Thursday, June 05, 2008


The BBC reports that Hillary Clinton will finally step down from the Democratic US presidential nomination race and endorse Barack Obama on Saturday 7 June. America clearly needs a substantial change of direction, but I confess that I remain sceptical about all the romantic hype surrounding Obama, and also about his capacity to win. If you look at his policies, he's not quite what the wide-eyed idealists imagine. I was hoping for something much more positive from Hillary, having admired her since her earlier attempts at substantial health care reform (which was extraordinary as a creative policy exercise, but from which she has had to learn hard lessons politically). So I feel more than a touch of sadness at the implosion of her campaign. Almost everyone else I talk to (including my American wife) is positive about Obama. I still think that Clinton would have been far stronger working the Washington system -- which, frankly, is what you have to do. Plus the anti-Hillary narrative has been drenched in sexism and an anti-women backlash, which is deeply disturbing.

Real change isn't dreamt up from the top. It comes from people at the grassroots challenging the shape of the agenda on which power politics (never less than a messy business) gets played out. So if people sit back and expect Obama to deliver whatever it is that they want - a reversal of Iraq policy, climate action, anti-poverty strategies, an Israel-Palestine settlement - they will, I fear, be sorely disappointed. The defining issue is likely to be the economy, where both he and McCain are less than sure-footed, both caught up in the neoliberal paradigm, and each -- for different reasons -- reluctant to challenge the vested interests of corporate America. For example, on a universal health care mandate - which one opposes and the other avoids. Hillary Clinton would have been in the same boat, and is in many respects an establishment figure. But I suspect she may have been bolder than in practice Obama will end up being, shorn of the rhetoric, if he gets to the White House. I would be delighted to be proved wrong, of course.

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