. I mean, she did take California and New York, Tim.

TIM CARPENTER: Well, there’s no surprise that Hillary Clinton held on. There was definitely a surge here going into Super Tuesday. But again, Amy, it’s important to look at what happened on the ground in those states where caucuses and where grassroots Democrats came together: Obama won. And in the next ten days, whether it be in Washington state or out in Maryland next Tuesday, in those states where the grassroots are going to have a level playing field, we’re not going to have a front-loaded primary season. This race is far from over, Amy. And it’s not surprising that Hillary did hold on here at the end with those big states. But we need to look at what happened in the middle of the country. We need to look what happened in those caucus states. And we need to look what’s up now in the next six weeks that’s going to be happening across the country.

And the challenge for the progressive movement and the peace and justice movement is to come off the sidelines and continue in this effort to hold the Clinton machine back, to hold back this election to make sure that we get a full accounting of all of the primaries and caucuses, and to try to make Barack Obama a better candidate. And I think that’s what happened last night on Super Tuesday. Yes, the big states did certainly go for the Clinton machine, but without a challenge, and a strong challenge here at the end. And again, it’s important, while we say thirteen states, we still don’t know where New Mexico will fall at the end of the day. So I think it’s going to be about fourteen states that the Progressive Democrats and that the Obama movement had clear victories across the country. So I think it’s supercharged. We have a long and winding road, despite — again, we were being told by the corporate media and the inside-the-Beltway Democratic Party that this morning we would be crowning and anointing Hillary Clinton the eventual nominee, and that’s not the case.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Carpenter, as a progressive Democrat, your view of the Republicans, what happened there?

TIM CARPENTER: Well, it’s a lot of fun to be watching the Republicans take the meat axe at each other. I think, again, despite the pundits’ attempt and the inside-the-Beltway Republican Party, that the grassroots out there are also. I think we’re seeing a sea shift in political parties across this country, Amy. I think that the activists, the grassroots activists, the voters, are making it very clear that they want this primary clock to run out. They don’t want it to be over.

I think Mike Huckabee surprised a lot of people, including Governor Romney, yesterday in his solid South vote. I think that Senator McCain has resurrected his campaign on the surge and showed that many Americans, despite the failures in Iraq, want to have a showoff in November. And the challenge will be now for the Democrats to meet that challenge, to have a nominee, hopefully a Democratic nominee that will be talking about not just how the surge was a failure, but hopefully we can move Barack Obama to start talking about cutting military spending. So I think at the end of the day the Republicans will probably move forward and nominate Senator McCain, but it’s far from over, and it will be fun to watch as they continue to take on each other as they continue their primary season.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Carpenter is head of Progressive Democrats of America. We’re going to go to break, then continue our discussion on this morning after Super Tuesday. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: […] as we talk about Super Tuesday and the results. Tim Carpenter, joining us from Chicopee, Massachusetts, he’s the head of Progressive Democrats of America. Bill Fletcher, in the studio in Washington, D.C., executive editor of Black Commentator, former president of TransAfrica Forum. Frances Fox Piven, with us here in New York, she’s a distinguished professor of political science and sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. And finally, Roberto Lovato, writer with New America Media, frequent contributor to The Nation magazine.

Bill Fletcher, let’s go to you, your observations, what you feel is most significant coming out of Super Tuesday.

BILL FLETCHER: Well, thank you for having me on the program, Amy. It was outstanding, an outstanding victory. And I just — all I would add to what Tim raised is that there were great expectations among pundits that Super Tuesday would wipe out Senator Obama and his campaign and that there would be a clear decision in favor of Senator Clinton. That didn’t happen. Senator Clinton’s victories were pretty much expected. I think that the scope of Senator Obama’s victories are what’s really exciting and noteworthy. I mean, North Dakota? I mean, this is — this is really quite a phenomenon that we’re looking at.

