This is Adrienne Maree Brown checking in as a live blogger for the Facing Race Conference.
I’m at the first plenary, Post-Election Reflections: Examining Race in the Presidential Campaign. The speakers cover the range from writers to election organizers.
Unfortunately, I have arrived late, right as Donita Judge was reviewing the kinds of election protection problems we saw in the 2008 federal election. She’s on point and pulling no punches, expounding on the slow down and long lines due to machine malfunction, and called out the flyers and text messages that misguided folks.
jchang is on this panel - he’s our hip-hop historian, and covered Obama for Vibe Magazine (also went to Obama’s rival high school in Hawaii a few years apart, though Jeff is young forever). He’s being asked about how organizers interact with the lessons of the Obama campaign. Jeff is talking about how we showed increased capacity and technology supports better turnout.
Mark Q. Sawyer is speaking to how organizer lists who supported Obama will likely get turned over to the Democratic Party instead of connected to local organizing.
Moderator Manuel Pastor: What about how this campaign didn’t address poor people?
Sawyer: Obama was actually brilliant - everyone loves how Edwards talked about poor people - but Obama expanded the definition of middle class to include poor people, and back door policies for low income.
Pastor: What about rhetoric?
Chang: Already there’s language and redefinitions, redefining centrism as inclusive of the new majority. We ca talk about the economic stimulus process - these are all battles that are going to be waged..we need to think of our issues in a big picture and define language that, from an ethical and moral perspective, supports our progressive values.
Pastor: What about the Latino vote?
Sylvia: The Clintons built a huge support, but some folks did break off. Bill Richardson, aka Judas to the Clinton campaign, was an early turncoat. Villarigosa is joining his transition team.
Last question - is there a chance we will mythologize the Obama campaign as the perfect campaign? What went wrong?
Donita: Well I think we should ask how we will keep new voters and young voters involved. There is not an explicit right to vote in the constitution, how do we amend the constitution to give that right to everybody, so that regardless of the mythical candidate, we should all have the same power on election day, and in every election.
Jeff: It’s about racial justice. If you look back at the campaign, Obama was able to draw on the metaphors and tropes of the racial justice movement, but didn’t center it in his campaign, played it like Jesse Robinson. We need to assert that submerged trope, make racial justice explicit, talk about why it was at the core of his victory and move forward. Its the submerged idea in all this.
Final last question: Comment on the media driven “people of color don’t like queers” crap…rephrased, the story being told is that black people voted against gay rights. What do y’all think?
Sawyer: The Black and Latino support for Prop 8 has been overemphasized, and played into long-standing conflicts between LGBT communities and communities of color. There’s a lack of understanding. I got Yes on 8 mail that supported all Democratic agenda and said to vote Yes on 8; I got nothing from No on 8 - they gave a lot of money to NAACP and got nothing for it (crowd goes “mph!”). There needs to be indigenous support in communities of color built around these issues.
Pastor’s closing with a story about an evangelical church across the street where he was doing voter turn-out calls. The churchgoers were doing Yes on 8 organizing, and the youth working with Pastor wanted to put on No on 8 signs and go out in front of the church. Point is, our young people are willing to push the line on this.
Pastor closing statements: This moment is about not bumming people out. This movement is about our higher selves. It’s hard to invite someone to join you at a party when the party’s no fun at all. The history of our work is joy, of celebration, of changing the world. We need to put the progress back in progressive. We need to celebrate what our movement has accomplished, and where we’re going, even as we have a cold and steely eye towards where we’re going. Remember how you felt last Tuesday as you realized the vision was moving forward. We have a lot of work ahead of us with recession impending on economic justice, but we can do this. We can do this. I guess that sounds like Yes, We Can.