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  October 28, 2008

Danny Glover on Obama as the lesser of two evils

Glover: There is nothing inconsistent about simultaneously voting for and criticizing a candidate.
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Danny Glover: While attending San Francisco State University, Glover was a member of the Black Students Union who along with the Third World Liberation Front led the five month strike for Ethnic Studies. Not only did this help to create the first school of Ethnic Studies in the U.S., but it was also the longest student strike in the history of the United States. During the strike, he protested alongside Hari Dillon who is now the president of the Vanguard Public Foundation, of which Glover sits on the advisory board.

Glover serves as a board member to numerous national and international organizations. He is presently chair of the TransAfrica Forum, "a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the general public - particularly African-Americans - on the economic, political and moral ramifications of U.S. foreign policy as it affects Africa and the Diaspora in the Caribbean and Latin America" and a board member of Cheryl Byron's Something Positive Dance Group. In March 1998, he was appointed ambassador to the United Nations Development Programme.

Danny Glover has been very critical of the policy stances that Barack Obama has taken in his campaign for President. Despite this, Danny is about to go campaign on his behalf in swing state Nevada. Paul asks Danny how he reconciles this state of imbalance. Danny also discusses the importance of third- party candidates, even while not voting for them, of getting their ideas out there. He provides the example of the significance of Ralph Nader's rejection of the bailout. Danny is voting for Obama because he sees a visible, qualitative difference between him and McCain over who will be more sensitive to issues of poverty and access in such an unequal society. However, like many voices have been saying, Danny clarifies that Obama will not do this willingly, he will need to be pushed by a strong social movement. That social movement will need to include a resurgence in worker organization that transcends advocacy of better wages and benefits, and puts in its cross-hairs larger targets, such as the free trade deals that have depressed the value of labor. Furthermore, Danny believes that an increase in the purchasing power of US workers is a necessary condition for solving the current economic crisis.


MICHAEL GOODMAN, REAL NEWS MEMBER: We support The Real News Network because we want to have independent journalism, and in a democracy there's nothing more important than the free flow of information. Please join with us and help support The Real News Network.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: As the 2008 presidential election draws nearer, to discuss it we're joined by actor, filmmaker, and activist Danny Glover. Danny's the executive producer of the new documentary film Trouble the Water, which tells the story of an aspiring rap artist and her husband trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Thanks for joining us, Danny.


JAY: So, Danny, you've been a critic of Obama on some of his foreign policy issues, some domestic issues, particularly health care. Yet in a few days you're going to be going to Nevada to campaign for Obama. Why?

GLOVER: Well, first of all, I don't think there's anything inconsistent with the [inaudible] that we need, that needs to happen for Obama, that we all need to be engaged in. You know, in the political process in any democracy is the process in which there's criticism, dissent and criticism, particularly constructive criticism. And we need to, as I've said before, build a movement around the kind of world, the imagined world that we want to see and the policy that we want to see. So I find that going to Nevada and using whatever visibility that I have, that's afforded me, to using that visibility to support his candidacy and support him as president is very important.

JAY: Now, what do you say to Nader supporters and other third-party supporters that there's not much difference between the two and one should use these elections to make a point?

GLOVER: Well, the point is that clearly their positions that seem to be ones in which both McCain and Obama basically say the same thing. But I think there's a qualitative difference between the two. And how we look at that qualitative difference is one in terms of real access.

JAY: And what's the difference?

GLOVER: The difference is a sensibility. I believe that there's a point where when we talk about the issues around workers, we talk about the issues around poverty, health care, education, in some sense it's not simply just rhetoric. But we have the opportunity to really reinforce ideas which will bring about, I think, a discussion around qualitative change within the Obama campaign and within the Obama presidency. So I think that we [inaudible] we have to forcibly create the space necessary for this discourse, but I think it's available for us in an Obama campaign.

JAY: The counterargument goes like this: that these are two sections of the elite fighting it out for power. I think in another interview we did earlier, a couple of weeks ago, a few weeks ago, I played a clip of George Will saying these elections are not about whether or not the elite will govern but which section of the elite will govern. And so, I mean, you consider the McCain section more dangerous. Or why pick? Like, why not just condemn them all, as Nader or Cynthia McKinney say?

