Category Archives: US Politics

How a one-trick pony shuts down an entire government

In one “West Wing” episode, a group of fictional Belarussian officials gather to write a new constitution for their country. Intent on following the model of the US constitution, Toby Ziegler, the fictional White House Director of Communications, implores them to do otherwise. His country’s governing system is, he says, a “recipe for constitutional breakdown.”

Today, almost 800,000 federal employees in the US will not show up to work. One million more – those considered essential – will show up but not get paid for the work they do. Constitutional breakdown, namely an inability of the Republican House and Democratic Senate to agree a budget, is now a firm part of the American political lexicon.

Every year, Congress must pass a budget to make sure that the federal government continues to operate at financial year end. Yet, for the nineteenth year in a row, Congress has failed to pass the following year’s budget in time. In seventeen of the nineteen years, short-term bills have kept the government’s doors open while longer-term negotiations continue. But not this year.

The sticking point is an effort by the Republican Party to couple defunding of the Affordable Care Act withpassage of the 2013/14 budget. Health care reform was championed by President Obama. It is despised by many Republicans but is also considered the signature achievement of Obama’s Presidency.

But in holding the country to ransom over this issue, Republicans ignore three realities of American politics and face political ignominy.

The last government shut-down, in 1996, also came when a group of fiery conservatives locked horns with a weakened Democratic President. Republicans lost that fight, and Bill Clinton won an easy re-election.

This year’s gamble has even higher stakes. In sixteen days the country will run out of money, not just to pay for government services but to pay its debts. Unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, the US will default on its borrowings for the first time in history.

In continuing to fight the battles of 2010, Republicans are trying to roll back the clock. Critically, they ignore that age old advice to pick your battles. The fight over Obamacare is now about emotion, not public policy. It passed Congress three years ago, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, and the man responsible for its passage was convincingly re-elected less than twelve months ago. Despite all this, Republicans have attempted to repeal the law forty times since its passage.

Many Republicans argue that the US Government is too big and that health care reform will mean more spending. Being mostly regulations, the Affordable Care Act has little to do with the federal budget. That is about paying for those things which Congress has already agreed to fund, not about trying to reverse something that the minority party was unable to prevent from becoming law. Bob Woodward, a journalist with many years of experience in Washington, declared on Sunday that the GOP is trying to blackmail the President.

It is no coincidence that the last nineteen years have been marked by a period of divided government and heightened partisanship. One blog study found that Congress now suffers from the highest levels of partisanship since the late nineteenth century. But the US Constitution is based on compromise. Divided government is built into the system.

The GOP’s second fault is failing to recognise the world they inhabit. They may control the House of Representatives, but Democrats control the Senate and White House. No one gets everything they want in this situation. Both parties have been attempting to blame the other for the lack of compromise, but the GOP has become a one-trick pony. It has a myopic fixation with Obamacare.

Republicans argue that they have sent three continuing resolutions to the Senate which would have prevented a shut-down. Despite Democratic opposition to delaying or defunding the Affordable Care Act, all three resolutions contain provisions to do just that. Without them, government offices likely would have stayed open.

In 1996, a Republican Speaker led the charge; now, a sixth of the Republican caucus leads the Speaker. Successful parties need effective leaders as well as ideas. Obamacare might be unpopular, but it is a reality. Instead of adjusting to that reality, John Boehner, the House Speaker, has allowed 40 GOP Congressmen, the Tea Partiers, to ransom the country and dictate Republican positions on budget negotiations.

Ideological posturing might work in the short-term. Senator Ted Cruz is touted as a future GOP Presidential candidate, his standing boosted by a 21 hour speech on the evils of Obamacare. That he was reprimanded by a fellow GOP Senator, Bob Corker, shows that some Republicans know the party is in dangerous territory. With a sixteen day window to prevent default the entire United States is in dangerous territory.

The Economist’s correspondent predicted, before Tuesday’s shut-down, that because a default is unprecedented, “it is probable that both sides will avoid triggering one.” But few things are probable when ideological purity becomes more important than funding a government.


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Only fools can predict a legacy…

During the week in which Barack Obama was inaugurated to a second term as US President, there has been much talk of his legacy. The White House is working to a plan to avoid the usual second term pitfalls, while the pundits speak of legacy as though they can preordain the future.