Now, having said that, I think that again, I’d like to echo what Tim raised, that there needs to be pressure on Senator Obama. I enjoyed hearing his speech, and I enjoyed how he is trying to distinguish himself from Senator Clinton, but I think that he absolutely must go further than he has. And I think that that’s up to the people in the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: Go further, in what way?

BILL FLETCHER: Senator Obama has been a motivational and inspiring speaker, but on some issues, particularly on foreign policy, he has not particularly distinguished himself from Senator Clinton. I mean, he was reluctant — although he supported or has supported a withdrawal from Iraq, he was reluctant to pin a date down. He, on Iran, seemed to believe, along with the Bush administration, that Iran represents some sort of threat. And then he made that statement about making a unilateral attack against al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan, which was, I think, a reckless statement when you consider the state that Pakistan is in and the anti-US sentiment there.

So I think that when he’s talking about change, that we have to push him on that. It’s not enough to feel good about change and to feel excited. You know, we need the concretes. How will this be fundamentally different than his predecessors?

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, you’ve been covering the race closely. You began one of your pieces by talking about your eighty-five-year-old father Ramon, a Clinton supporter.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. My father was initially strongly Clinton and then came out and questioning after the Kennedy endorsement. Of course, in the end he ended up voting for Clinton. So —-

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Kennedy meaning Ted Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy -—

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah, Ted Kennedy.

AMY GOODMAN: — for [Obama]. But, of course, there’s also the Robert Kennedy kids, Robert Kennedy, Kerry Kennedy, throwing their support to Hillary Clinton.

ROBERTO LOVATO: Right, right. My father, in the end, voted for Hillary Clinton. But that’s hardly reflective of what happened with the Latino vote. And the big story in the Latino vote is that Hillary Clinton’s Latino advantage, her firewall, if you will, according to the mainstream media, is starting to decrease, especially among younger voters in states like New Mexico, his home state of Illinois, which he won, Colorado. Latinos played, I think, a central, even definitive, role in pushing Obama to victory. And that’s major. It’s like the pundits are saying, that the more people get to know Obama in the Latino community, the more they like him and the more they’re inclined to vote for him.

I think the other big story is — nothing to do with Latinos or even African Americans or any vote, it has to do with the electoral process itself. We’ve — the drama, the theater of it all, seems to have made us all forget that the system was broken. And nobody is hardly even raising the question of whether or not it’s fixed. We’re all excited and, you know, voting and thrilled about the drama that we’re seeing.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, “fixed”?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Has the stolen election of 2000 and the probable stolen election of 2004 — have the mechanisms behind that been, you know, fixed for us? Have we overcome the problems of what some people call legitimacy of the very system itself? And I’m waiting for the answer to that. I don’t think the primaries are going to give us that, but it’s an interesting question, I think, to raise at this time, while we’re all getting excited about two candidates on the Democratic side who are getting a lot of corporate funding. So —-

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, Hillary Clinton gets a lot of money from military-industrial interests. Barack Obama’s, contrary to what he said on that clip you showed, his main group of funders is Goldman Sachs, according to Open Secrets. So, you know, we have to, like Bill said, build a massive powerful movement, regardless of who’s the candidate, because we’re going to have to counterbalance that power from the bottom up. Otherwise, they’re only going to hear out of, you know, the right-leaning ear of -— you know, of their right-leaning ear.

AMY GOODMAN: Frances Fox Piven?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Well, Roberto is right that none of this discussion about this really exciting and historic election, none of it deals with what became so apparent over the last six years, really, which was the twisted and corrupted electoral process itself. The election in 2000 was given to Bush by the court, and the election 2004 may well have been stolen, as well. And none of that has been fixed. However, it is very difficult to fix, to steal a landslide election. So if the vote in the general election for the Democratic candidate is big, it’s going to be very hard to cross that out, to steal it.

