lessons from America

6 weeks is a very long time in politics

6 weeks ago the Obama convention bounce – and the Democratic activist high from those scenes at Invesco stadium – were thought to be at their peak.  And Obama had a bare lead in the electoral college vote, according to the polls. 

6 weeks ago Sarah Palin had just been unveiled to the world as McCain’s running mate …. and the media thought it a masterstroke.

6 weeks ago the Dow was as high as 11500 and the FTSE 100 stood at 5600.  And a mattress was what what you slept on, rather than a safer place than banks to store your money.

And 6 weeks ago I left Denver, after an amazing experience at the Convention, in the city and with my hosts Hunter and Tyler.  

Tyler and Malcolm Hunter, Malcolm and Tyler

…. my tan has definitely now gone, despite the Indian Summer we’ve experienced here. Since departing Denver on such a high, I’ve been to 5 political conferences: the Greens, Trade Union Congress, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservatives.  I’ve watched my godson take his first steps, first aided and now on his own.  I’ve celebrated my birthday, and my twin brother’s!  And I’ve continued to talk, watch, read, blog and breathe the US elections. 

But lotts has changed in the past 6 weeks.  That’s a bland understatement of the highest order.  The financial, economic and political landscape in the US, the UK and to a lesser extent across the world has radically altered. 

Here in the UK, Gordon Brown is now seen (at least for the moment) as a leader fit for these times, rather than a pathetic character about to prematurely ousted from a job he seemed ill-suited for.  The Conservative lead in the polls has diminished from its historic highs.  The Conservative leader David Cameron is now having to not only back regulation and nationalisation, but he is calling for even tighter curb on boardroom pay and perks than the Labour Prime Minister.   We have revived our old enmity with Iceland, this time over banking rather than fish.  And many people – councils, charities and businesses included – have discovered to their cost that when something looks too good to be true (in this case high interest rates on their savings offered by Icelandic banks without any risk), it probably is.

In the States, “the tectonic plates have shifted” (as John Prescott’s catchphrase aptly puts) to an even bigger degree.   Perhaps the best way of visualising what has happened, is through this fantastic graph, posted by State of the Union (h/t  Look at the way McCain’s fall in popularity almost exactly mirrors the collapse in confidence on Wall Street.

And if yesterday – ‘Black Friday’ – wasn’t bad enough for McCain, we had the ‘Troopergate’ verdict giving further credence to Sarah Palin’s lack of suitability for the V-P job, and criticisms of McCain’s decision-making.  I’m not sure though, in electoral terms, it does anything more than confirm and harden the ‘love her or loathe her’ responses to her.  It’s a lot of passion on both sides she’s managed to stir up these past 6 weeks.
Unbelievably, from the close race 6 weeks ago we are now looking, certainly if the election was held today, at an electoral college landslide for Obama, a possibility of the Democrats getting near to that filibuster-proof 60 seats in the Senate, and a large House majority.  Only the most optimistic would have predicted this situation.   But now we are here, we don’t want to let it slip back.  I absolutely love this rousing, tour de force of a post by Markos which sets out the motivation for the final 4 weeks of the campaign:

“The day after the election, I want to see an electoral battlefield littered with defeated Republicans, their ranks demoralized, their treasury in heavy debt, and no real leadership to take the helm. I want a vacuum so complete, that a bloody leadership battle between the neocons, theocons, and corporate cons shakes the GOP to its core, and leaves it fractured and ill-equipped to stymie the progressive agenda, much less ramp up for an even bleaker (for them) 2010.”

“Guys, that’s why I don’t worry about complacency. We’re not out to win this thing. We’re out to crush them. And that’s going to require a level of engagement beyond anything you’ve ever done before. It’ll mean more phone banking, more canvassing, more donating. … We’ve all got something to offer, whether it’s time or money, and now’s the time to offer what we can.”

Given I can’t offer money (foreign donations are illegal), I am going to be offering my time.  My time in the States.  Campaigning for Obama.  More shortly ….


October 11, 2008 - Posted by | global perspective | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. That’s a nice perspective on how much has happened in-between the last month and a half — and here I was wondering why I just got a haircut around the same time, and in need of another one today.

    Comment by paolo | October 12, 2008 | Reply

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