The lead character in the novel “American Wife,” a fictionalised version of Laura Bush, muses that only men are concerned with leaving a legacy. She may be right. What is more arrogantly masculine than believing that only we control both the inputs and the outcomes of what we do with our lives?

Yet, regardless of the possible masculinity of legacy hunting, it is premature to begin thinking about Obama’s legacy now. He is only at the mid-point of his Presidency. 40 years after Nixon’s Presidency, there remains disagreement over his legacy.

In his second inaugural speech, Obama gave us some clues as to what he would like us to consider for his legacy. Climate change and immigration reform featured. But, in paying tribute to the coalition of forces that secured his victory, he hinted at his symbolic legacy.

“Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall,” rolled easily off his tongue. He confidently addressed gay rights in a way that no President has before. The first Latina Supreme Court Justice administered the oath of office to Vice President Biden. Richard Blanco was the first Latino and first openly gay person to deliver an Inaugural poem. Myrlie Evers-Williams became the first woman and the first layperson to deliver the Invocation at a Presidential inauguration.

If the pundits want legacy, Myrlie Evers-Williams’ presence on the Capitol steps virtually defines the word. At almost 80 years old, her legacy is one of continuing action and campaigning for civil rights, but one with accidental and tragic beginnings.

Born in Mississippi to a teenage mother, Evers-Williams was raised by her grandmother and aunt. Both schoolteachers, she followed in their steps. Myrlie enrolled at college so that she too could become a teacher. And on her first day, she met Medgar Evers. They fell in love, they married and they had three children.

Medgar became the state-wide organiser for the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and Myrlie helped him with his work. Until, in 1963, hours after President Kennedy’s national address in support of civil rights legislation, Medgar was shot and killed outside their home.

Myrlie carried on campaigning. Interviewed in 2011, she said that she continued “out of my love and respect for him and what he did.” Her work involved three trials for the man responsible for her husband’s murder. Two trials in the 1960s produced hung juries; a conviction only secured in 1994. It included writing, running unsuccessfully for Congress, and working as a community organiser and fundraiser.

In 1995 she was elected as National Chairwoman of the NAACP, completing the circle begun by her husband three decades earlier. Her tenure is celebrated for steadying a storm-battered organisation. Evers-Williams herself once wrote “Almost none of those accomplishments were things that I, Myrlie Louise Beasley, from Vicksburg, Mississippi, was raised to do.”

Did the women gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 imagine a woman delivering the invocation at a Presidential Inauguration? Did those involved in the civil rights movement of fifty years ago picture that woman being black, speaking at the inauguration of a black man? Did the men and women who fought back at the Stonewall Inn imagine that an openly gay man would share the stage with Presidents and Senators, at the inauguration of a President publicly committed to achieving full equality for gays and lesbians?

If there is a lesson in any of this, it is that perhaps those pundits who focus on policies as legacy miss the point. Policy matters as the framework for laws, but laws can change in the blink of an eye. Transformations cannot be achieved without policy. But they are measured through symbolism; that of Myrlie Evers-Williams, of Sonia Sotomayor, of Richard Blanco, of President Barack Hussein Obama all sharing a platform on the steps of the US Capitol.

The symbolism of a changing America has been talked about as Obama’s legacy for as long as he has been a national politician. The reality of how big that change is was visible for all on Monday.

His political legacy is another matter. Amy Davidson summed it up best in the New Yorker. “There were plenty of reminders of how impossible it is to know how any given story ends,” she wrote. Davidson could see what other pundits are paid not to see; that the accidents of life and the whims of others have as much say as we do in what our legacy might be. Just ask Myrlie Evers-Williams.

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Is a Republican victory assured?

President Obama is ahead in the polls – slightly – as the Republican Convention opens in Tampa. It appears that a summer of brutally negative campaigning and Mitt Romney’s selection of “the next President of the United States,” to be his running-mate have failed to shift voters’ sentiment in any great way. Americans should prepare for a bruising two months of political back-and-forth before they select their next President. But is it the case that, no matter who wins in November, when it comes to economic and fiscal issues, the Republicans have already ‘won’?

