It all started out so well for Gordon Brown. After years of being the eternal bridesmaid, he was finally able to don the dress and have his day when Tony Blair handed over the keys to Number 10. Ok…maybe that’s imagery you don’t need. But that’s kind of what happened in 2007. Now-former British PM Gordon Brown was handed the assignment of continuing with the Blair policies and sustaining the political power Labour had gained with Blair’s election 10 years previous. Sounds simple enough, right? So how is it that after only 3 years as British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown has been unceremoniously dumped by the electorate? Hmmm.
Well, first of all, he shouldn’t feel too distraught over it. The British voting public didn’t seem very keen on any of the three parties — Labour just got the brunt of the abuse because it was the party in power. Gordon Brown was highly unpopular. All the polls said so. But in all the postmortems I’ve read on this election, the writers have yet to point to a singular failure on Brown’s part that directly led to Labour’s defeat. Yes, there were comments about his off-mike asides calling one woman who asked him questions “bigoted”, but those kind of things aren’t the ones that definitively swing an election one way or another. In the end, it was voter fatigue with Labour’s 13 years in power combined with the many voters who chose the Liberal Democrats that sealed Brown’s fate, but for the way he handled his own tenure, Gordon Brown has no one to blame but himself.
Even as a Republican, I like Obama. I think he’s a nice guy. He provides a sharp contrast to his opponent Hillary Clinton and to the presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, both Washington insiders. Barack Obama is indeed a fresh face with a message of hope, optimism, unity, and not much else. What is different about Barack Obama is that he has mixed the attacks on President Bush with the soaring rhetoric and optimism of the Huckster. There’s more than one spoonful of sugar in what Barack’s dishin’ out. In fact, I’m not sure that everything his supporters are taking right now is a legal substance. I joke about this, but how else can you explain the brainless fanaticism by some of his followers(who are enjoying the music while ignoring the lyrics)? May I remind the groupies out front with their raised lighters and massive cardboard signs that we are not electing a rock star? Doesn’t the substance matter with Democratic candidates?
All the comparisons fall short of the mark. Barack Obama is no JFK. He doesn’t have JFK’s political or military experience, and no one has ever accused him of fiscal conservatism (even though he should be given some credit for the attempts at earmark reform). He’s certainly not Ronald Reagan. Obama has too much faith in the usefulness of government to solve the country’s problems. He’s also no Bill Clinton. He has the charisma, but none of the weaknesses of the 42nd president, and that’s a strong point in his favor as far as being the right guy for the Dems this year.
There is one comparison that would be somewhat accurate. It involves another man who was selected to sell the old, failed policies of his party by watering down its hard left origins. That man was former British PM Tony Blair. He too was a talented speaker and salesman. The problem was that Labour had always been a hard-left party, and the reason that Labour had spent so many years in the political wilderness was because people didn’t buy into their socialist policies once they became part of the working class. (They also had various non-photogenic types trying to sell Old Labour, and somehow this brilliant strategy failed…) Then Tony Blair came along, and the party recognized his talent and rhetorical skills, and elevated him to be the face of the party. This was a brilliant move on their part, and with a few tweaks in the wording, the Brits bought into this re-packaged version known as New Labour, and voted the Labour party into power in 1997 with Blair as the new PM.