And that’s what’s promising about this excitement, about the sort of grassroots electoral movement that is welling up in the country, which has to do partly with the historic contest between Barack and Hillary, but also has to do with the Bush administration. I mean, people are not only excited about the chance to choose between an African American and a woman, they’re excited by the chance to throw the thieves out. And they’re going to — I think they’ll get that chance. I think that’s going to happen.

And one of the reasons it’s going to happen is that the pattern of turnout is changing. Usually primaries have very low turnout. This primary has very high turnout, 50 percent, twice as much as the historic pattern of turnout, much of it among the young, and many of them Barack Obama voters, which leads to another way in which this election is historic. Young people in the United States have shown by their votes that they’re not much affected by race. It’s as though the changes in the popular culture over the last few decades have slowly worked their way on our collective mind so that you can’t do a Southern strategy on young voters in the United States. You can’t tar the opposition by calling them black or calling them welfare or calling them crime. That’s very healthy, very wholesome for American politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Roberto Lovato, on that point?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah, the other thing that was stunning for me is I think we’ve — we’re watching the beginning of the end of the black-white electorate. Latinos signal and Asians in California, for example, and other states signal the clear end of a country that’s primarily black and primarily white in terms of its voting population. Its demographic population is surely already past that. Now we’re starting to see that in the electorate. And as a result, as Frances is saying, you have the possibility that Latinos, in particular, are going to mark the beginning of the end of the politics of the Southern strategy, the politics that place — to anti-black racism in segments of the white electorate, especially in the South.

And I think the debate in the Republican Party right now is to try to figure out if the immigration issue is their new kind of national Southern strategy. And you see it in the tension between the hard right leaning of most of Republican candidates on immigration versus John McCain’s softer — or formerly softer, because he’s now toeing a hard line on immigration. And so, it really is a fascinating moment.

I don’t want to kill people’s thunder to vote and participate. I think we need to see a sort of Latin Americanization of US politics in terms of grassroots movements accompanying and holding accountable a more electoral system.

AMY GOODMAN: Why Americans Don’t Vote was the name of your seminal work, Frances Fox Piven, then Why Americans Still Don’t Vote. What will be your book after this election? Do you think it’s going to change?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: I think it could change. And actually, I have a new book. It’s a manuscript. I tried to get it to you last night. Didn’t make it. But it’s a book written with two of my friends and colleagues, Lori Minnite and Margaret Groarke. And the title of it is As Many as We Could, which is a quote from Ben Tillman, the turn-of-the-century Southern racist. As many — keeping down as many black votes as we could is what the title is about.

And the book shows how, throughout American electoral history, blacks have always played a kind of pivotal role for two reasons. One is that for 150 years, blacks have had this messianic passion for the right to vote, and you can understand why. Had they been able to vote in the South, it would not have been possible to restore a slave-like Southern political economy, apartheid and the lynch mob ruling —- ruling the South and keeping blacks in the fields and very vulnerable. So blacks have had this enthusiasm for the right to vote. And throughout this history, both political parties have worked to win elections by keeping down the votes of the opposition, and particularly blacks. It’s easier to keep down the votes of black people, because there’s so much opposition to them in the American electorate.

So I think that that could change. And that would be really a phenomenon. We would be a different country if that changed. And then, we have to say something about how it would change the world if an American leader had a black face and a rhetoric of decency and democracy. That would be a phenomenon.

AMY GOODMAN: As you were talking about keeping down the black vote, I was thinking about Ed Rollins, who became a chief strategist for Mike Huckabee, Ed Rollins, who was a chief strategist for Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey and boasted about how he had helped suppress the black votes -—


AMY GOODMAN: — by paying black ministers to tell their congregations to stay home.