The 2012 election is apparently being fought between two contrasting philosophies of government, when it isn’t being fought over the trivial and non-consequential. We all love a good tale about Seamus the dog, or about how Obama prefers to be interviewed by the editor of Glamour instead of by the editor of the National Review. Sometimes, though, a good philosophical debate is what we all really yearn for, and, supposedly, we have Mitt Romney to thank for this. Thanks and praise to the eternal one above for Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running-mate, for it is this that has resulted in 2012 becoming the most consequential election of anyone’s lifetime (sorry Abe). For it is this that means, come November 8th, whatever party emerges victorious in the White House will claim that most elusive of prizes in US politics: the mandate for its particular philosophy. Ah, the mandate.

Except, that is not how it will go. For 20 years, both parties have tried to claim a mandate after various elections, only to squander that imagined mandate. Bill Clinton won with the lowest tally of any President in the modern era, to see his ‘mandate’ eliminated by Newt Gingrich just two years later. His victory in 1996 confirmed the era of divided government as he continued to face a Republican congress. The man who lost the popular vote in 2000 couldn’t exactly claim a mandate, even if he did ‘win’ the Presidency and even if Republicans did control all of the levers of government – just. Yes, the Republicans gained in 2002 and 2004 when the electorate were scared witless and the Democrats were unable to find their voice. But all of those Republican gains were wiped out in 2006, after Bush claimed a ‘mandate’ for privatizing social security and voters began to tire of war in Iraq. 2008 was supposed to be the Democrats’ turn for a crack at the mandate claiming – a ‘landslide’ victory for Obama, a bigger majority in the House and a near veto proof majority in the Senate. And then the Tea Party had its party in 2010.

Despite Karl Rove’s hopes and the Democrats’ delusions, the past decade has simply entrenched the system of divided government, with the odd shuffling of what collection of dozen states are subjected to more political advertising than the remaining 38. It is also despite the US electorate’s assertions (whimperings) that they do not like divided government, their wish that one of the parties would roll up their sleeves and do something, and the consequent backlash when one of the parties does what the public says it wants them to do. All in all, it’s not a particularly smart way of governing, but it does make for entertaining politicking/reality television.

What may make 2012 different – and I stress may, more of which anon – is that the Republicans have already won the argument between small government vs whatever it is the Democrats believe. Partly because of that very difficulty of expressing what it is that Democrats believe in and partly because the battle is being fought again. After all, it was fought 30 years ago, and the Republicans won then. This current battle is simply about moving the country to catch up with where the Republican Party has got to, and the Democrats seem happy to accept the field of battle. So, in a sense, even if Obama ekes out his 48-47% victory, and even if Harry Reid keeps his slightly bigger office, the Republicans have already won and may not even need a mandate to enact their agenda.

Drew Westen wrote five years ago that the Republicans had mastered the Democrats through superior tactics, through an ability to articulate what it was that the party stood for, and through an aggressive offensive against Democrats, all whilst the Democrats floundered. An inspiring Senator gave the impression that Democrats had found their voice and might be able to counter the GOP, thus winning that famous 53%-46% landslide. But it is worth remembering that the McCain campaign scored several own goals – “the fundamentals of the US economy are strong,” the suspended campaign to rush back to Washington to deal with the economy, Sarah Palin – and that McCain remained only 3 or 4 points behind Obama at the end of September; Obama only cracked 50% in the polling average in mid-October, despite widespread revulsion of the incumbent Republican President.

The fact that Democrats turned victory into defeat over health care reform is perhaps most astounding. Polls consistently show significant majorities of Americans favoured health-care reform prior to 2008, albeit with mixed views on what type of reform that should be. However, by the time the Patient Protetion and Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 – snatched from the jaws of defeat in a Democratic dominated Congress – the Tea Party had been born and a clear majority of Americans were virulently opposed to the very reforms that Obama had a mandate to enact. This despite the fact that doctors favoured universal health care by a 2:1 margin in a March 2008 poll, and despite the fact that Obama ran strongly on health care reform

Roll forward to 2012 and the GOP is resurgent. Unusually this has virtually nothing to do with the party’s standard bearer – whom the party faithful would rather was someone, anyone, else – and everything to do with the No. 2 on the ticket and with a certain septuagenarian Congressman from Texas whom Romney soundly beat in the Primaries, one Ron Paul. It is not untypical for the opposition party to swing towards ideological purity after electoral defeat – think 1972, 1984, 1996 – but it is much more typical for the guy at the top of the ticket to embody that ideological fervour. It is also typical for such fervour to be soundly beaten in Presidential races – think 1972, 1984, 1996 – with the occasional Congressional victor keeping the flame alive.

