A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

No President Clinton II

Having not bought into Obama hysteria I'm feeling pretty flat now that Hillary has been beaten.

It feels like the end of a political era that started with Bill Clinton's victory in 1992.

For anyone my age on the centre-left everything before that in US and British politics that we had experienced was of a triumphant Reagan/Thatcher right pulverising various hapless Democrat or Labour candidates, often with the active support of a large slice of blue collar workers (the "Reagan Democrats" and their British cousins who had done right-to-buy and bought their first shares).

Bill (and Hillary) Clinton turned up on the horizon just as Labour was deep in depression following our 4th election defeat - in fact only about six months after we had been beaten in the 1992 election, and the centre-left seemed permanently in opposition, suddenly there was Hope (Arkansas) and this relatively young Democrat President.

His victory gave Labourites hope that there was a recipe for the centre-left to win back those lost "Reagan Democrats" and their British equivalents with a modernised, moderate agenda. I remember some of the organisational architects of our 1997 victory like Margaret McDonagh and Alan Barnard coming back brimming with enthusiasm and ideas from their trip to observe the Clinton campaign.

New Labour and Labour's recovery as an electoral force were given massive impetus by the lessons from across the Atlantic and the message that the centre-left was a force that could win, not a relic of history.

The Clintons seemed to have a special affection for the British Labour Party and us for them - Bill Clinton's speech to Labour Party Conference in 2002 was one of the "must remember" moments for any Labour conference-goer.

The Clinton Presidency in retrospect seems like a lost golden age when America was briefly restored to being a force for progress in the world - a brief interlude of hope between the dark clouds of the Cold War before it and the then seemingly second-order terrors of al-Qaeda and global warming after it. Even the scandals seem quaintly trivial and more about Bill the flawed human being than about any real wrong-doing.

But I guess now the chances are we will never see chapter 2 of the Clinton presidencies. A shame.

I hope Obama can win and can be a great President, but I am not holding my breath. The primary system has reverted to its usual character of producing candidates who get the Democratic faithful fired up into a frenzy but leave swing voters in phlegmatic key states quietly unimpressed and voting Republican in the privacy of the polling booth. A bizarre system and a fit of rule-mongering over Florida and Michigan has given victory to the guy who carried a host of tiny states that the Democrats can never win or which have hardly any electoral college votes, and denied it to the woman who carried those two, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, California, Texas and just about everywhere that might have been useful in the general election.

I have an awful suspicion that we are not going to see a lot of "change" in November.

Oh well, there's always Australia - Kevin Rudd seems to be doing pretty well, much as Bob Hawke did back before the long Clinton saga started.

37 Comments:

Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

The era of triangulation is over.

Hopefully, so is the elitist era of political family dynasty... for now.

Now is the time of the 50 state strategy. We in Britain have a lot to learn from that, too. The lesson is more useful than ever.

Obama new the rules for winning the campaign, and with scant starting resources, played by them and won.

Hopefully he can now do the same nationally. I reckon he can.

This is not the 1980s. Have faith.

8:49 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

"the elitist era of political family dynasty" eh?

Just because she is married to an ex-President she's a person and a politician in her own right. Why should a woman be denied the chance to hold high office if they have the talent, just because their partner is also a politician?

8:54 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Anonymous RIP Luke's Spoof said...

I access your blog and your spoofsters by typing Luke Akehurst into Google. It now only list yours. And it looks like your brilliant spoofster has given up the fight and accepted defeat after you spotted him on the Commie stall in Stoke Newington. All good things come to an end I suppose. He kept you and all your sorry Labour lakeys on your toes and will be sorely missed :-(

9:12 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "50 state strategy" seems to consist of firing up bobos in unloseables (eg. North-East Coast) that are the sort of people who casually refer to "Bushitler", "fascist" GOP, and weren't going to go for McCain anyway, or else unwinnable states that might swing from 70-30 to 60-40 for the Republicans because of him - but that doesn't matter, of course, in the Electoral College.

And, of course, even if he does win, he'll be found out as nothing more than a populist demagogue, a rabble-rouser, a man with a misplaced Messiah complex, very quickly, and his (and the Democrats) approval ratings plummet accordingly.

Could make politics interesting by then - say 2010 - a swing back to the right in the US just as our own electoral cycle falls due.

9:44 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Duncan Hall said...

Well this all seems a tad pessimistic to me. I preferred Kucinich myself (!!!) - and I actually thought Edwards was a good candidate. But since it's been the two-headed race, I've though Obama was the best bet. I agree with Luke that Hillary is a strong politician in her own right, but I don't think she's done a very good job of this campaign. I don't know how many times we'd have seen the footage of her arrival in Bosnia set against her contrasting description (followed by her apology for 'mis-speaking') if she'd been the candidate. Obviously if she had been successful, Labour people should have got behind her. I hope we'll see the same for Obama. The 'Messianic' stuff is a bit below the belt, Mr/Mrs. Anonymous. Tony Blair did 'Messianic' to reasonable effect, after all (certainly in terms of winning elections).