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: It’s pervasive. You can hear that language among all the key Democratic operatives, beginning with Lee Atwater, how the strategy is to keep the vote down, and it means keep the black vote down consistently, because the black vote has been so Democratic in the last forty years.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, weigh in here, executive editor of The Black Commentator


BILL FLETCHER: Yeah, I just want to offer a little note of caution on this, that while it’s true that many younger people have been inspired and motivated to the Obama campaign and have been prepared to put race aside in certain respects, we should keep in mind that the Obama campaign has not exactly made racial justice central programmatically to its campaign. So while people may have — or may be prepared to ignore the fact or accept the fact that Obama is black and they’re prepared to vote for him, that’s very different than having a discussion about race. And also keep in mind, this was the Democratic primary. And the third thing we have to keep in mind is, building on what Roberto was saying, race is not simply black and white and that part of the racialization that we see is around immigration. And so, the Southern strategy is now more a Sun Belt strategy that we have to look at, in terms of the way that I anticipate that the Republicans will play the race card. So I just want to offer that as a little cautionary note.

ROBERTO LOVATO: I agree with Bill. I think there’s — I think race still matters, especially among young people, and in the case of Latinos, especially young Latinos. I spoke to groups like Voto Latino, that reach out to young voters across the country and using technology and pop culture, and they’ve done surveys and interviews with young people that say that their primary concern in many cases is not the economy, it’s not the — it’s the war, but followed very closely by immigration, which kind of is a transcendental issue, if you will. It’s a kind of a new racial coding. You can talk about legal verses illegal, and you can hide behind that and hide very profoundly racist sentiments. And so, the Republicans and including the Democrats have discovered that secret that I think is going to explode in all of their faces, as Latino power continues growing. And so, race still matters.

And I agree that, you know, the Obama campaign has done, for them, a good job of avoiding frontally the issue of racism, because, you know, we can talk back and forth about race, but, you know — and we need to talk about issues of institutional racism, as in the institution of prisons, the institutions of schools where the kids are dropping out.

AMY GOODMAN: Interesting you raise that. I was just talking to a friend as I was coming up in the elevator and said, “Did you go vote?” And he said, “Well, no, because I served time in prison.” What about that, the large disenfranchised population of those who have been to prison? The laws vary in different states, Frances Fox Piven.

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: Yeah, the felon disenfranchisement laws vary in different states, even though states that allow felons to be re-enfranchised make it cumbersome, difficult to do so. They have to get special permission and that sort of thing. So blacks are underrepresented for that reason, as well as many other reasons, in the American electorate. Black men have prison records, and that means that substantial proportions of them are not allowed to vote.

I certainly don’t think that race is going — the race issue is going — disappearing from American society as a result of this election campaign. That is not what I meant.

But I wanted to comment on the question of program that everybody — all of us have brought up. Whose program do we like? Who is stronger, Hillary or Barack? Or was it Edwards in an earlier phase? I think that, look, these are all ambitious people. They all take money from unsavory sources. They’re all determined to win, to beat out their competitors. They all evade the troublesome issues in American society, if they can.

The question of whether — who we should support is a question, rather, of which of these candidates is more likely to encourage and then be vulnerable to the movement politics, which sometimes sets presidents straight. You know, in 1932, FDR didn’t run with a good program; he ran with the same program the Democrats had run with in 1924 and 1928, and that wasn’t a good program. But nevertheless, his rhetoric encouraged people who were suffering as a result of the Depression — working people, the unemployed — and helped to fuel the movements, which then forced FDR to support initiatives which he otherwise would not have supported, including the right to organize. And I think you can see the same pattern in JFK, LBJ, so we — people who are our movement leaders don’t get to this stage of a presidential campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break here for a moment, then come back to this discussion. Frances Fox Piven, professor of sociology at the City University of New York Graduate Center; Bill Fletcher, with us in Washington, executive editor of Black Commentator; Roberto Lovato is with New America Media; and we’re joined in Massachusetts by Tim Carpenter, he’s head of Progressive Democrats of America. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We have a roundtable discussion on this post-Super Tuesday. Tim Carpenter, I wanted go back to you in Massachusetts — you came out very clearly strongly for Senator Barack Obama — and ask you questions about your concerns about his record. For example, the strong support for the nuclear industry. The New York Times had a piece this weekend talking about Obama falsely claiming during a campaign debate that he had passed legislation in the Senate at the request of Illinois anti-nuclear activists to require better public disclosure about nuclear plant leaks, when in fact the legislation never passed, that while he did initially introduce legislation, his staff repeatedly watered it down after meeting with the nuclear industry. Among Barack Obama’s top contributors are nuclear power industry, Exelon, the corporation. Your thoughts just on that. Then we’ll talk about health insurance with everyone.