Republican economic orthodoxy is now accepted as deficit reduction at the exclusion of all other considerations (except the military), tax cuts, particularly for the wealthy, and a general, dramatic reduction of the state – limited government is the cry. Paul Ryan’s budget proposals have been placed at the heart of what a future Republican administration will attempt to achieve, but they have also been placed at the heart of political debate in the US – not so much a part of the debate but the pivot around which the debate now takes place. The debate is not, as Democrats wish to believe, about the role of government but about how much the state should be shrunk. The experience of the last three decades, during which the conservative philosophy of economics has become the accepted norm, suggests that even an Obama victory in 2012 will merely be a stop-gap before the Ryan budget gets enacted. The question is simply whether that happens in 2013 or 2017.

As to what might make 2012 different, two scenarios are possible after November, both of which cement the GOP economic agenda as the norm. Let us take the Armageddon approach for Democrats first. President Willard Mitt Romney is sworn in as the 45th President in January 2013, leading a party determined to undo several key Democratic legislative successes. First on the list is the hated ‘Obamacare’, which Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell helpfully timetable for quick reconciliation votes. Using the parliamentary procedure means that veto proof majorities are not needed in the Senate and, although they can’t repeal the health care legislation completely, they can gut it effectively enough to render it all but useless.

At the same time, President Romney tasks Vice President Ryan with herding a limited government budget through Congress. The new Vice President managed to get his former colleagues in the House to vote for virtually identical budget proposals before without too much difficulty; as the election was all about deciding between reducing spending and socialism there’s now a mandate for something that looks like Ryan’s previous budget proposals. The people have spoken, after all, and woe-betide anyone who doesn’t listen to what the people want. Yes, of course the electorate will suddenly see the squeeze on spending affecting them, the abstract will, by November 2014, have become the personal, and we may well see another wave election sweeping the Democrats back into control of the House and/or the Senate. But it will be an election fought on GOP ground, much like every election since 1980.

Our second scenario sees Obama victorious and Harry Reid gets to keep his big office, even if it means Joe Biden might have to spend a bit more time on Capitol Hill as a 51st vote. The only sad spot is the failure to take the House and the realisation that Nancy Pelosi may not be the woman to lead them to victory in 2014. But she’s had her moment in the sunshine as the first female Speaker, so the tributes are fulsome. Now ends the happy times. Imagine a replay of the last two years, with Obama becoming increasingly embattled defending health care reform, yet more ‘fiscal cliffs’, further Republican attempts to cut taxes and spending all at once, and with the Democrats still failing to articulate what the alternative is and why it matters.

In this scenario, 2014 will not be a pleasant year for Democrats. In the Senate, it will be re-election time for those Democrats elected in the heady days of 2008. Democrats have to defend 20 seats compared to the GOP’s 13, with many of them in hostile territory – Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mark Begich in Alaska. We have to wait and see the outcome of 2012, but it’s safe to say that the GOP will need to pick-up just one or two seats for Harry to lose his big office, or they may simply be adding to an existing majority. As for the House, only once since 1945 has an incumbent President’s party increased its number of seats at second-term mid-term. Democrats gained 5 seats in 1998 in the aftermath of the impeachment push. The omens are not favourable for Democratic gains in 2014 with a President Obama still in office, with an average loss of 21 seats for the incumbent President’s party. Cue another two years of Democrats in siege mode and Republicans setting the economic agenda.

Which gets us to 2016. Is it Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal or Rand Paul who gets the nod from Republicans? Economists are fairly certain that, no matter who wins in November, the economic conditions we face today will not have materially changed in four years’ time. Yet the electorate continues to believe that Presidents have some omnipotent power over the economy. After another four years of anaemic growth, stagnant wages and loss of faith in the American Dream, Obama will truly be to blame, the Democrats will be facing a hostile electorate and the Republicans will have spent the same four years furthering Paul Ryan’s budget proposals as articles of faith, establishing them as the economic norm. Rand Paul for President?

