Socialist Worker

Barack Obama rides high on wave of anger

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2123

Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are on course to transform the US political landscape.

That at least is the conclusion of the commentators who are tracking the opinion polls.

If Obama secures as many votes as predicted in the current polls, he will win the elections by a landslide, but this is not certain.

The Republicans, meanwhile, would lose dozens of seats and any effective power in the senate and house of representatives.

Up for grabs is the ability to delay the Democrats’ legislative programme by “filibusting”.

This extraordinary possibility, which has not be achieved by any party in the US since the 1930s, would mark the end of the so-called Republican revolution that swept the neoliberals to power in the 1980s.

At present Obama is set to win in Republican heartlands such as Florida, Ohio and Virginia.

He is challenging in other key Republican states such as Georgia, once the bastion of Jim Crow racism.

According to recent polls the key issue in the elections is the economy. In part this is a sign of a more fundamental change – the resurgence of class bitterness.

Today debt pervades all aspects of American life. US workers turned to credit cards and other loans to plug the gap left by decades of falling wages.

The average US household now owes over £64,000 in mortgages and other debts, while most families only manage to save around £230 a year. This collective personal debt is running at over £1.5 trillion.

Each family holds an average of eight credit cards, two of which are “maxed out”.


With access to credit now slipping away, most families are pouring over half their wages into mortgage payments.

So many ordinary people are now “under water” – falling behind in their payments – that home repossessions have reached shocking levels.

Whole communities have been driven out of their homes, while over four million homeowners are close to defaulting.

Foreclosure orders have become so common that one local sheriff in Chicago is refusing to impose them. Many US state authorities are also pressuring banks not to throw people onto the street.

This economic slump is dragging down the rest of the economy.

Most car sales are now made in cash rather than credit deals – but there are not enough sales to save US car giants like Chrysler and General Motors from fear of bankruptcy.

These companies, once considered the powerhouse of US manufacturing, are shedding tens of thousands of jobs and closing factories across the country.

Around 159,000 jobs are being lost a month across the US.

According to the polls, African-Americans, Hispanics and young people are turning in increasing numbers towards the Democrats in response to the crisis.

Support among white workers – who were not considered to be open to voting for a black candidate – is also growing.

McCain has reacted to this new mood by attempting to distance himself from George Bush.

But it is not washing with ordinary people, so in desperation his campaign is playing the race card.

Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, has been most vocal in pushing this attack.

Although she has not directly mentioned the colour of Obama’s skin, she is using expressions that leave Republican supporters in no doubt of her views.

“This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” she told one audience. “He’s not one of us”.

This thinly disguised racism has now exploded in McCain’s face.

The Republican candidate snatched a microphone from one of his supporters during a town hall meeting recently when she denounced Obama for being an “Arab”.

Wall Street

The crowd then jeered McCain when he said Obama was a “decent family man”.

In the absence of some dramatic turn of events Obama will ride to victory on the wave of anger against Wall Street, the rich and the neoliberal policies of the Republicans. But he is attempting to contain these expectations.

The change he is promising is very limited.

In a major policy speech on Monday Obama spelt out his economic programme.

He offered a 90-day grace period for those losing their homes and some tax breaks for those on low income – well short of the major changes needed to stop US workers from sinking further into poverty.

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 14 Oct 2008, 18:24 BST
Issue No. 2123
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.