TIM CARPENTER: Sure. If I could, Amy, just to begin the discussion on where Progressive Democrats of America is, on December 5th, when we held our straw poll, Dennis Kucinich was the top vote-getter. He received 41 percent of the vote of Progressive Democrats of America. And Senator Edwards ran second with 26 percent of the vote. Two-thirds of Progressive Democrats of America activists across the country, 100,000 activists who voted in our straw poll, two-thirds wanted to see Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards on the ballot strongly yesterday. And we’re hoping, as Frances said earlier, that those movements and those programs continue to move forward.

I’m not here to defend Senator Obama and his record. Like you, I’m challenging him, as well. I think we need to distinguish Senator Barack Obama and the movement for Barack Obama, as Frances said earlier. The movement for Barack Obama represents those Democrats, like you said, that are disappointed in Senator Obama and his nuclear record. I think in Nevada, that was exposed when you look at Yucca Mountain. And like you, Amy, I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in Senator Barack’s stance.

As we move on to healthcare and the other issues we’re going to talk about, I think the question this morning is, what do we do as progressive Democrats in the next ten days with caucuses that are coming up as early as this Saturday out in Washington State or on Tuesday, on next Tuesday, out in Maryland? How do we, as progressive Democrats, move Barack Obama?

You challenged Bill earlier on what are those things that could distinguish Senator Obama from Senator Clinton. And, you know, we need to remember, twenty years ago, Reverend Jackson was an insurgent African American movement inside the Democratic Party who challenged the caucus and the inside-the-Beltway party on the question of military spending.

I’d like to see, in the next ten days, the progressive movement and the peace and justice movement to come off the sidelines on the five-year anniversary of the occupation and challenge Senator Barack Obama not just to talk about a timeline, as Bill was saying earlier, but let’s hear Senator Barack Obama articulate a vision to cut military spending, at a time when President Bush is offering a $5.15 billion increase over a total budget on military which represents a four percent, five percent increase from just last year alone or a 37 percent increase since he took office. So, like you, Amy, I think as progressive Democrats, we need to take this opportunity to challenge Senator Barack Obama, and we’re going to continue to do that within Progressive Democrats of America.

The reality is, within Progressive Democrats of America, Senator Obama was the third choice: less than 12 percent of our membership were with Barack Obama. So I think this morning, Amy, to make a distinction between the senator, his record and the Barack Obama movement. And I think Tom Hayden is helping to articulate that, as are many people this morning. We need to keep him honest. And I agree with you, Amy, and I think the challenge for us as progressive Democrats, and I think one of the educational moments for a lot of us is the work that can be done within our congressional districts.

All of these caucuses, as well as the votes in the primaries, are taking place in small battles in congressional districts. Last night the antiwar movement lost an opportunity in District 14 out in Illinois. John Laesch should have won. The antiwar movement should have been better organized. We have an opportunity next Tuesday with Donna Edwards out in Maryland to take back one of the Democratic seats from a corporate, inside-the-Beltway, born-again peace candidate —- or Congressmember Al Wynn, with Donna Edwards. So I think, Amy -—

AMY GOODMAN: Tim Carpenter —

TIM CARPENTER: — in challenging Barack Obama —

AMY GOODMAN: — as we move into that, please address that more directly. The issue of congressional races. There’s so much attention right now on these big presidential primaries for both Republicans and Democrats. But what about these congressional races? For example, Donna Edwards.