The paradox at the heart of the Republicans’ ‘victory’ in 2012 is that it is balanced by their defeats on the social front, all the more ironic as it is on the social front that the parties have battled hardest since Pat Buchanan had his fifteen minutes of fame back in 1992. It may well be these ‘defeats’ for Republicans that saves Obama and allows Democrats to fight another day. On gay marriage, immigration, women’s issues, even increasingly on environment issues, the GOP is losing or has, often implicitly, conceded defeat. Demographic changes mean that gay marriage has rapidly become accepted in the US, and Latinos will spurn the party for generations unless it changes its stance on immigration. The GOP platform continues to pay lip service to the culture wars of the 1990s and 2000s, opposing as it does, gay marriage, abortion (even in cases involving incest and rape), and being generally anti-immigrant. But actions speak louder than words. The silence of Republicans when President Obama came out in favour of gay marriage, and the collective intake of breath when Todd Akin’s comments about ‘legitimate rape’ steered the party’s focus away from the winning message of the economy towards the losing message of culture demonstrate how some Republicans recognise that the social front is for the base, not for building a winning coalition.

The victory of limited government is a consequence of the Democrats’ failure in intellectual terms. Who is their great economic thinker or visionary? Who makes the intellectual case for government? The victory of limited government may well have just as much to do with GOP failures under George W. Bush when the notion of limited government took a temporary leave of absence from Republican orthodoxy, save for the required tax cuts. Paul Ryan now says that he is embarrassed by, and sorry for, this straying from fiscal responsibility. It may yet prove to be that his votes (and those of his fellow Republican Congressmen and women) to expand the deficit to record levels in the first decade of the 21st Century, and the Democrats’ expectancy that no sane person would believe that Ryan’s budget could ever become the norm, paved the way for him and his fellow Tea Party-goers to claim another generational victory for the GOP in economic and fiscal matters.

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Positive capitalism and the failure of imagination…

Gage Skidmore [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Mitt Romney by Gage Skidmore

The grumblings of discomfortwithin the Republican party, regarding the attacks being made on Mitt Romney’s success as a businessman, and his role in making legions of Americans redundant, miss the point entirely. The attacks, like the Occupy movement, speak to the sense that many people have that it is the way that capitalism operates today that causes inequality and misery, not capitalism itself. Attacking Mitt Romney for being a successful CEO of a venture capital firm, that profited handsomely from undertaking corporate restructurings, speaks to the convictions of millions of people – both Republican and Democrat – that capitalism as it is currently practiced is a destructive capitalism. The capitalism that the Republican party should really be arguing in favour of is a positive capitalism.

There is no doubt that Newt Gingrinch, John Huntsman and Rick Perry, who have led the attacks on Romney, are not arguing in favour of a positive capitalism. Their intention is simply to knock Romney hard enough to try and win their party’s nomination. Yet, coupled with the Occupy movement, there is an opportunity for a broader and deeper discussion about capitalism and how it is used to positive effect in future years.

During the Occupy protests in the last half of 2011, it was baffling how the sense of wrong felt by so many was so easily swept aside by both policymakers and the media. Perhaps the Occupiers could have done a better job at articulating their aims and aspirations, but the easy dismissal of their argument was amazing.

Seeking to reorient how we practice capitalism so that it is more mindful of societal concerns is a growing sentiment. Millenials are increasingly focussed on how positive capitalism can achieve private benefits through collective action. Look to the rapid rise in co-working and collaboration spaces, the collective reimagining of how our urban places work and look, the rise of localism, increasing support for independent retailers and the realisation that our purchasing behaviour has consequences and the subsequent efforts by some companies to offset their negative impacts through positive capitalism.

Gingrich, Huntsman and Perry doubtless did not have this in mind when they attacked Mitt Romney for being a “vulture capitalist” in Perry’s words. Nor is it a comfortable argument for the Republican party to have, but, as people like Umair Haque have written, there needs to be a reflection about how we conduct business in the 21st century. Romney’s tendency to miss-speak often gives the impression of a man more comfortable with the corporate mindset than the human mindset. In his opinion “corporations are people” and he likes “being able to fire people”. But in a time when people are feeling real pain, when unemployment is still high and when people look to the excesses of pre-2008 and blame the banks and big business for much of their pain, perhaps the Republican party could do no wrong in questioning whether the best person to lead the party is a person who can be directly attributed with the pain of so many American through his business practices.

Perhaps the Republican party (and the media) would do better than dismiss the Occupiers or to jump to the defence of capitalism, and join the debate about what the fundamentals of business are in the 21st Century. Is it about continuing to practice destructive capitalism and the consequent effect it will have on inequality, or is it about moving towards a positive capitalism that minimises its harmful impacts, that seeks to capture society’s collective creativity and that understands more than just the bottom line?

