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Obama’s win good news for politics everywhere

Posted on 23 March 2010 | 10:03am

With our own news again dominated this morning by MPs doing and sayings things they shouldn’t be, once again Barack Obama is able to remind us that politics at its best is always the pursuit of noble causes. 

As if he does not have enough riding on his back, President Obama’s success or failure in office will have implications for politics around the world.

Few leaders come to power with the global goodwill and the energy of hope that propelled him into the White House. As in life, so in politics, the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment if they are not fully met. It is therefore in the interests of democratic politics everywhere that he succeeds, sufficient to win again. One term will not be enough to deliver all the change he promised. But the healthcare reform bill is a start.

To British people raised on the NHS, one of the most popular ‘brands’ known to man, the bitterness of the US healthcare debate seems odd, even a bit scary, certainly a reminder that whatever binds our countries together, there remain very big differences too.

So as he signs the reforms into law today, nobody should underestimate the scale of change he has brought about with this bill, even if it does not do everything he set out to do before the poetry of his campaign was turned into the prose of government. (copyright Mario Cuomo).

But the real political significance may be in what it said about Obama’s political character … he just kept going.

Some of the disappointment there has been in some quarters about Obama stems from the fact that he appeared in government to be less strategic, less decisive, less of a leader than he had been on the campaign trail.

But his dogged determination on health, and the political and communications skills he showed along the way, have brought that original version of Obama back to the fore.

That now bodes well for some of the other huge challenges he has set himself, whether climate change, reform of Wall Street, peace in the Middle East.

Just as his Presidency has been energised by this victory, so of course have his opponents who now think they have an even bigger stick with which to beat the Democrats in the mid-term elections.

There may even be a negative impact upon his party’s vote as a result. The good news is that he will just keep going, knowing that over time a good argument can beat even the rabble-rousing of the US Right, whatever the noise and the setbacks along the way.

* Buy The Blair Years here and raise cash for Labour

  • Chris lancashire

    Convenient switch to focusing on USA just as three New Labour ex-ministers demonstrate conclusively what The Project was all about.

  • henrysmummy2002

    Thank you, Alastair, for your insightful thoughts on the Obamacare issues in USA. As a Brit, you’re right, it does seem a litle scary, particularly when you consder the amount of bankruptcies amongst US citizens that are due to healthcare insurance premiums. The self-employed in US have also been very over-looked, un-aided as they are by corporate healthcare insurance. A friend of a friend in US was recently told by a nurse at her health centre (where she had gone due to suffering intense pain) that it would be “unethical” for the doctor to treat her as her insurance cover had not yet come through. She had to suffer for 2 more weeks before a doctor would see her. I am delighted that President Obama is making progress. It’s an issue of the basic duty of care a government has for its citizens, no more, no less.
    You may already know of this website, but it is populated by US views that are rather more to my taste than the vocal Right: The Daily Kos dot com

  • Patrick James

    I’ve been tweeting people I know in the US saying how wonderful it is that the health care bill got through.

    As an aside I think that the “People’s Bank” idea is a superb one. I feel that it has perhaps the same sort of appeal that the NHS has.

    What I’d love to see is a nationally owned bank that is honest and fair.

  • Carole Leslie

    Great news for Americans and as you infer in your first par, a horrible contrast here with the Byers, Hoon, Hewitt allegations. I saw the programme and even though the whole thing was slanted in the worst possible way they did condemn themselves from their own mouths. Very sad to see.

  • Hilary Gee

    I was beginning to lose faith with Obama. This has restored it. Your point about resilience is an important one … Gordon and Mr Darling have shown that too. Noises off not helpful mind you

  • Jacquie R

    Most people in the UK will agree that Obama’s victory is great news. But, Alastair, why not give us your opinion on the actions of the three former Labour ministers now suspended from the PLP?

    This type of behaviour has probably always gone on, but it is rotten to the core and more damaging to democracy than the expenses scandal. It is particularly damaging for the Labour Party, and much of the blame lies with Blair. By brazenly earning squillions after leaving office, he is blazing the trail for some of his followers to place avarice above public service and integrity.

    Again, voters are being alienated from politics and many, like me, will feel there is a ring of truth in Byers’s original assertions about influencing Lords Mandelson and Adonis. The only good thing for Labour is that the public knows that at least Gordon Brown isn’t interested in feathering his own bed.

  • Paula Groves

    Some of the ideas came from the Republicans, but they still opposed because that is what they do. You think your politics is polarised … ours is much much worse!

  • Jerry Grainger

    Are you not worried that this is one of those instances where a leader does the right thing, but it all goes wrong because the short term politics work faster than the long term change? Hope not cos I agree it is good for all politics if he does well

  • Joe Brown

    AC has been Fisked by DC

  • Charlie Reynolds

    I wish we had some good news in Britain too.

    3 Labour ministers caught offering to alter government policy and legislation for money (only recently 3 Labour MPs in court over their expenses).

    This is the area in which Labour seem to have succeeded best in the last 13 years – corruption and sleaze. Something you can mention when you talk about your record.

    You mentioned recently that there are only 2 things people remember about John Major. I think you will find there are quite a few more these days. I find a lot of people commenting he was the last real human being to be Prime Minister. Also that he handed over a golden economic legacy. He could have bought votes like Gordy is trying to, but he actually cared about his country above his party. I would bring him back in an instant if I could. Give him a decent majority (without right wing nutcase MPs) and let’s see some real social justice.

    You rely for your strategy on everyone giving up on all politicians. I am not ready to yet. I will still draw a clear distinction between the corrupt useless ones and the rest.

    Any news on Labour’s cuts to pay off Labour’s debt?

  • Alan Quinn

    I agree, Obama has done remarkably well. Let’s see if he can now take on the gun lunatics of the NRA!!

    Re Byers, Hoon and Hewitt, it comes as no surprise that two of these slimeballs organised the coup against GB that went nowhere. As a member I find their actions despicable.

  • Robert Jackson

    President Obama’s to do list won’t include stirring up the fruitcakes in the gun lobby.

    The American economy and Israel/Palestine are far more important.