Friday, February 29, 2008


Count on the foreign press to accurately summarize US politics.

The longer the Democratic race grinds on, the more entrenched the candidates may become in their populism. As America moves into the election proper, there is every likelihood that it will do so against a backdrop of worsening macroeconomic figures and rising numbers of house repossessions. Both John McCain and the Democratic nominee will then be chasing swing voters who are, typically, white working men—the type already prone to pessimism about their prospects. This group is not a natural part of Mr Obama's constituency and, if he were the nominee, he might well be tempted to keep the populism turned up high. If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.

The sad thing is that one might reasonably have expected better from Mr Obama. He wants to improve America's international reputation yet campaigns against NAFTA. He trumpets “the audacity of hope” yet proposes more government intervention. He might have chosen to use his silver tongue to address America's problems in imaginative ways—for example, by making the case for reforming the distorting tax code. Instead, he wants to throw money at social problems and slap more taxes on the rich, and he is using his oratorical powers to prey on people's fears.

Mr Obama advertises himself as something fresh, hopeful and new. But on economic matters at least he, like Mrs Clinton, has begun to look a rather ordinary old-style Democrat.

Still the best test of your appeal is whether you resonate with the average white guy. For all the talk of who is getting the women vote, the senior vote, the youth vote, the black vote, the Latino vote, the union vote, the Hollywood vote, still the most important voting bloc is the white guy vote, and although Obama delivers the standard populist message with more aplomb than most, white guys haven't respond very well to that message in our general elections.

1 comment:

Tom said...

The Economist is succinct as usual. Here's a good debate question. Mr. Obama, how does your foreign and domestic policy differ from Jimmy Carter's?

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