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Transformation required, not just acceptance…

There are the obvious recriminations swirling about after the US Midterm elections, which saw the Republicans win back the House of Representatives and come very close to winning the Senate. As of writing, Republicans had won 239 House seats, and are leading in 5 more, which will give them a gain of 65 seats on where they were yesterday. Democrats had won 183 and are leading in another 8. In the Senate, Democrats have won 51 to the Republicans’ 46, with Washington and Colorado too tight to call and Alaska looking like it is staying in the nominal Republican camp by virtue of Lisa Murkowski’s probable victory.

The numbers are one thing. The reality of what happens next is an entirely different thing. Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin write a simple but stunning truth in their Politico piece that “Obama now faces a stark, and immediate, choice between a novel effort to rebuild the 2008 coalition and an acceptance of the divisive political scene that he sought to move beyond.” Back in 2008, President Obama was elected on the promise of change and “Yes, We Can!” Of course the expectations were too high and of course he was never going to be able to meet them. That the Democrats were going to do badly in these elections may have been a foregone conclusion after their successes in 2006 and 2008. Yet, for this, they have compounded built-in losses by failing to capitalise on the coalition that they had built in 2008.

Ezra Klein wrote yesterday that in political terms, the 111th Congress was one of the most active in US history (which is, of course, part of the problem that the Tea Party has with it). “[I]f you see the point of politics as actually getting things done, the last two years, for Democrats, have been a stunning, historic success. Whatever else you can say about the 111th Congress, it got things done.” He went on to list health care reform, financial regulation, the stimulus package, and other less well-known pieces of legislation. US voters have been crying out for health care reform for decades; the economy crashed in 2008 partly because of the lack of financial regulation; and the stimulus did play a role in shoring up particular sectors of the economy. Yet, for all this success, the coalition that Obama and the Democrats built to such success in 2008 crumbled around their ears.

Perhaps scarily of all are these two maps – one of the counties that Democrats won in Senate races in 2010 and the other of the counties that Obama won in 2008. Fully accepting of the fact that it is not a direct comparison and that there are different dynamics in Senate vs Presidential races, they are at least instructive of what Democrats have failed to do.


US Senate 2010 County Leaders - New York Times

US Presidential 2008 County Leaders - New York Times

My reading of those maps – as unscientific as it is – indicates that Democratic support has plunged in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. There are also strong signs from House races that Virginia has tilted back strongly to being a red state, as well as problems for the Democrats in Colorado, New Mexico and Michigan. Every one of those states (with the possible exception of Wisconsin) is a classic swing state…

So, does Obama take the path of least resistance to compromise and seek to work with the Republican House, or does he dig deep and push through resistance to battle for Democratic ambitions? In reality, the best bet is something that he promised in 2008 but didn’t tell us how he was going to do it. It is actually one of the main reasons he won so convincingly back in ’08 and it was actually the basis of his ability to build that infamous coalition of young and old, poor and rich, black and white, Democrat, Republican and Independent. It’s the hope thing – but delivery of hope not just talk of hope.

The promise of hope being able to deliver change was what captured the imagination of so many American voters in 2008, especially young people and others who had felt disenfranchised by the existing political reality. Obama and the Democrats promised that those people would be engaged and would become a part of the approach to governing. The expectations of this group soared to unreasonable proportions, but returning to this approach it is Obama’s best bet of getting anything done. The world is in a period of huge economic transformation as we move from the industrial era to the information era and people are frightened because their reality has been upended. A visionary political leader with Obama’s talents needs to capitalise on this transformation to rewire the political, social and economic system – it is not something that can be done easily, nor without resistance. It is what Obama’s talk of hope and “Yes, We Can!” hinted at two years ago. It is also what the Democrats efforts in Congress over the last two years have been about. But they have failed to communicate to the very people who are going to be building the 21st economy that the effort will require a huge attitude change and it will require them to be engaged in the political process, not outside of it.

Transforming the reality of a situation is not easy work, and there will be constant hurdles, obstacles and set backs. To give up that effort after losing the House of Representatives would be an abandonment of Obama’s beginnings as a community organiser. It’s not about accepting the divisive political scene that went before, but about recalibrating your efforts to deal with the changes as they come along. It’s about being entrepreneurial in your approaches and about demonstrating to people that set backs will come and go, but how you deal with the set backs is what really defines whether or not your efforts will be transformative in the long run.


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