At the moment, my call is that we'll see President Obama.

10:18 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Anonymous jdc said...

You keep saying these odd things about the Obama-Clinton battle which are unsupported by the facts.

I was an Edwards supporter. I have my doubts about whether Obama can win, but actually I think he stands a better chance than Clinton would have.

However

Fact 1: In almost every 'open' contest, Obama did better among "Independent" voters than Hillary. That's your swing constituency.

Fact 2: Obama still wins the primaries by a country mile even if you seat Florida and Michigan in full - nearly all the Michigan uncommiteds had pledged to vote for him.

10:36 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger donpaskini said...

I think Hillary would have been great, but Obama beat her (and will beat McCain) through better organisation and more modern campaigning and fundraising techniques.

Nostalgia for the Glory Days of the mid 90s (like some lefties hark back to the early 80s) is fine'n'all, but anyone going over to America now will come back brimming with ideas from the Obama campaign which can help Labour win in the future.

anonymous - having a go at the 50 state strategy just after the Democrats won a house seat in Mississippi is a bit, um, curious. Any Democrat president needs a majority in the House and Senate to be able to achieve things. Just ask Bill Clinton.

11:16 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

RIP Luke's Spoof - I can always resurrect my alter-ego if you are that desperate - I know he was much sexier and more interesting than me as you can see from the alternative photo that I used.

11:54 pm, June 04, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Well, one could be forgiven for thinking that the underlying message of what you are saying, Luke, is that 'a black candidate can't win'.

And if that is the case - does that justify not choosing a black candidate?

Clinton does have the ability to bring out voters who hate her. Obama can also win votes which Hillary cannot: after all, we are not talking here about democratic voters alone, and Obama did best amongst independents. Turnout in the US has been low - there are many others who could vote but haven't done so often.

12:28 am, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Mark M Heenan said...

I suppose I can understand that it's difficult for Labour party people (Blair aside) to support the Republicans, but what I don't quite understand is the orthodoxy that Conservative Party members (such as myself) are seen to be automatically barred from having Democrat sympathies.

I went to a Conservative Party dinner the other night where some blockhead was telling us how great George Bush is, and why McCain will be just as good. I turned to the guy next to me and said "don't say it too loudly but actually I'm an Obama fan myself". "So am I" was the reply. And the guy next to him wanted Clinton...

6:07 am, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Johnson said...

Common sense is finally about to prevail in America with the election of a left-leaning President. How depressing that here in Britain people are behaving like mindless sheep by voting Conservative. Nobody seems to care what Cameron intends to do, or ask what he stands for. He looks nice, and that's all that matters.

7:54 am, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Arnold Punter said...

It will certainly stimulate an interesting media response if Obama entertains an intern to engage in the same activities as President Clinton.

8:34 am, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Ingrid Polansky said...

Let's get serious here if we are going to compare the US and Britain. They have a young, handsome candidate who can speak publicly with total conviction and utterly convincingly for 30 minutes without a script or autocue. We have Gordon Brown, who picks his nose well. Enough said.

8:37 am, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how much money has been wasted during her election campaign that has now come to nothing!

12:45 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think I heard over US $200 million!

Certainly the figure that Obama is said to need for the General Election is $335m.

However, it isn't entirely wasted as there is an agreement between the campaigns to share their Voter ID data post the primary season and use it in the November campaign - i.e. Hillary's data on her primary supporters can be used to send them direct mail, contact them on polling day to get them to back Obama etc. Also the volunteer networks etc can be passed on to Obama.

Usually the primaries end before key general election states get a chance to vote, so this one was unusual in allowing data collection and an organisational dress rehersal in key states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.

12:55 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Simon said...

"The era of triangulation is over"

Actually, Obama is quite pro-triangulation and dedicates a chapter of his book to his importance. The tone of the book is really quite Blairite.

2:43 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

I must admit I do think Clinton was the better choice but looks like the delegates think otherwise.

Looks like it might just be McCain if you look at the latest opinion poll. Hilary supporters look like they won't be voting for Obama.

7:37 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Kris said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:11 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Kris said...

I'm gutted.

And I tell you what, I'm with that Harriet Christian youtube bird. I can guarandamntee you I will NEVER vote for Obama.

I am sick of his crazy foreign policy ideas and zero substance, sick of the crazy preachers and sick unto death of his crazy "this is the first time I've been proud of my country" wife.