TIM CARPENTER: Well, that’s why we — well, I agree, Amy, that too much of the oxygen is being taken out with the presidential campaigns. We can make an impact. And why Progressive Democrats of America was born on the eve of the Democratic National Convention four years ago was because progressive Democrats and peace and justice activists need an inside-outside strategy. We need to organize and mobilize. We need to street [inaudible], as we’ve said today. We need to get inside the party, and that’s with these congressional races are that opportunity for us.

The Democrats want a majority, and unfortunately, as you know, Amy, winning a majority of Democrats hasn’t moved the question of ending the occupation or moved us any closer to single-payer healthcare. Until we elect a progressive Democratic governing majority, we can’t move this agenda. So now is the time to ask Ralph Nader to step aside and not talk about an exploratory campaign, but ask Ralph Nader to help get involved in these congressional races.

And as we just said earlier, the specific one that’s coming up this coming Tuesday out in Maryland in CD4 is Donna Edwards. This is a clear case where Al Wynn was a pro-war, inside-the-Beltway, DLC candidate, congressional member two years ago, who was born again on the antiwar issue, simply because Donna Edwards scared him. And now, Donna Edwards has an opportunity this coming Tuesday to take that seat. Not only that seat, there’s dozens of seats across this country where progressives can make a difference.

So, in the closing moments of the roundtable — and I appreciate the discussion on the historic aspects of the turnout and so forth —- we need to really focus in these next six weeks on those congressional races, how we can make a difference. So regardless of who the nominee is -—

AMY GOODMAN: What’s happening in Minnesota, Tim?

TIM CARPENTER: Well, in Minnesota, we have a Senate race right now with Al Franken, who’s getting a lot of the attention right now. But there’s also good Senate candidates that are taking place out in Minnesota. That election was just held. We have a Senate primary there, where we have an antiwar candidate that’s running very strongly, not very well in the polls right now.

But in addition to Minnesota, Amy, in the closing moments, let’s look at what happened in Massachusetts last night. You had the political machine of Massachusetts who rallied around John Kerry in his re-election time. I think that’s a race, as well as in Minnesota in the Senate race. But out in Massachusetts, where John Kerry, a Democrat who gave up on the party, in Ohio who gave up on the recount, who turned his back on the antiwar movement, and threw the presidential election on a calculated decision, on a wrong vote in the Senate. That’s a race where we can get involved as progressive Democrats and move the debate. Ed O’Reilly is a progressive Democrat that’s running. Caucuses are taking place right now out here in Massachusetts. We had elections this past Saturday, where dozens of progressive Democrats were elected to challenge these Democrats. And as Frances said, it’s our responsibility to seize this movement and to take it inside the Democratic Party and to move the debate on these issues. And we can do it in the Senate races. We can do it in the congressional races.

And I encourage folks to get engaged, go to the Progressive Democrats of America website. There’s eight candidates that we’ve endorsed we can’t even get to today out from New Jersey and California that are challenging inside the Democratic Party in the primary and challenging Republicans where we think we can make a difference. And until we elect that Democratic majority to govern, we can’t really move whoever the nominee is. So that’s why, in the closing moments of the roundtable, I hope we can talk a little bit about that and how we can make a difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher — let me go to Bill Fletcher on the issue of war. Barack Obama makes a very strong case for not just being ready on day one, but being right. Yet he has called for expanding the size of the military by 92,000. Then there’s the issue of healthcare. Neither candidate, Obama or Clinton, have called for single-payer, though Hillary Clinton has presented a plan that would cover 45 million Americans to Obama’s something like, what, twenty-two, twenty-three. Your comments on this?

BILL FLETCHER: Building on what Frances said, I think that Senator Obama, as much as I respect him, has been very wobbly on a number of these issues. And so, what excites me is the possibility of pushing him. And so, in that sense, I think it’s critically important that those of us that are supporting Senator Obama not try to make him something that he’s not.

