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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Who Can Implement Change? Obama v Hillary

    by Shariq on 17th January, 2008 at 10:33 pm    

    Since Barack Obama’s victory in Iowa, the buzzword in the Democratic Primaries has been change. Obama says it needs a young, fresh, person like himself to accomplish it, while Hillary Clinton has argued that her experience of bringing change makes her the best candidate to implement change in the future.

    I think that the differences between the American and British forms of government is instructive in determining who is right. In the UK, if you secure a working majority, as the Labour government has had for the past 10 years, you can pass almost any legislation you want. This means that unless there is a hung parliament or a very small majority, building bridges with the other side isn’t really that important.

    Instead what is crucial is understanding the nature of the civil service and having competent technocrats in place who can successfully execute your policy ideas. I think Alastair Campbell admitted in his diaries, that the Blair government was quite unprepared when they came into power in 1997 and they suffered because of it.

    To a certain extent the need for experienced technocrats exists in America as well. Matthew Yglesias makes a very interesting point when he claims that one of Bill Clinton’s underlying frustrations seems to be that when he came to power, Democrats controlled Congress, but due to his inexperience he didn’t really capitalise before the Gingrich revolution led to the Republicans retaking Congress. As Yglesias points out, the Clintons view is that they won’t make the same mistakes again, but they can’t really centre the anti-Obama case around Bill’s shortcomings as President.

    Even if they did make these arguments, I think Obama has enough to overcome them. For a start, as Hillary Clinton to her detriment pointed out in one of the Debates, Obama has a lot of ex-Clinton people in his campaign team who have experience of governance and campaigning. Once in power, he will also be able to call on experienced Congressmen such as Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

    More importantly unless the Democrats reach the holy grail of 60 seats in the Senate, which is very unlikely, the President doesn’t really control the legislative agenda. To get something done, the President needs to able to work with Congress. For example, George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” couldn’t really have been implemented without support from Ted Kennedy.

    So on the whole, while Hillary is hated by a large segment of Republicans, a lot of them don’t mind Obama, and his natural charisma means that I think he will be able to achieve more. It’s also worth remembering that Hillary and Obama have pretty similar domestic policy proposals so you can’t really make an argument that Hillary is more progressive than Obama.

    Finally, you could make an argument that foreign policy will be the most important issue for the next American President. I think Obama does better in that regard as well, but I think that deserves its own post.

      |     |   Add to del.icio.us   |   Share on Facebook   |   Filed in: Current affairs, United States

    16 Comments below   |  

    1. Jai — on 18th January, 2008 at 2:04 pm  

      Maybe a good course of action to get “the best of both worlds” (more or less) would be for Obama to run for President with Hillary as his VP.

      Hell, if you really wanted to push the boat out, you could follow the “West Wing” model a la Matt Santos, and have John McCain or someone from the Republican party as the VP instead. Bipartisanship, “bringing the country together”, etc etc.

    2. John — on 18th January, 2008 at 5:58 pm  

      Young or Old, Man or Woman, Black or White those are the things are not a vital factors to select a President for US. The one who’s having enough knowledge, ideas and attitude to lead the country is important.
      Car Breakdown

    3. Refresh — on 18th January, 2008 at 6:35 pm  

      But Jai, that would mean no change at all.

    4. Refresh — on 18th January, 2008 at 6:36 pm  

      Obama needs someone who can help wash away the sins of the US from the assasination of Kennedy to now.

    5. Don — on 18th January, 2008 at 6:49 pm  

      Washing away sins?

      In the context of US politics that kind of locution makes me nervous.

      Actually, in most contexts.

    6. Refresh — on 18th January, 2008 at 7:07 pm  

      Don, perhaps I should have been clearer and said ’secular sins’.

    7. Refresh — on 18th January, 2008 at 7:12 pm  

      Secular sins, like all the thou shalt nots:
      kill, covet neighbours oil, starve the poor, napalm kooks, lie to their faces, thou shalt not, hold democracy in your own craven image…

    8. Leon — on 18th January, 2008 at 7:24 pm  

      Excellent piece, I have to say this is one of the most interesting things I’ve read about this race.