8:15 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Blogger Darrell G said...

Goodbye Hillary...nobody will miss you...i think the interesing aspect of this is that Clinton's failure marks the final demise of all those politicians who tied themselves to support for the Iraq war....

11:44 pm, June 05, 2008

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not quite sure how you back up

"The primary system has reverted to its usual character of producing candidates who get the Democratic faithful fired up into a frenzy but leave swing voters in phlegmatic key states quietly unimpressed"

yes this happened in '72, but usual character?let's have a look...

76 -Carter - a sourthern evangelical seen as a conservative democrat

80 - Carter, chosen over ted Kennedy - the grassroots choice

84 - Mondale chosen over Gray Hart , the grassroots choice

88 - Dukakis- you might have a point here, but only because Biden self-destructed

92 - Clinton, which I take you agree with

96 Clinton, see above

2000 Gove over Bill Bradley, the grassroots choice

2004 Kerry over Dean, the grassroots choice

So for your claim that " usual character of producing candidates who get the Democratic faithful fired up into a frenzy " you are, as the americans say, batting 1 and 7!!! that's an arguable once in 36 years.

If you are going to pontificate on american politics, read a little please.

12:15 am, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:46 am, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Luke said

"No President Clinton II"

Thank God!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, good riddance to bad rubbish.

All this guff over Mrs Clinton's experience, yes she is a Senetor and yes she was a First Lady, you would have thought that such a candidate would not have made so many gaffes in her campaign. She came accross as overly negative and a complete vote loser.
Let’s not leave Iraq out of this; Sen Clinton and Sen McCain both voted for the war, which is now grossly unpopular. Both candidates want to attack Iran (as if we don't have enough problems as it is) and most Americans have no appetite for war.

Sen Clinton relied on big donors to fund her campaign whilst Sen Obama has a strong grassroots funding body, so his electorate is out there.

McCain has had a pretty easy ride of it, compared to the mudslinging Obama had to endure to get the nomination. His campaign is better funded and organised not to mention he is level pegging with McCain and he has only just started to campaign. I think he'll wipe the floor with him.

I suspect Luke's apprehension to Obama in part might be linked to the fact Obama is not white and therefore might not be as electorally attractive to the people as Clinton. It is a fair comment (the elephant in the room) as he (along with most of us) does not want to see a Republican in the White House. However I can only see benefit from this nomination on this score. It will inspire young Americans regardless of colour (or should that be color?) to enter politics. On a side issue does anyone think a non white person can be elected PM? I certainly hope so (just got to get a seat in Westminster and let my natural charm flood through!!!!!). Politics has to be seen to be accessible to all people regardless of wealth and race.

I do think much of the anti Clinton hype was directed on the grounds she was a woman, which is also unfair. I have a grudging respect for her tenacity as well, kudos for that. But she just was quite simply a poorer candidate to Obama not to mention her Marmite like qualities.

McCain too has some qualities that I can admire (I should mention I'm a naval man myself). He is a brave man, and he is quite left wing for his party, just not left wing enough to make it count at the ballot box, least I hope so. His foreign policy scares me a little, banging the war drum against Iran and his Russian and China bashing is inappropriate.

Obama will have his faults as President of that I am in no doubt, but he is the best candidate and deserves to win.

7:55 am, June 06, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

"He is quite left-wing for his party." [Ravi on McCain]

No, he isn't. That might be the media narrative but he voted with Bush 95% of the time and the few issues he gained his maverick reputation on (eg torture) he has now flip-flopped on.

I hope there will be some genuine debates in this campaign because his maverick reputation needs to be destroyed and I think that's only going to happen if he's challenged directly on these things, which the media ain't about to do.

11:07 am, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Jack Ray said...

1) Obama's a centrist, the difference between him and Clinton policy-wise is negligible, and is why the amount of actual policy discussion over the primaries was virtually nothing.

2) The kind of mechanical thinking that says elections are won by policy position ("this far to the right = x many voters") is exactly Labour's problem. Elections are as much about momentum, changing public feeling, personalities (especially in Presidential systems) as they are policy. Sometimes electorates want a radical change of direction. Labour won in '45 on a platform that wouldn't have won them any pre-war election. The Tories ran in '79 on policies that would've got them butchered in any previous contest. The "always aim for the centre" assumes that the centre is an unchanging position with the exact same policies for the foreseeable future.

Obama's currently leading in the polls, even after a bruising primary season. He's got more money, he's got the backing of a sizeable quantity of the big corporate backers in Washington, and he's coming after one of the most unpopular presidents in US history.

He's definitely favourite at this point...

