Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Lessons from Obama's victory

There has been a lot of talk about what Obama's victory means for British political leaders. Gordon Brown tells us it is a victory for progressive politics. David Cameron thinks it heralds a new generation of young leaders, including Dave presumably. It may mean both, but the bigger lessons for the parties are organisational and strategic. Here are six.

1. Obama used new media as never before, and in ways that no British party has come close to matching. This not only kept him in touch with his supporters, with access to blogs and YouTube videos, it gave him a huge base of financial support. McCain was in the slow lane, by contrast.

2. Obama won a big boost in young voters, as well as Hispanics. He managed to inspire in ways that previous leaders had failed to do. Part of the reason for the higher youth vote was his success with new media.

3. Obama had the superior get out the vote effort. This is what really mattered in close fought states like Florida, Virginia and North Carolina. His field offices vastly outnumbered those of McCain and he had far more people working for him. British political parties need to find new ways to get people working for parties at election time, expanding on the dwindling party membership. People on the ground do matter.

4. Obama ran a brilliantly disciplined campaign. He didn't rise to the bait when accused of consorting with terrorists or accused of being a socialist by the ludicrous Joe the Plumber. He reacted calmly during the financial crisis as McCain dithered. He remained polite towards his opponents as they indulged in silly name-calling (though this didn't mean his campaign ran no negative ads) and he inspired optimism rather than cynicism as a result.

5. Despite claims that he was a mad left-winger, he ran a centrist campaign while McCain swung rightwards. Had McCain stuck to his instincts, picking Lieberman and sidelining Bush's crazier advisers, he could have run things a lot closer. But Obama showed people that he was a safe centrist bet who had practical policies on issues that mattered to their lives.

6. He didn't reject his Democratic heritage when it came to past winners. Despite his differences, he used Hillary and Bill Clinton to brilliant effect. Unlike Al Gore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I agree with all your points especially about Obama's use of new media, I think the main reason he won was because he inspired people and gave them hope.

On the other hand McCain could not even motivate the right wing of his own party. I the choice of Palin as VP candidate showed astonishing contempt for the electorate as well as the office she stood for.