In recent decades, as ideology and party partisanship have declined, major political parties in Australia, UK and the USA have tended to focus their attention on that growing group of notoriously fickle voters that are socially conservative, change resistant, uninterested in international news and ask only 'what can you do for me'?
These people have many descriptions: swinging voters, aspirationals, battlers, working families and more.
More grandly, we have had Clinton's 'triangulation' and Blair's 'third way' with their Australian equivalents like Howard's wedge on immigration and refugees and Rudd's New Leadership (which seems to be adding up to Howard lite with a few symbols and lower petrol and grocery prices).
Obama in the primaries seemed to hark back to a more idealistic time, i.e. the 1960s, the last time the world seemed 'fresh and bright', with his speeches which resonated with the echoes of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.
Now that he has the nomination wrapped up, there is growing concern that he will seek the safe harbour of business campaigning as usual. Two articles particularly caught my attention from Arianna Huffington and Paul Krugman.
Huffington wrote on 2 July:
But, as we've seen, Barack Obama is not immune to the seductive call of the Conventional Wisdom sirens. And it's a call that's only going to get louder. He'll hear it from the chorus of pundits standing outside his window -- folks like The New Republic's Noam Scheiber, who today counseled Obama that being labeled a "typical politician" is a very good thing for him because it will assure wary voters that he won't do anything rash.
While a few days Krugman was warning about the re-emergence of some typical Republican tactics and urges Obama to hang tough against them:
The willingness of the McCain campaign to engage in these tactics, employing such tainted spokesmen, tells us that the campaign has decided to go negative — specifically, to apply the strategy Karl Rove used so effectively in 2002 and 2004 (but not so effectively in 2006), that of portraying Democrats as unpatriotic.
It would, of course, be absurd for Obama to abandon his real strengths (the capacity to inspire people in particular) and play some second rate game. What's more, he will win, as Krugman suggests, by focusing on two big issues. The republicans, including John McCain own an economy headed towards recession and a war that has been the biggest international relations disaster by the US since Vietnam. That's why even if McCain gets up, the republicans will still get wiped in the House and the Senate. In addition, I would say that Obama is on a real winner talking about universal health care, rising inequality and a middle-class that has been under consistent attack throughout the Bush years.
If Obama gets diverted by conventional political wisdom, or by the republicans' politics of diversion, he will sag in the polls. He needs to keep the momentum rolling, and believe in the change.