11:45 am, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Timf- I checked his voting record and yes he has voted with Bush, however he has been a strong propent for Kyto and is not so viserally opposed to abortion as opposed to his conservative co-partists. That is what is considered left wing in America. Mind you did'nt he have a preacher who praised Hitler?

Jack is right, Obama hails from the New Democrat faction of the party, so domestic policy is virtually identical to Clinton. If Clinton supporters are switching to McCain as Luke suggests they might its not policy they have an issue with......

1:31 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Anonymous tim f said...

It's true he's in support of Kyoto. However he's tacked to the right on abortion recently and he'll have to stay there to motivate core Republican support.

It's not McCain's policy positions in themselves that will help Obama as the fact that McCain agrees with the most unpopular president in living memory on 95% of issues. McCain has to appear to be a fresh start to win, and his voting record doesn't help him there. To be fair the Democrats have already started trying to link McCain with Bush, though they haven't had much success so far.

2:44 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

True getting the conservative right is important, but who he really wants to appeal to are the independents and he can't do that emulating Bush.

3:51 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Merseymike said...

Obama isn't generally thought of as from the New Democrat wing, actually - he is said by some to be much more of a progressive liberal, although no doubt that will be played down and the Republicans try and highlight it!

4:36 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger donpaskini said...

The Republicans have decided that they think Obama is a Marxist, or more specifically, 'old style Marxist radical liberal'.

http://time-blog.com/real_clear_politics/2008/06/delay_chimes_in.html

Meanwhile, the latest poll shows Obama's lead over McCain up to 5%.

4:38 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

Obama's is a very confident candidate and appears to offer a new direction to Americans. However, I'm not convinced that Obama can beat McCain.

McCain has always distanced himself from Bush he has a different approach entirely and I think Americans may see this.

At the end of the day it isn't going to make a lot of difference to us. America will not pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan and I doubt their stance on foreign policy will change at all. There are larger forces at work behind the scenes that even the president can't change.

We should be concentrating on our own skins and not looking over the pond.

11:35 pm, June 06, 2008

 
Blogger Kris said...

"I suspect Luke's apprehension to Obama in part might be linked to the fact Obama is not white..."

Oh for fcuk's sakes!It's not about Obama's ethnicity/race! At least not for me. (obviously it IS for the writer of the above quote).

It's got to do with the fact he's got no substance.

11:15 pm, June 07, 2008

 
Blogger Miller 2.0 said...

Hm. I think having a President husband is quite a step up, don't you?

4:09 pm, June 08, 2008

 
Anonymous Rich said...

If I was going to support anyone it would be Hilary. Second to that it would be McCain but to be honest Obama will do anyway. The reason I say this isn't about race but actually about how the next leader will deal with the millions of people in America who don't have health care, the dependency on oil and the obesity epidemic that will bankrupt Americas heath care system.

They are all have strong points and they are all have weaknesses.

To be fair to Hilary she was worked very hard and shown a lot of commitment and guts to throw $11 million of her own money in.

The most important issue is to move on from the Oil dominated Bush era and concentrate on building a world economy that is strong and sustainable.

4:51 pm, June 08, 2008

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Kris, you are speaking out of a hole in your hat. Obama and Clinton political stances are virtually similar. To their credit many Clinton supporters are going to work their cotton socks off to help Obama get elected, but there are some who have been quoted in the press as saying either, he is black or he is a Muslim and therefore will vote McCain. The latter statement is such utter bollocks it is not even worth commenting on. Some of her voters in the south think having a black man in the White house is one of the harbingers of the apocalypse. Yes race should not matter, but you are a fool if you think it doesn’t apply in this case.

Explain to me why you think he is vacuous? Show me some evidence of that. He has written widely on political issues and to me it shows is more of a deeper thinker than any of his of his opponents (democratic or republican). He has tried to build political concenus both as a state senator and as a US senator, turing some conservative legislation mildly progressive.

He is by no means perfect, but when confronted with a choice, it would be Obama everytime for me.

Mike- His voting record is very strongly liberal, that is true but I think he still backs some of Reagan's "reforms" as is typical of Third wayers (but I would be happy to be proven wrong on this account).

10:30 am, June 09, 2008

 
Anonymous labour voter said...

Obama is regarded by many as lightweight because of his speeches - continually referring to some vague notion of change without ever specifying what this change would be. I have no sense at all of what an Obama administration would be like, and having read the policy stuff on his website I'm still none the wiser.

Hillary had more baggage as a candidate because she's been around longer and has had to take unpopular stances at times. But that's what would have made her a better candidate.

Ingrid Polansky feels the strengths of Obama are that he is young and handsome. Very substantial political point that, Ingrid, and underlines the problem some of us have with Obama - all image, no substance.

6:16 pm, June 15, 2008

 
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