Thursday, September 4, 2008

Launching this Blog

By Ben Trott, Blog Editor

Welcome to ‘Change We Can Believe In?’, the Red Pepper blog on Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy (scroll down the page to read the posts so far).

Last week, Obama finally became the Democratic Party’s official nominee for the 2008 US presidential elections. For many, his candidacy, and the movement that surrounds it, has indeed been the source of optimism for ‘change we can believe in’. Elsewhere, it has been greeted by scepticism. Both the sincerity of his claims, and the potential for any kind of ‘meaningful’ transformation to be ushered in via the Office of the President of the United States have been called into question. Others still have argued that there is much more he could say and do, pledge and – perhaps – implement.

This blog provides a space to debate these issues. What kind of changes might an Obama presidency mean in the fields of racial, gender and economic relations? What could it mean for international relations, world order and the ‘war on terror’? And: what space – globally – could an Obama presidency open and/or close for social movements to enable a shift to the left?

To address these questions, I will be commissioning comment and opinion pieces between now and November (for day-to-day news and coverage of the election campaign, I recommend checking out the links under ‘Election News Coverage’ on the right). I will also, from time-to-time, perhaps posts links to articles and discussions elsewhere on the web. Everything will be open for your comment!

In terms of the posts so far, the blog kicked off yesterday with an edited transcript of a debate held at the Brecht Forum in New York in June about Obama and the left. The participants were Jo-ann Mort (CEO of Charge Communications and a contributor to the American Prospect), Ta-Nehisi Coates (author, The Beautiful Struggle and a former staff writer for the Village Voice and Time Magazine), Gary Younge (columnist for the Guardian and The Nation), Doug Henwood (author of After the New Economy, editor of the Left Business Observer, and a contributor to The Nation) and Betsy Reed (Executive Editor of The Nation). The transcript originally appeared in the August/September issue of Red Pepper.

Other contributions so far include Graeme Chesters (co-author of Complexity and Social Movements and co-editor of We Are Everywhere), Rayyan Mirza (from the Green Party branch in Lewisham, London), and Tadzio Mueller (an editor at Turbulence: Ideas for movement).

Chesters explores the echoes Obama's candidacy seems to be finding with two earlier presidencies (or rather, one presidency and one candidacy); both of which he argues to be fictional: on the one hand, Matt Santos' campaign for election as the successor to Jed Bartlet on TV's The West Wing; and on the other, the cultural appropriation of JFK's actual presidency in the early 1960s.

Mirza's entry explores the lessons which can be learned by progressives from Obama and – moreover – the movement which surrounds his candidacy. Whilst Mueller argues that it is not only Obama who has been backsliding on his pledge for 'change', but also the left in consistently lowering their expectations in what can be hoped for from an Obama presidency, whilst never quite making the step towards investing their desires elsewhere instead.

And so, the debate has been opened.

If you’d like to submit an entry, get in touch with a short pitch at

Editor Biog: Ben Trott is a writer, editor and PhD student based in Berlin. He is on the Editorial Board of the International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest: 1500 – Present, being published by Blackwell next year, and co-edits Turbulence: Ideas for movement.

1 comment:

Jim Jay said...

Great stuff - this could be a really excellent space.

good thinking :)