Archive for the ‘old’ Category

For Yanks and Brits: This is no time for a novice? Oh yes it is

November 4, 2008

In the UK, Gordon Brown’s favourite slogan will be seriously undermined if the American electorate vote for change….

The Times (UK)
There was just one word on the home page of the Barack Obama website yesterday: Change. With only hours to go, the Democrats were advertising Change We Need rallies and Change the World T-shirts. The presidential candidate’s slogan is: “Change we can believe in” – “I’m asking you to believe not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington, I’m asking you to believe in yours,” says the man who would be commander in chief.

If the polls are right and Mr Obama is indeed declared the first black president of the United States early tomorrow morning nobody can be in any doubt that America has decided it is time for a change. “Change to what?” many will ask with some justification. But in this crossroads election – that is a choice between different cultural as well as political futures – the voters have opted for the new over the old.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks to Saudi businessmen ... 
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks to Saudi businessmen in Riyadh, November 2, 2008.(Fahad Shadeed/Reuters)

Right to the end, John McCain was pitting his experience against his rival’s lack of it. The Republicans have been playing voters in swing states a recording of Hillary Clinton saying that “in the White House there is no time for on-the-job training”. Just as it looked initially as if the former First Lady would snatch the Democratic nomination from the new kid on the block, so some assumed that the 72-year-old Vietnam vet would seize the crown from the young pretender. The electorate, however, appears to have decided that it is time for a novice.

And this is, of course, a message that has resonance in Britain. The presidential contest is a political prototype, the Urtext of election campaigns, because in the end all contests boil down to a choice between experience and change. It can be framed in different ways – the future against the past, fear rather than hope, “better the devil you know” versus “it can’t get any worse”. In television terms, it’s The West Wing or Yes, Minister; during the primaries, the Obama team described it as “magic versus the machine”.

Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama speaks ...
Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama speaks during an election rally in Henderson, Nevada , November 1, 2008.(Jason Reed/Reuters)

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