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Vol. 72/No. 11      March 17, 2008

Candidates debate trade, unemployment
March 5—New York senator Hillary Clinton won the Democratic presidential primaries in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island yesterday, after 12 straight losses to Illinois senator Barack Obama. The two remain locked in a close race for the Democratic nomination.

Arizona senator John McCain won enough delegates in Republican primaries yesterday to secure that party’s nomination. Former Arkansas governor Michael Huckabee withdrew from the race.

Trade policies and unemployment were campaign themes in the days leading up to the primaries. While campaigning in Ohio, both Clinton and Obama ratcheted up protectionist rhetoric in an effort to respond to the deep impact of the capitalist economic crisis there. Over the last eight years, 200,000 manufacturing workers have lost their jobs in Ohio. Home foreclosures are soaring. The Democratic contenders blamed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and promised to save “American jobs.”

“I’ll pass the Patriot Employer Act … so we can end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas, and give those breaks to companies that create good jobs with decent wages here in America,” said Obama in a February 24 speech in Lorain, Ohio.

“We will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it and we renegotiate it on terms that are favorable to all of America,” Clinton said. Obama said he might do the same.

McCain said unilaterally opting out of NAFTA would be a blow to Washington’s “global war on terror.” It would hurt relations with the Canadian government, he argued, which “could have an adverse effect on the situation with regards to their commitment to Afghanistan.”

“The statements by the Democratic and Republican candidates are pure demagogy aimed at making working people believe that we have a stake in supporting one or another version of the bosses’ trade agreements, and to protect ‘our industries’ and ‘American jobs,’” Róger Calero, the Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate, said in a statement. Calero said he would address unemployment by establishing “a government-funded public works program to put millions to work at union scale wages, and cancel the third world debt to build unity among working people internationally.”  
Politicizing youth?
Given the close race between the Democratic candidates, both campaigns have focused on mobilizing voter turnout. Obama has drawn large crowds to his campaign events, including many college students. His supporters tout that his candidacy, centered largely on promises of “hope,” is drawing a new generation into politics. But most Obama supporters quoted in the press steer clear of discussing politics or the proposals in Obama’s platform.

“I can’t really verbalize exactly what it is about him,” said Ross Avila, a University of Pennsylvania senior who has volunteered for the Obama campaign in three states. “Part of it is just beyond explanation.”

Agence France-Presse reported that, at a campaign rally in Maryland, Obama “did not flinch when women screamed as he was in mid-sentence, and even broke off once to answer a female’s cry of ‘I love you Obama!’ with a reassuring: ‘I love you back.’”

Both Clinton and McCain have attacked Obama for his campaign’s lack of content. McCain called it “an eloquent but empty call for change.” The Republican candidate ridiculed Obama for saying he would consider military action in Iraq only if “al-Qaeda is forming a base” there.

“Is Senator Obama unaware that al-Qaeda is still present in Iraq, that our forces are successfully fighting them every day?” McCain asked.

McCain campaigns as the most qualified of the three to be the next wartime commander in chief. He cites his experience as a military officer and his record of support for the escalation of troops in Iraq. “Today, thanks to the troop surge that Senators Clinton and Obama opposed, our soldiers have Al Qaeda in Iraq on the run,” McCain said following a February 26 Democratic debate.
Related articles:
Iowa students meet socialist vice presidential candidate
Socialist presidential candidate speaks on Georgia campuses  
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