Sunday, January 06, 2008


Now Hillary Has to Be a 'Comeback Kid'

Given the economic and political dominance of the USA worldwide, their elections are maybe as important to us-or even more so-than the ones we have over here. And currently, the next presidential election is showing signs of marking a seismic shift in US politics. In other words, right now, US politics is much more exciting than our domestic scene. I'm not sure about other left of centre Brits, but my natural leanings have been towards Hillary Clinton. Apart from the fact that I was a huge fan of her husband- his (im)morals notwithstanding-she has impressed me with her total mastery of the whole field of politics; a lifetime of being first lady in Arkansas and the White House, plus Senator for New York State, has honed her alpha plus mind into something really impressive.

So I was a more than a little dismayed by the Iowa result, registering a 10 point victory for Obama and reducing the only woman in the race to third place. She's still in there with a chance but her momentum has been totally dispersed and she has to start all over again in New Hampshire which votes in two days time. A perceptive US analysis by Michael Crowley in today's Observer suggests Iowa represents a fundamental shift in the tectonic plates; young people have voted against the US political status quo. For the Republicans, the moneyed campaign of former governor Romney proved a turn-off and for the Democrats, young voters rejected the 'machine politics' as represented by Hillary Clinton. But whilst Huckabee's success will almost certainly be short-lived(he is essentially a weak candidate with little to say), Obama could just be the shape and colour of things to come.

There is no doubt that Obama has charisma in abundance and is an inspiring speaker; some have drawn comparisons with JFK or his brother Bobby. Whilst I would love to see a radical renewal of the US left, and a black person in the White House to boot, my sense is that America is still too fundamentally racist a country to elect a black man as president: faced with a choice, they would vote in another Republican. Happily none seem as desperately ill equipped as George Bush- though Guliani sounds worryingly as hawkish-but the world has had more than enough of neo-conservative disasters and it is time for the Democrats to repossess Washington.

The next few days will reveal if Iowa was a blip or evidence of a youth led groundswell to the left. The 'old guard' will not give up without a fight and we'll see the Republican contest open up with the (impressive) McCain and Guliani now included. Hillary is determined to hit back and there are signs she'll overdo the aggression towards Obama, but the political science professor on Radio 4 this lunch time was persuasive in his view that Hillary will make a comeback as assured as her husband's in 92 and win the nomination for two reasons her opponents need to recognise: 'she's smarter than you, and a whole lot meaner than you too'. Mind you, he might have said that before we heard of the 10 point lead Obama has already opened up in the New Hampshire primary.

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