    9. soru — on 18th January, 2008 at 11:56 pm  

      presidential milkshake list

      I drink your milkshake, even though I opposed drinking your milkshake four years ago. -Mitt Romney

      I drink your milkshake, but only if the Bible says it’s allowed. -Mike Huckabee

      I may drink your milkshake for another 100 years, if that’s what it takes. -John McCain

      I drank a milkshake on 9/11. -Rudy Giuliani

      I’ll drink your milkshake a few months after everyone else does. -Fred Thompson

      I drink your milkshake, but I’m paying for it with gold. -Ron Paul

      America deserves a new milkshake. -Barack Obama

      I will fight the corporations so that you can drink your own milkshake. -John Edwards

      I have 35 years of milkshake-drinking experience. *sob* -Hillary Clinton

      I peacefully drink your milkshake. -Dennis Kucinich

      It depends on what your definition of “milkshake” is. -Bill Clinton

      I voted for drinking your milkshake before I voted against it. -John Kerry

      Global warming is melting your milkshake. -Al Gore

      We’re making good progress in the war on milkshakes, and make no mistake: we will prevail. -George W. Bush

      And the serious point is dead right: a president is a figurehead, a symbol, a monarch. It all works better when they have no pretensions to actually get involved in government, when they appoint some smart guys to do that for them.


    10. shariq — on 19th January, 2008 at 3:03 pm  

      Thanks for the comment Leon.

      You should check out this bloggingheads conversation between two extremely smart guys, who deserve to be a lot more prominent.


    11. sonia — on 21st January, 2008 at 12:32 am  

      what changes are we talking about anyway? if i were an american citizen i think things like social security and healthcare, would be pretty significant, and other things like oh what the ‘leaders’ plan to do about the impending energy crisis.

      and why do we think Obama would be better for foreign policy? any concrete reasons? or just cos he’s black? It would be a better post if something definitive were actually posted.

    12. Desi Italiana — on 24th January, 2008 at 8:31 pm  

      “Who Can Implement Change? Obama v Hillary”

      As a humble American voter, IMO, neither.

    13. douglas clark — on 24th January, 2008 at 8:56 pm  


      So, logically they should all vote for John Edwards?

    14. soru — on 25th January, 2008 at 1:10 am  

      I don’t know any more about Edwards than the ‘milk-shake’ one-liner above. I guess as he hasn’t imposed himself on the campaign, he likely wouldn’t be much better at presenting his arguments while president.

      Unless something changes, he pretty much has ‘VP’ written all over him.

    15. douglas clark — on 25th January, 2008 at 2:38 am  


      Neither do I. I expect that, if Obama does break through the Clinton machine, then you are right. Edwards for VP. Edwards is too left wing to be mainstream in the USA, sadly. I’d like to be proven wrong on that, incidentally.

      These guys, US voters, have a unique set of prejudices, like a lack of gun control, a belief that their nation state can do no wrong, etc, etc. If you want to be President you have to play along with some of that at least.

    16. shariq — on 26th January, 2008 at 1:20 am  

      Soru, Edwards is a pretty interesting character. His campaign in 04 was built on a centrist, sunny optimism. Since then he’s become quite vocal on increasing inequality and injustice in america.

      A lot of progressives seem to appreciate the fact that by coming up with detailed policy proposals from the outset, he’s forced obama and clinton into more progressive positions.

      Personally I’m not convinced that he’s too left wing to be mainstream in america. For one thing I don’t think that their are that many people who don’t think Edwards could beat a Republican in the general election.

      Unfortunately for him, I think that with Clinton taking the mainstream vote and Obama being the inspirational, reform candidate, Edwards has been squeezed out despite the amount of time he spent in Iowa.

      Finally, I agree with people who think Edwards would be best as a crusading attorney-general. this would set him up much better for future elections than being the veep.

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