Look Left – Obama: The win, what it means for the UK, and the demise of the GOP

Shamik Das looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.


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• Barack Obama was emphatically re-elected President of the United States this week – but there’s little time for celebration with the ‘fiscal cliff’ looming.

Obama faces gridlock on Capitol Hill, with Republicans showing little sign of compromise, despite the President’s new mandate, and despite Mitt Romney urging them “to put the people before politics” in his gracious concession speech. Obama won the electoral college 303-206 (with only Florida to declare), with 50.4% of the popular vote to 48.0%. The Dems hold the Senate 53-45 (others=2), with the GOP controlling the House of Representatives 233-193.

Watch Obama’s victory speech in full here, read how the world breathed a sigh of relief at his re-election here, check out an analysis of how social media covered the last week of the campaign here, read Cormac Hollingsworth on the diseconomy of the cost of US elections here, and there’s a reminder of the many differences between Obama and Romney here.

• Labour and the Conservatives will have been watching closely with an eye to 2015 – trying to figure out what Obama’s triumph means for the next UK general election.

On Left Foot Forward yesterday, Will Straw set out five lessons for Britain from Obama’s victory: 1. Incumbents can win; 2. Core vote strategies don’t work; 3. Parties win if they build coalitions that are growing in size; 4. The ground game matters; and 5. Negative advertising works. Read the analysis in full here. There are positives and negatives in all the points for Ed Miliband and David Cameron – the key will be who nails it in the marginal middle. More on this and the dangers for the Tories below.

Another lesson, this time for pundits, is not to be too bullish and pseudo-scientific in your predictions – especially if you’re backing the outsider. Check out our rundown of five of the worst right wing election forecasts – “Obama is Toast”; “The numbers favor Romney”; “Romney beats Obama, handily”; “I see a Romney victory”; “A landslide for Romney” – here.

• For the Republicans, meanwhile, the future looks bleak.

They have now won the popular vote only once (2004) in the past six elections. Their base is shrinking. Their support amongst women is declining; amongst the growing Hispanic population, it is poor; amongst African-Americans, it is next to nothing. Unless the party changes, it is doomed. The thinking the GOP needs to escape is that of the right wing (Fox News) angry, uncompromising good ol’ boys – a destructive, unappealing attitude summed up by the Karl Roves, Bill O’Reillys and Glenn Becks of this world – men whose anti-evidence, anti-science, non-reality based mindset was ripped to shreds by Jon Stewart in last night’s Daily Show – watch it here.

The demise of the Republicans should sound alarm bells for David Cameron – just as the GOP did by bowing to the Tea Party, if the Tories drift rightwards they will surrender the centre ground, and with it any chance of a majority for a party which, with a record similar to that of the Republicans, has only won one election outright in the past 25 years; meanwhile, Obama’s restating of his one nation vision of a country that is “more than a collection of red states and blue states” but is “and forever will be, the United States of America” will be music to Ed Miliband’s ears. The road to 2015 just got a whole lot more interesting.

Progressive of the Week:

Domestically, former prime minister Gordon Brown entered the Scottish independence debate, warning the SNP’s “incoherent and ill thought out plans” play “Blankety Blank” with Scotland’s future. Brown published a list of 20 unanswered questions for Alex Salmond – questions the first minister and his army of cybernats are unlikely ever to answer, resorting instead to insults and anger. See our report here for more.

Regressives of the Week:

The newly-formed far-right party, “True Brits“, dubbed “BNP Mark II” by Hope Not Hate. The new party’s president is Andrew Brons MEP, who left the BNP last month after a dispute with Nick Griffin, and features an identity parade of UK fascists, racists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers. See our report here for more.

Evidence of the Week:

Today’s House of Commons Library study which revealed science spending fell 7.6% in the first year of the current parliament – a cut that runs contrary to a coalition pledge to protect science funding, but further risks hitting the UK’s global reputation as it sinks further compared to other nations. See our report here for more.

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