Friday, 6 June 2008

Obama - the future and the past?

For all the talk of Barack Obama heralding an era of change in American politics, for me a large part of his appeal is the fact that he looks like he could easily have been around in the 1960s, in the days of the civil rights movement. You could quite easily put him next to Marvin Gaye on American Bandstand, or with Sam Cooke jamming with Cassius Clay (this is such classic footage) or alongside Martin Luther King marching on Washington. Not only does this just make him look a hell of a lot cooler than his political peers, but he also evokes memories of a more innocent, more idealistic time, when it was clear that political action could and did change things; that there were things worth fighting for. I really hope he can live up to expectations.


James Barlow said...

I take it you're not standing for reelection then?

If not, there are plenty out there who do think there are things worth fighting for.

Anonymous said...

"he also evokes memories of a more innocent, more idealistic time"

What having spent something like $70m of corporate cash on TV advertising in less than six months?

That's not evoking anything, that's professionals carefully crafting and fine tuning an electable image.

Northern Lights said...

He has, in fairness, attracted millions from the American public - most of which has come in small donations of under 200 dollars. It is unfair, then, to paint him as a corporate politician when he has pioneered the use of the internet to reach out to a wider audience. And lets be honest about this, it is almost impossible to compete in the presidential race without a substantial bank balance, such is the nature of American politics. The amount he has spent, and the amount he has raised, in part just reflects his considerable support - which might have something to do with his relative innocence and idealism.

Kerry said...

James - you are SO predictable. I KNEW you would come back with that. Is it that you can't resist trying to score cheap and lazy political points, or that you are incapable of appreciating nuances in argument? (i.e. that I might simply have been acknowledging that many people - particularly young people and people from disadvantaged and/or ethnic minority communities - feel disillusioned with the political process and don't see the point of political enagagement. That is, I think, generally accepted. It would be disingenuous in the extreme to deny it. Obama has mobilised the black and youth vote like no-one else, which is just one reason why he is 'A Good Thing'). And don't worry, if I ever need reminding of why things are worth fighting for, I only have to think of what it was like growing up under a Tory Government.

And Northern Lights - well said! I know Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" might have been written with one eye on a future presidential race, but I found parts of it genuinely inspirational. Of course there's something wrong with the fact that no-one can run for President these days without access to millions of dollars - but you can't blame Obama for playing the game if that's what it takes. There was a lovely little piece in the Guardian today about a 95 year old man who'd travelled for 3 and a half hours to be at the launch of Obama's election campaign, and brought him a walking stick he'd made himself; the old man was an ex-miner, who'd been refused service in restaurants during the days of segregation, and was thrilled that he might just live long enough to see a black president. If Obama needs the corporate millions to fulfil the hopes and dreams of people like that, then good luck to him.

James Barlow said...

If you knew I was going to make this point then you should have expressed yourself differently. All I can go on is what you write, not your unwritten "nuances".

I actually share much of the disillusionment with politics that you ascribe to young people, disadvantaged people and ethnic minority communities, and I'm going to do what I can to change things.

You name-check me in one of your other posts asking me to leap to Caroline Spelman's defence. I wonder if this is perhaps a good opportunity for a bit of cross-party collaboration to improve the public perception of politics.

I wrote to Giles Chichester MEP yesterday, to tell him that I will be proposing to the Bristol & South Glos Conservative Association that we poll the members on his removal from next year's party list for the European Elections.

It looks like I will also have to add a ballot on the removal of Caroline Spelman as Party Chairman. I've heard her explanations, and I don't accept them. This is all internal party stuff, and frankly our local objections may not carry much weight with London (we'll see). But on a wider note, there is a problem with the Parliamentary allowances and expenses system that needs to be sorted out.

Perhaps you, Kerry, could table an Early Day Motion to cancel all allowances and expenses excluding travel for Parliamentarians - reducing their current income of up to £217,000 down to just the base salary of £61,820. We could call it the "McCarthy Bill"

When we were searching for Prospective Parliamentary Candidates for Bristol, we had at least a dozen applicants for each seat, so I don't think this change will affect the caliber of people seeking to represent the people. And politics is a vocation, not a career.

What do you reckon? I'm not too familiar with EDMs but I'm game to help.

Anonymous said...

Claims that Obama has received money from a quarter of million Americans have been vastly inflated because he has included in his figures anyone who has bought a bumper sticker, a key ring with his name on it or paid $5 to hear him talk ...

Among Obama's real support (probably not garnered through the internet) are those li'l ol' apple pie eating Americans the Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase, all of Wall Street.

I also understand Citigroup are big donors and Ken Griffin, the multi-billionaire founder and chief executive of Chicago-based Citadel Investment Group, is a long term supporter and very, very influential

Obama is also close to Exelon, the US's largest nuclear power plant operator who also funded his Senatorial campaign and he's taken money from both the oil and gas industries.

I could go on ...

Obama is a slick political operator for a slick political machine.

This is change you can believe in if you're extraordinarily naive.

Northern Lights said...

I don’t see the problem in including the cost of a bumper sticker in Obama’s political donations. Whoever bought the bumper sticker did it to show their support, and as such their $5 is as legitimate as a $5 million donation from an investment banker.

With respect, it is undeniable that Obama has attracted considerable support from the average American, in particular from those who tend to be disenchanted with the political process, and to suggest otherwise is to show a breathtaking ignorance of the facts. Of course, he has also attracted support from big business, but again, this is a prerequisite of presidential politics, and does not negate the palpable sense of optimism surrounding his campaign.

Anonymous said...

You prove my point. Your "palpable sense of optimism" is the very message that Obama and his team are very precisely crafting.

Beneath the hype it's pretty much business as usual I'm afraid.

(Incidentally, how and where are you watching the election? On TV? In the US?)

Northern Lights said...

Well, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on that point...perhaps come November we might have the chance to find out.

Kerry said...

James, if I obssessed over every possible interpretation/ misinterpretation of what I said, I'd never blog at all. As for your suggestion about parliamentary allowances. About £100k of what I receive is to pay staff - doesn't go anywhere near my bank account. So are you assuming I don't employ anyone? Another £20,000 or so is to run a constituency office - rent, council tax, bills, stationery, computers, etc (with some of it going on Westminster stationery expenses too). Are you going to suggest I don't do that either?