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Although the campaign is far from over, yesterday's's Democratic primary results, following on South Carolina's primary, call for some reflection. All things considered, the Sanders movement has made remarkable headway and is pressing on, with victories yesterday in Colorado, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Vermont. Were it not for Clinton's big advantage in Southern states among older African-American voters, especially women, there might be little or no distance between Sanders and Clinton at this stage. That fact has to be jarring for progressives on the left.
This is far from a simple question and the reasons need to be probed with understanding of the many faceted influences of racism on white Americans, of course including progressives. But one aspect of the seeming disconnect between the Sanders coalition and many people of color may be the failure to appreciate how important Barak Obama's presidency has been and is. Resentment runs very deep over the racist obstructionism and blatant disrespect encountered by our first African-American president. Hillary Clinton recognized this and embraced the Obama legacy (even though as Secretary of State, she tacked with the hawks, leading the charge to the debacle in Libya, endorsing the neocon assessment of Obama and Kerry as "weak"). Now praising Obama, she also has reached out to African-American and Latino women with warmth and affection, repairing her damaging reference in the 1990s to black youth as "predators".
Certainly it has been right and necessary for progressives to disagree with Obama on many counts. If you want a "popular revolution" against the power of the 1%, to change a corrupt political system, to end a war-prone foreign policy and shift vast expenditures from a bloated military budget to domestic needs, a president has to feel the pressure and be held accountable. Nevertheless, a movement to change America has to embrace the historic significance of Obama's presidency and its important accomplishments despite fierce, systemic racist obstructionism. In a sense, the election of Barak Obama presaged the wider movement for change now challenging the anti-democratic rule of the 1%.
No movement to change America can advance without full confidence, participation and joint leadership from America's communities of color.
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