Hope and change versus experience

Like many other political junkies I’ve been keeping a close eye on the primaries in the US at the moment. Not surprisingly, like many others of the leftish persuasion I’ve been more than a little transfixed by the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

So far the Democratic primaries have been a war of framing, code words, and message control that makes Kevin07’s campaign look terribly amateur.

Now, it’s time for the standard disclaimer: I like both of the candidates. I’m a fan of both of their skills and their policy positions. I think both of them have a more than decent shot at winning the general election, I also think that both would probably end up as pretty good presidents.

Now that’s done I can be honest and say that I really hope Obama wins.

I’m a firm believer in the power of symbols in politics. It’s quite clear that Barry (is it uncool if I call him Bazza?) Obama and his legions of advisers and supporters are as well. People rally around symbols not sound policy proposals. Symbolism establishes the foundations on which to build political support, to me policy comes later.

I’d like to question the wisdom of establishing detailed policy positions when the political climate is so clearly subject to change. Any new legislation proposed by the President in 2009 is going to have to make it through the Congress and the Senate. What’s more, the incoming President will have been left a legacy of two wars and a failing economy. I don’t understand how Clinton can say with a straight face that she will

Increase the basic research budgets 50% over 10 years at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the Defense Department.

A Democrat Congress, who profess to care about “innovation” just voted to cut these same research budgets. What’s going to happen if the Republicans take back the House if Clinton where to win? For every policy detail that Clinton gives there is something that can be spun as a potential failure.

A presidential campaign is not a job interview but rather a battle for the message that will win the most number of votes. Obama’s message of hope, unity, and change tells me that he has done his homework. For the first time in a long time most Americans are feeling uneasy about their position in the world and they want a change in direction. Obama has offered himself up as the candidate that best represents that desire, and he is doing it by providing a positive message that a broad coalition of interest groups and voters can unite behind.

If you want more proof that Obama’s message is hitting the right notes have a think about the turnout figures for the primaries so far. Obama racked up more votes in Saturday’s South Carolina primary than both of the leading Republican candidates put together. All of the Democrat primaries and caucuses so far have pulled in record numbers of voters. This contest is mobilizing hordes of new voters to get involved in the political process.

Indeed, I think one of the most interesting pillars of Obama’s message is that the change he talks about will come about as a result of collective action and compromise,

But now it is up to us to help the entire nation embrace this vision. Because in the end, we are not just up against the ingrained and destructive habits of Washington, we are also struggling against our own doubts, our own fears, and our own cynicism. The change we seek has always required great struggle and sacrifice. And so this is a battle in our own hearts and minds about what kind of country we want and how hard we’re willing to work for it.

While Obama is not unique in this “vision” of unity (indeed none of his policies are particularly radical) he advocates this position far better than any of the other Democratic candidates. Change, and new policy, will happen if enough people support it. Republicans and Democrat Congressional members cannot easily (and for long) ignore the will of their electorates. Obama seems to be winning the political war and if he keeps it up then I believe all of this talk about change may become a reality.


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