Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The political pendulum is still swinging

Okay, I know my hobby horses get tiresome for some, but they obviously excite me. So I have two pendulum posts in the pipeline just now, the first political the second economic. The political slant supports some recent posts which compare Australia’s PM Rudd and presidential hopeful Obama.

If Obama is riding the same demographic wave as Rudd, does that make Clinton the US equivalent of Howard: a once-formidable political operator caught on the wrong side of history? Howard, like Clinton, didn't see Obama coming. A year ago, he said that Obama was the preferred candidate of Osama bin Laden. THE AUSTRALIAN

Few politicians manage to ignite the interest of young voters. Kennedy did, of course, and a decade later Gough Whitlam in Australia. Rudd and Obama are cast in that slippery mould that the political establishment seem unable to recognise or fight.

Comparing the numbers
Look at the figures: Obama extended his lead over Hillary Clinton among Democratic voters aged 18 to 34, and for the first time he beat her among those aged 35 to 54. The score in Obama's favour is 61 per cent to 34 per cent in the youth belt and 51 per cent to 42 per cent in the adult belt, according to the Gallup Poll.

The last spot on the electoral body clock where Obama trails Clinton is with those Democratic voters aged 55-plus. Here, the former first lady and New York senator leads the upstart Illinois senator by 51 per cent to 37per cent.

These numbers echo Australia's generational divide last year, when Kevin Rudd dominated John Howard in the two-thirds of the electorate aged under 55, leaving the former prime minister ahead only in the grey belt.

So what is the big secret for Obama and Rudd, where does this appeal come from? If there is no dollar sign to attach to a young person's vote, then that vote has no value in the discourse of politics because politicians are generally too dull, and too pragmatic, to think beyond the handout.

The tactic is to allow the current political establishment, including Clinton, to accentuate their establishment status while offering a refreshingly transforming alternative. True the substance seems light, but if Rudd can be taken as an example the reality is staggeringly powerful.

Rock ‘n Roll Politics

Some are calling it the rock ‘n roll approach to politics, reaching directly to the interests of the young with style rather than content. The establishment have devalued content, and have no idea how to package a message that the younger demographic will feel as well as hear.

During the campaign here late last year I complained that I was attracted to Rudd as potential Prime minister, but felt we were buying an unknown quantity, a pig in a poke. I hear the same argument about Obama.

But Australia took the risk and even many who did not swing to Rudd on election day have certainly swung since. I should qualify that, we don’t vote directly for PM, but you can’t tell most voters that as the leader is presented as the party.

Among Rudd’s first action were to ratify the Kyoto Agreement and a soft, behind the scenes, intervention to stop Japan hunting whales this year at least. The Sorry speech of course was an added bonus. All three issues are at the heart of the younger vote.

The powerful aspect of all this is the potential of engaging two generations who have largely ignored politics. Without people being engaged our countries are continually at the mercy of a self serving public sector. When the people are aware then the politicians and bureaucrats are wary.


TomCat said...

That's an interesting notion, Cart, but Comparing Clinton to Howard might be apples to oranges. While Clinton may be an 'establishment' candidate, she does not have a record for oppression. There are, I think, more parallels between Howard and Bush.

Cart said...

Tom, I see where you are coming from, but suggest Aussie dynamics have never been quite as harsh as the US.
Howard wanted the Bush agenda, but he was restricted in every direction from moving that far right.
In that light he was actually closer to Ms Clinton.

TomCat said...

I bow to your superior understanding of your system.