Thursday, June 05, 2008
For me, the two most significant statements about Barack Obama were made by John McCain and Rupert Murdoch. McCain said he was surprised such a young man should embrace so many failed ideas. Coming from a Republican with a wrecked economy, horrific over-spending and a hopeless war to his party's credit, this might seem a bit rich. But what he meant, of course, were the ideas of the postwar centrist consensus that dominated Western politics. This assumed big, economically pro-active governments with mildly redistributive and social engineering programmes. This began to unravel in 1968 and collapsed completely with the elections of Reagan and Thatcher. This neo-liberal phase (combined with the linked but contradictory neo-conservative phase) dominated politics until now - Blair and the Clintons (impossible just to say 'Bill' any more) were both neo-liberals and Blair became a full-blooded necon. Brown doesn't matter. McCain is obviously aware of this historical perspective - Pat Buchanan bangs on about it on TV with varying degrees of coherence and consistency - and is trying to pretend the 40-year reign of the right is intact and sustainable. This means, of course, that he is no conservative, but I've been through that one before. It also means he's in denial about the significance of Obama, which is where Murdoch comes in. Murdoch effectively endorsed Obama in an interview in which he described him as a 'rock star'. This means he has a market reality that is at least as, if not more, potent than any amount of political head-clutching. A big article by Joshua Green (taken from The Atlantic) in The Independent today (but unfindable on their web site) shows how this has happened through his fund raising techniques. These have effectively destroyed the old model of party funding. What Obama means is the forty-year ascendancy of the neocon, neolib right is over and something new, so far indistinct and not necessarily left is rising to take its place. One can see this clearly as long as one doesn't attach any ideological passion to the idea. Neither is right, each corrects the other, that is all that needs to be said. But the emptiness of the McCain sentiment combined with the market savvy of Murdoch's remark make it clear, to me at least, that, with Hillary out of the way, Obama is unbeatable.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 3:48 pm