November 5, 2008

Congratulations President Obama

And so the 44th President of the United States will be President Barack Obama. A historic day indeed. But what are the lessons I draw for the Simultaneous Policy campaign.

Firstly, it was a tight result. Though the Electoral College result suggests a convincing Obama win, the actual vote, as currently declared is Obama 52.1%, McCain 44.5%. Less than 8 percentage points, which means only 4% of voters needed to switch sides for the opposite result. And less than 70% of electors voted. Hence the focus by both candidates on trying to persuade their supporters to vote.

So if the Simultaneous Policy campaign could mobilize sufficient numbers of those who have given up on conventional politics to support the candidate pledging to implement the Simultaneous Policy alongside other governments, it could swing elections, even in the US. People did send messages to the candidates to this effect, but not in sufficient numbers this time around to put the campaign on their radar amongst all the other issues.

How is it that the country should be so nearly split down the middle, election after election? Surely it is because both candidates now and historically, position themselves either side of the centre ground. Despite the rhetoric and some key policy differences (ostensibly on Iraq, for instance), there is a lot of common ground. Similarities became even more striking during the campaign. For example, in the last Presidential debate, speaking on energy policy, Obama said he would look at offshore drilling, which had been one of McCain's key points of difference. It was a clever construction, seemingly a concession to those sympathetic to the 'Drill, baby, drill' chanting at the Republican Convention, while being easily abandonded with the comment: "We looked and decided against it."

Or at least those who feared Obama was selling out his climate-change credential will hope.

Once in the White House with oil lobbyists on one side and a public concerned about fuel prices and reluctant to change lifestyles on the other, maybe that drilling will go ahead.

Because Obama finds himself in the same situation as every elected leader. He needs to satisfy his electorate, which has the primary concern of their own well-being. That boils down to their jobs and financial security above all else. So when US companies threaten disinvestment if their agenda is not followed, they have a powerful lever.

While we can be hopeful that President Obama will deliver the change the world needs, we would be wise to continue to build public pressure for it.

The AVAAZ campaign is already gathering signatures for key parts of its own 'global justice' agenda. You can sign on at:

This gives you the opportunity to add your own additional message and I added: "Please pledge to implement, alongside other governments, the Simultaneous Policy - the policies developed and approved by people around the world to address global problems."

What those policies will be will be clearer when the results of the latest annual voting round are released shortly. But the opportunity continues for entering the debate and shaping the policies. You can join the discussion at:

However hopeful we may be about President Obama and his leadership role, policy setting will still take place behind closed doors and international agreements will be reached on the basis of power rather than argument. The Simultaneous Policy makes the process democratic and transparent.

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