I’ve heard a number of commentators over the last number of weeks, and some good people that I respect, attempt to change or turn Senator Obama into someone who is far more progressive than I think that he actually is. We can support him, and we can support him critically, but I think that that means that when there are issues like around military spending or the Middle East or healthcare, that we have to come after him, and we have to insist that he get off the fence and that he advance politics that his base is really looking for him to espouse. And that’s what I think is really incumbent upon us, rather than just simply falling over in favor of him because of our excitement with his campaign.

ROBERTO LOVATO: I agree with Frances and with Bill that we need to really put the focus on: what are the elites thinking right now? Who’s the best for elite interests? Who’s the best for empire? We kind of forget that, and we can’t let the excitement around Obama or Clinton make us just magically forget that, you know, we have a war and that we have kind of imperial corporate interests in the world. And so, I would argue, who would be best, if I was in the elites, who would be best for the interest of empire? I would say it was either a black man named Hussein or a white woman named Clinton. And so, as we get enthusiastic and passionate about whoever we vote for, we should keep these questions in mind, because our citizenship is indeed an imperial citizenship.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by empire, and why do you think they would serve it?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Well, In terms of corporate interest, if you look at Gallup polls of nations across the planet, there is an absolute repudiation of the United States, especially the United States government. Just ask anybody that travels to Europe or Latin America or anywhere else. So the world is waiting and watching to see what the United States is going to do and how that affects — that will affect corporate interests that are, you know, the motor of empire. And so, we — you know, they need somebody to cool down the noxious effects of the Bush era.

AMY GOODMAN: Why, when we’re having this discussion about progressives pushing Obama, do you not feel the same way about Hillary Clinton?

ROBERTO LOVATO: I think that Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that in one debate she called herself progressive, she’s really not. She’s, I’d say, a neoliberal candidate that represents, you know, Goldman Sachs, military-industrial interests, and others, and so —-

AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t Goldman Sachs one of the top contributors to Obama?

ROBERTO LOVATO: Yeah. They’re all -— I mean, they’re all in the same bag. I’m not —- look, I’m not pitching one candidate or the other. I think -—

AMY GOODMAN: Bill Fletcher, let me put that question to you, you say let’s push Obama. Why not push Clinton?

BILL FLETCHER: [inaudible] gets the nomination, I think that we should do that. I think that in the run-up to the Democratic convention and the nomination, we should absolutely keep the heat under her, in part because, since there is not a fundamental political distinction between Senator Obama and Clinton on the issues, what’s happened is that there’s been a great deal of symbolic politics. You have this underground movement among many women who want to see a woman elected. Many people of color want to see a person of color elected. And I think that we have to move beyond symbolic politics.

So I do think, Amy, that we do need to put the pressure on Senator Clinton and Obama, but I think that there’s greater opportunities with an Obama candidacy, should he get the nomination and certainly should he get elected. That’s why I’m putting the focus there.

AMY GOODMAN: Frances Fox Piven, last comment?

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: I agree with Bill, but I wanted to comment on Roberto — the issue Roberto raised, having to do with which face is the better face for the American empire. I’m opposed to American imperial policies. But no matter who gets elected, the American empire is still going to have vast capacity to wreak destruction in the world and to —- not only through military force, but through trade policies, which wreck indigenous agricultural economies and so on. So it isn’t enough to just elect a candidate that the rest of the world will hate. We’ve done that already. We’ve tried that one, and a lot of harm has come from it. I think that -—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

FRANCES FOX PIVEN: I think that we want a candidate with some wisdom, some decency, some capacity to look at the long term.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll leave it there. I want to thank you all very much for being with us. Tomorrow, we’re going to look in particular at the Republican race. Frances Fox Piven, Roberto Lovato, Tim Carpenter and Bill Fletcher, thanks for joining us.

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