We can do this. Oh, yes the people can

Marc Wadsworth

To paraphrase a Barack Obama campaign slogan, yes the US can elect its first African-American president today - and probably will. Whether or not that historical act comes to mean anything more than mere symbolism for Black people and the poorest members of American society, among whom they are disproportionately represented, remains to be seen. I hope it does.

The problem is that, much like all other Western leaders, the US president is the prisoner of massively powerful vested interests on Capitol Hill, as Bill Clinton found out when he tried and failed to reform the country's appallingly unjust healthcare system. Former army general Dwight Eisenhower in 1961described these mighty interest groups as the "military-industrial complex".

Distinguished American academic Naom Chomsky said that for this reason elections ceased to make much of a political difference decades ago. So, we are not talking left-wing conspiracy theories here. As we have seen with the multi-billion dollar bailing out of the US financial institutions with taxpayers' money, the multi-nationals who keep capitalism as the dominant economic policy in the West, have undue influence over politicians who are supposed to be their masters.

And, in foreign policy, America doesn't much change whether there is a Republican or Democrat president. For instance, the candidates of both parties feel compelled to swear allegiance to Israel's political leadership to the detriment of the cause of the downtrodden, stateless Palestinians. And Obama has proved no different. Granted his declared intention of talking to all countries - even those that the neo-conservative George W. Bush administration has labelled "rogue" terrorist nations with whom there should be no dialogue - is a breath of fresh air.

And so is his olive branch to Europe and the rest of the world who have been so alienated by bullyboy Bush and gun-slinging vice-president Dick Cheney. But, as The-Latest.Com has pointed out in the articles from the Green Party's inspiring but sadly no-hoper candidate Cynthia McKinney, the Democrat politicians who have ruled the American Congress since 2006, have pretty much gone along with the right-wing agenda of Bush and the Republicans.

This has included them voting for Bush's bailing out of the bankers, the continued funding of the Iraq war which the Democrats told voters they opposed and support for the draconian attacks on civil liberties cooked up in the White House such as more phone, internet and other surveillance on the American public. There is the argument that the Democrats have had their hands tied because of their 51-49 wafer thin majority in the Senate.

But, with an Obama president and electoral gains which tighten their grip on power in Congress, they will have no excuses. After living under two terms of Bush as leader of the world's sole superpower, most of us desperately want the "change" Obama has been promising us.

But my view is that it will take more than the election of the most telegenic, oratorically gifted, politically skilled politician in the West to achieve that goal. I believe, similar to McKinney, that only through mass action by the people - similar to what we saw with the Solidarity movement in Poland and Orange Revolution in the Ukraine - can power be wrested from the unelected vested interests in Washington and Obama's much-trumpeted "change" truly come about.