Alexander Pannett 12.10pm
The US election has been heating up and pundits have been evaluating the various merits and failings of the incumbent President. The election is really an evaluation of Obama’s first term rather than an appraisal of Romney’s credentials, despite his impressive performance in last night’s debate. If the American public approve of Obama’s track record then he will secure a second term. If not, then he will become a footnote of history.
But how can one evaluate Obama’s record? What has he achieved and what has he tried to achieve? Which part of the political spectrum defines Obama’s presidency?
Weighing up these questions has led to various commentators speculating as to what ideology Obama subscribes to. It is a difficult question as he reaches out to a wide variety, from doe-eyed idealists to committed third way Clintonites.
Interestingly several analysts have looked outside the US, and drawn parallels between Obama and the tradition of One Nation Conservatism in the United Kingdom. A tradition that emphasises compassion entwined with pragmatic efficiency. His pragmatic reforms have aimed to improve social mobility and reduce the gap between rich and poor and have been favourably compared to Disraeli’s attempts to unite the two nations of Victorian Britain.
Pragmatism mixed with compassion certainly appears to underpin Obama’s healthcare reforms and attempts to bring down the deficit. He has largely protected Wall Street from extreme elements such as the Occupy movement, extended the use of drone warfare against foreign adversaries and has provided government support to those polities, such as Detroit, that have suffered the worst from the Great Recession.
At heart, Obama’s policies have sought to conserve a unified American society whilst, in an Oakshottian sense, trying to re-discover the lost values of the American Dream that promoted social mobility, responsibility, freedom and a sense of society that was prosperous, unified and liberal.
Considering the current state of the revolutionary and ideological Right in America, Obama is the only true conservative candidate. It is the Republican Party that is in denial about the true state of the deficit, the only party that seeks to reduce revenue as a way of tackling the hole in the Government’s finances.
It is the Right that has deliberately courted a theo-political stance on values that divide rather than unite America. From abortion, health care to taxation, the Right have firmly targeted their policies towards certain minorities of America, infamously disavowing the remaining 47% of the population.
However, despite the similarity of Obama’s policies to a One Nation Tory credence, much of his pragmatic stance comes from the structure of the American political system. The Founding Fathers formed their system on checks and balances. No President can pass through radical legislation without severe concessions to Congress. This system, coupled with the current bi-partisan political atmosphere, has forced Obama into a pragmatic stance more than any ideological preference for One Nation politics.
Despite the forced nature of Obama’s One Nation stance, it does not detract from the fact that this brand of politics represents the central political ground for the modern post-industrial state. And it is the centre that wins elections for parties by appealing to the largest spectrum of the electorate. It is why Ed Miliband laid claim to the One Nation mantle on Tuesday, as Nick Clegg did earlier this year and Tony Blair did before him in his 1997 manifesto. It seems that everyone at the moment is clamoring to be adorned in One Nation TRG colours.
Obama may win the next Presidential election and, if so, it will be because he has claimed the centre ground through his One Nation policies of pragmatic and compassionate change. Ed Miliband will hope to emulate this success and he is right to try, despite the partisan constraints imposed by his union backers.
For the Conservative Party, they should learn from the political mistakes of the divisive Republicans and understand that it is only at the centre that the Conservative Party is at its best.
One Nation principles may be adopted by many parties but it is a natural position for the Tories. They should not squander this by veering to extremes that will impress none other than their core support.
As Obama knows, no party can win without appealing across electoral divides.
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