GLOVER: Certainly there's this value in a democracy in having more than just a two-party system. But within the situation that we find ourselves at this particular point in time, I think that certainly McKinney candidacy, Green Party candidacy, with Nader, is important in a sense that it still redefines and outlines, I think, the issues that we have to address in real terms [inaudible] you know, in terms of just the Nader issue. When Nader talked about, brought up the issue, and certainly supported the ideas and supported the sentiment of most of the population to abandon the bailout, I mean, that was important, that the discussion about the bailout could take another platform or it could have another resonance with people, if we talk about the bailout from that vantage point. Those issues, they're not even discussed, not even within the Obama campaign. But I think it's so important to bring that up. But at the same time, if we are going to talk about having some sort of effect, impact, on this democracy, I think we have to accept the fact that we're going to have to deal with the lesser of two evils, and I consider Obama the lesser of two evils.

JAY: When you talk about building a movement, if there's going to be a movement, one would think, with any real strength, there has to be some support for it amongst ordinary workers. I don't know if our viewers know how involved you've been in many attempts to organize on both sides of the border, in US and Canada. You're quite involved with the union movement. What's your sense amongst workers? Do you see that, especially with this growing economic crisis, is there some motion there or there might be a movement amongst workers?

GLOVER: I see a movement among workers, a discussion around workers, but that movement has to be not simply just limited to, but important, not limited to just workers getting better pay and health care and the pensions and everything else. It has to in some sense be part of a much larger discussion in terms of context within which the workers talk about a real qualitative change in the system itself, redefining the system itself, on all aspects of it, you know, from the vantage point if workers are able to kind of identify the relationship between the various trade agreements and their own plight and to look at that in terms of the kind of accumulation of debt and all the other issues, if workers are able to embrace those ideas, then they will become the basis of talking about what does this system, what is the evolution of capitalism, or what does this system look like.

JAY: You've been involved in a lot of attempts to organize unorganized workplaces. What are the obstacles to that? As we know, in the private sector in the US, there's only eight percent of workers in unions, which is a number which most people are surprised at. If you add the public sector you're just under 11 percent.

GLOVER: It's horrific, you know? I mean, and those numbers have been diminishing for years. You know. And certainly part of these numbers [inaudible] because, certainly, jobs have been outsourced and unions have been depoliticized to some degree, at the same time that the communities have been de-industrialized. You know. So, then, when we talk about what does this new system look like, it certainly would have to employ a new idea around re-industrializing the US. The fact that even though at eight percent a great deal of this has been certainly the attack on workers in the media, the attack on workers, and the lack of the political will from politicians, you know, to talk about issues around living wage, to talk about the importance of health care benefits, etcetera, you know, to talk about working conditions, to talk about, basically, those things as rights as opposed to just privileges.

JAY: Well, I guess this will be a very interesting test. If there is a Democratic president and the Democrats control both houses, there's some very significant legislation that exists that obstructs the organizing of unions and weakens unions, from Taft-Hartley to other pieces of legislation. So there's going to be no excuse not to overturn Taft-Hartley, and there's going to be no excuse—.

GLOVER: Or to pass legislation that supports the organization, the uninhibited organizing of workers, you know, and allowing workers to be organized and to choose whether they're going to have unions in the workplace.

JAY: And Obama's going to have to make a choice here. He's got a lot of support from Wall Street, he's got a lot of support from unions, and they're not going to have the same opinion on what to do about this legislation.

GLOVER: I think, on the one hand, that there has to be some sort of accommodation to the domestic issue, clearly, in terms of the ability of workers to purchase. If we're going to get out of this, we're just going to have to purchase. In any of these scenarios, will people be willing to spend, given the uncertainty of the economy and given the low rate of savings within the economy itself? So I think there are some real issues, but the idea of having an Obama candidacy, an Obama presidency, rather, [inaudible] move from candidacy to president, and a Democratically-run Senate and House, provide some sort of opportunity where people can go to the source in a different way.

JAY: Well, we've heard a little bit in this segment of the interview about what you think. In the next segment of our interview, I want to know why you think what you think. And what I mean by that is you're one of the actors in Hollywood that's had one of the more successful careers, yet you keep sticking your neck out on political issues. So I'm going to, in the next segment of the interview, ask you why you do that. So please join us for the next segment of our interview with Danny Glover.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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