Why Clegg is the new Obama…in one important respect
December 20, 2010 § 2 Comments
I love American politics.
Each Sunday, along with going to Church, being with family, and watching Marr, The Politics Show and (if not at Church) Sky News’ Sunday political discussion programme with Adam Boulton, I always make a point of watching at least a couple of the US Sunday morning talk shows.
This includes ‘State of the Union’ each Sunday afternoon (given the time difference) broadcast live on CNN International and, via the internet, ‘Meet the Press,’ ‘This Week,’ ‘Face the Nation,’ and-if I want to know what the opposition is thinking-‘Fox on Sunday.’
Watching some of these yesterday something struck me…Clegg is the new Obama.
At least in one important respect:
What Barack Obama and Nick Clegg are both having to learn the hard way is the difference between campaigning dream-making and the harsh political realities of Government.
What one US talk show pundit yesterday called-when quoting an Obama phrase when the President appeared on the brilliant ‘Daily Show-with Jon Stewart’-“Yes we can, but…”
In ‘Yes we can’ Obama and his campaign team hit on the simplest unyet perhaps most important political slogan ever used.
It enabled whoever heard it to feel optimistic about the future of America.
“Yes we can” enabled young and old, black and white, gay and straight, etc, to think the unthinkable to dream of their own version of a perfect country in a utopian world.
And, it worked. Obama was elected.
But then came the hard part. Governing, especially now the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives after the recent mid-term elections, is difficult and means compromise and, inevitably, not being able to realise some of the dreams and hopes of those who voted for him a couple of years ago.
Now he’s reduced to saying, “Yes we can, but…”
The same, I’d argue, goes for Nick Clegg.
The Lib Dems ran a brilliant election campaign and, in the TV debates, Clegg reigned supreme.
We lambasted Labour and the Conservatives for the trail of broken promises their administrations left behind.
Then we found ourselves in Government and Clegg, Cable and others realised that governing is difficult, is about tough choices and compromise.
He may not have actually said it, but this is in effect: “Yes we can, but…”
I’m not saying, in either case, that this is a bad thing…it’s just a reality of Government.
Opposition lends itself to soaring rhetoric and easy to make pledges.
Obama and Clegg are learning that being in power inevitably means letting down some of those who invest in you more than you’re often able to achieve.
We, the general public, have our role in this too, however.
I mean, would a party ever get elected if it promised nothing?
Obama and Clegg, I believe, will come to be seen as great national leaders.
But their political education has been a very tough and public one.