Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama

Although an increasingly unfashionable view, President Barack Obama has three reasons to stake a claim as the most influential left wing thinker of the year.

Nigel Anthony is an intern at the Fabian Society; last year he studied at Georgetown University in Washington DC and campaigned for Democratic candidates as a volunteer with President Obama’s Organizing for America

Although an increasingly unfashionable view, President Barack Obama has three reasons to stake a claim as the most influential left wing thinker of the last year.


Firstly, Obama eloquently provides a progressive vision which reaches beyond the Westminster bubble to be heard by ordinary Britons whom conventional politicians fail to reach; secondly, Obama’s policy achievements are substantial and impact the UK; finally, Obama’s victory provides a model of a successful modern campaign.

Alongside this is my personal experience of coming to political awareness in the world of George W Bush with Iraq a particularly dispiriting introduction to politics. Obama’s lasting legacy in Britain may well be a young audience (and many of greater years) attuned to the message of the left.

Within the constraints of the Presidential office and a challenging political environment, Obama has used the presidential platform to advocate a vision of the left. His speech on the budget provided an impassioned and deliberate defence of liberalism, progressive politics and the state.

Obama’s use of the bully pulpit can be frustrating in its pragmatism and at times overly conciliatory approach. However, his voice more than any other extends beyond the politically engaged who watch ‘This Week’ and he is the most recognisable face of the left among the British public.

Losing Democratic control of the House of Represenatives has necessitated a more modest agenda this year. Yet real successes have been achieved which have had ripple effects through UK foreign policy and the economic debate.

The most important geopolitical development since the fall of the Berlin wall unexpectedly blossomed this year with the Arab Spring demonstrating a commitment from Obama to a foreign policy based on values within the constraints of US strategic interests. 

This year also saw the clearest operationally capable endorsement in history of the principle of a Responsibility to Protect in Libya.  The successful diplomatic efforts in securing UN Security Council endorsement would not have been possible without American leadership and demonstrates a commitment to multilateralism. 

On the economy, Obama has advocated a different course to Republicans domestically, a policy which has starkly contrasted the deficit reduction strategy of the Conservative led coalition in the UK.  The Obama campaign built a broad movement of empowered volunteers which combined with a message for the times won a landslide victory. 

The conception of New Labour was heavily influenced by the Clinton White House with his New Democrats message providing something of a template.  Likewise today, as Labour continues a process of renewal the Obama movement and campaign should provide a source of ideas. 

The most instinctively left wing President since JFK has realigned the centre ground of American politics; Ed Miliband and the left in Britain should learn a lot from Barack Obama.

14 Responses to “Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama”

  1. Δημήτρης

    OMG! @leftfootfwd: Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: @BarackObama: http://t.co/yxvP0Lx #in

  2. Political Planet

    Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama: Although an increasingly unfashiona… http://t.co/chVwbgP

  3. Betty Sharma

    Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama: Although an increasingly unfashiona… http://t.co/3irlfZ5

  4. Denise Taylor

    Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack …: Although an increasingly unfashionabl… http://t.co/Tz4yN0E

  5. Dr John S. Partington

    Salmond, Obama, but I must reiterate: the greatest leftwinger of 2011 is the most tragic – the late Jack Layton of the Canadian New Democratic Party. Since becoming leader of the party in 2003, he has increased its support in parliament every election (and there have been several for Canada’s minority-stuck assembly) and, earlier this year, he guided the NDP to official opposition for the first time in history – from the 4th party of Canadian politics – and doubled the seat count. He was bridged the linguistic-cultural gap, seeing the NDP sweep to success across large swathes of Quebec. Then, last month, he lost his battle with cancer. His leadership was important for the NDP’s success, and it will be a nervy time ahead to see who takes the reigns in the debates at the despatch box with the Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Jack Layton was a great leader – by presenting himself as an ‘everyman’. No presidential style for him – he appealed to the labour union membership and white collar workers – and spoke out against corporate greed and government support of finance capital. An appropriate end to his tenure would be the accolade, leftwinger of the year (and perhaps a longer view might credit him, silently successful, over a longer period of time.)

  6. Nigel Anthony

    Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: @BarackObama: http://t.co/Pkqb9Yi by @TheFabians’ @Nigel_Anthony

  7. LadyJ

    Funny how the media did not publish this picture from Ed’s meeting with Obama. Contrary to when he met with Dodgy Dave in Opposition, when the the Conservative BBC, selectively and repaetedly broadcast Obama laughing with Obama.

  8. Nigel Anthony

    Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama: Although an increasingly unfashiona… http://t.co/chVwbgP

  9. plasmaborne4rel

    I’m a Huey Long liberal and GW0bama doesn’t begin to compare. He’s no FDR either. Afraid of the TGOP shadow he capitulates, cowers, conforms and complies with their unpopular demands. He claimed to be a social organizer when in fact both he and his wife are millionaire Lawyers that lived in a multimillionaire home before running for POTUS. A fraud and a trojan horse. GW0bama is a closeted Republican conservative just like his cousin GWBush and his cousin Dick Cheney. I voted for a real liberal in 2008, Cynthia McKinney.

  10. Knut Cayce

    RT @leftfootfwd: Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama http://t.co/lnuLx8e

  11. Martin Hines

    Obama left? The only thing “left” about Obama might be his writing hand, I would say. He is a militarist, a warmonger and a neoliberal fanatic. To call Obama a left-wing thinker tells you a lot about some people who call themeselves “left”. It tells you nothing about Obama though, who is about as “left” as George W. Bush was.

  12. Nigel Anthony

    my @leftfootfwd nomination for most influential left winger of the year @BarackObama http://t.co/hXNjvJG

  13. Alasdair Thompson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Nomination for most influential left-wing thinker of the year: Barack Obama http://t.co/7M5iRHl << hahahahahahahahahahahaha

  14. Vote in Left Foot Forward’s most influential left-wing thinker of the year 2010/11 | Left Foot Forward

    […] the nominations here: Ed Balls, The Disability Rights Community, Maurice Glasman, Owen Jones, Barack Obama, Nick Pierce’s nominations, Alex Salmond.  Share | Permalink | Comments: 32 […]

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