Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

The lessons for Labour from Bill de Blasio’s New York success are limited

24/09/2014, 07:00:50 AM

by Rob Philpot

New York mayor Bill de Blasio is not a man for understatement. Since taking office in January, he’s described everything from his own election to the opening of a new park in Brooklyn as ‘transcendent’. Alongside ‘historic’, it’s a term he has used over 80 times in the last nine months to describe the changes he is bringing to the city.

No doubt he’ll apply one of his two favourite accolades to his address to the Labour party conference in Manchester today. As the party’s guest international speaker, he is, after all, following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Hamid Karzai.

But Labour should avoid getting too carried away by de Blasio’s lofty rhetoric. Take that ‘transcendent’ election last year. De Blasio’s populist campaign, with its focus on inequality, promise to govern on behalf of the ’99 per cent’ and pledge to raise taxes on the very rich, certainly appeared to ‘break every rule in the New Labour playbook’, as Diane Abbott crowed the day after the Democrats beat the Republicans by a near-50 point margin.

However, de Blasio didn’t exactly storm a citadel of conservatism.

New York is a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one, which awarded Barack Obama 81 per cent of its votes when he ran for re-election in 2012, and which no Republican presidential candidate has carried since Calvin Coolidge in 1924. In his piece trumpeting the election as proof that ‘a different kind of progressive politics can capture the imagination of a public ground down by economic crisis’, Ed Miliband’s strategy adviser, Stewart Wood, admitted that ‘New York City is not the UK, and a mayoral race is not the same as a British general election’. Slightly more fundamentally, New York can’t even be said to be the US; its politics are representative of virtually nowhere else.


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It’s all about Obamacare in America

07/01/2014, 07:00:34 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Beyond being the first African-American president, an achievement, obviously, secured on day one, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare is Barack Obama’s best, perhaps only, hope for a positive, domestic legacy. Opposition to it binds Republicans. While it’s almost 4 years since Obama signed it into law and as a result, as of 1 January 2014, 6 million Americans are receiving insurance that they otherwise wouldn’t, it remains the dominant issue in US politics.

Obama has improved the economy, repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” and exited the US from unpopular wars, while avoiding others and killing Osama Bin Laden. Largely creditable but not governing prose to match 2008’s poetry, which perhaps was pregnant with disappointment.

Equally, it shouldn’t seem too much to expect more concrete steps to eradicate the causes of the 2008/09 crash, a less dysfunctional DC, and a Middle East strategy that doesn’t cede so much to the regimes of Iran and Syria – especially when coinciding with an intended pivot to the Pacific that is not preventing China and Japan edging toward World War III.

This underwhelming record and the impending inevitability of lame-duck status makes ACA, the most significant US healthcare reform since the 1960s, vital to Obama’s submission to history’s judgment. The pendulum is swinging against his party, however.

In 2014, the Republicans are likely to hold the House and with victory in either North Carolina or Louisiana will probably take the Senate. There is a growing audience for what they have to say. It’s not clear, though, that they have much to say. Except how awful ACA is.

Re-election as governor in a traditionally Democratic state makes Chris Christie the Republican’s presidential frontrunner. To be this candidate, he’ll need to win the support of a party that brings together social conservatives and economic liberals, as well as Wall Street and rural America.

A positive platform to galvanise this eclectic bunch is a tough ask. ACA will loom large in its negative campaigning. That Republicans find it easier to agree on what they oppose, rather than what they support, means their legislative tactics will continue to raise the stakes on ACA.


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Milburn vs. Milburn: Round II

16/08/2010, 11:45:19 AM

In the second round Andrew Parrington says we should remember the government of talents, but Jonathan Todd counters that we shouldn’t be doing anything to help the Tories.

Remember the government of talents

It’s easy in our system to retreat to tribalism. When your party is on the losing end of an election, you really have lost everything. Compared to America – where the Democrats have a near-super majority (for the moment at least) and the Republicans are still forcing Obama to water down his agenda, our system is unbelievably brutal.

The United States’ political environment isn’t the friendliest at the moment, yet apart from in the fringe tea-party movement; neither Republicans nor Democrats have shown any level of hostility to one of their own members being in government while the party is out of power. In fact, it is the opposite – for a new President to appoint an entire cabinet without at least one member of the opposite party is regarded as a slap in the face. This is a much healthier way of regarding government service. It really doesn’t do Labour any credit to whinge because one of our own gets to advise on an issue they care about.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened either; when Brown assembled his ‘government of all the talents’, Patrick Mercer and then-backbencher John Bercow advised the government on issues which they, themselves , were experienced in. Whether or not Cameron is creating these roles to make trouble for Labour ought to be irrelevant – to the public, and to me, Milburn is putting partisan labels aside to try to influence government policies. And given his recommendations to the government following his commission on social mobility last year, I for one hope he is successful.


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