The Axelrod Effect?
What is David Axelrod doing for Ed Miliband and the Labour Party? There have been some sceptics questioning whether he’s doing anything at all. He may be doing a lot more than people are crediting him for and he is more than happy for it to be seen that way. This writer has a theory and would not be surprised to see this confirmed after the 2015 General Election.
The 2012 US Presidential Election was a comfortable win for the incumbent. Yet, it was never a foregone conclusion. The riskiest strategy the Democrats used was what won it for them in the end. Obama is no Left-Wing Populist, as per Elizabeth Warren and much of his party base. But he green lighted the plan to run a campaign of ‘Us versus Richie Rich (Romney)’. This was risky because the Republicans tried to portray this as the politics of envy and class war. Ultimately, the GOP candidate shot himself in the foot with his ‘47%’ debacle. The Democratic strategy successfully painted their opponent into a corner. The 2012 Election became, in parts, a nuanced Left v Right battle; the dividing line drawn by Obama, with Axelrod’s help, allowed for a clear differentiation between the incumbent President and his hapless challenger. Romney was outplayed from the start.
Now, let’s look at what’s been going on in the past fortnight. Ed Miliband has been campaigning hard on the issue of Tax Avoidance and Evasion. The Tories are seeking to have Labour tarred with the same brush; this may not be effective. Look at the company Cameron keeps and you have a gift for Labour that keeps on giving. Tax Dodging Tory Supporters are coming out of the woodwork. It is the old, perhaps inauthentic, but public battle of who is on the side of the people; who is really on the side of ‘hard-working families’? (In the US, the battleground is for the amorphous ‘Middle Class’).If Labour can make the Old Etonians look out of touch and habitués of a Golden Circle, then it’s very much advantage Miliband.
So where does David Axelrod come in? It looks like he is either behind or supportive of the 2012 Playbook Strategy for the 2015 British General Election. The political systems in the two nations are sometimes as different as chalk and cheese. Fairness and notions of what seems right are universal concepts though. Sometimes the most obvious line of attack is the one to be played. Axelrod is an astute political observer; he knows Miliband’s real and perceived weaknesses. But he also knows a strong message when he sees one; the campaign maven from Chicago may give Ed that extra push to get him into 10 Downing Street. ‘Axe’ knows the British print media is disproportionately hostile to his latest client and will seek to reach over the newspapers on key defining issues. When the post-Election books are published, we’ll know the real contribution that David Axelrod made to Miliband’s ascension to power.
The election of Syriza has put it up to the austerity-fundamentalists. In the words of the new Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Greece should be able to negotiate a commercial bankruptcy just as any other commercial bankruptcy can be done. The country has been ravaged by years of counter-productive, swingeing austerity. Proponents of the slash and burn approach point to growth in the economy. This is of the old Vietnam War School of Economics; we have to destroy the village to preserve it. Of course there’s going to be growth once economic productivity has stopped falling; the only way is up.
There’s a strange, quasi-religious fervour to many of the austerity hawks; a moral judgement is being made on a whole country and peoples. Syriza face some really tough choices; it may come down to the country leaving the Euro. This could bring the whole house of cards down; Washington Consensus advocates will then really be hoisted on their own petards. As for the political leaders that have told Greece to go to Hell, they might do well to remember that the European Union consists as a social as well as an economic entity. The next few weeks will see if the austerity pushers are prepared to compromise and what could happen if they don’t.
The US President goofing around with a Selfie-Stick and mugging in front of a bathroom mirror provided some much-needed humour on the Internet last week. Obama was promoting Health Care Insurance registration and the people at Buzzfeed helped produce a funny video for just that. What was the (predictable) Republican reaction? The President is being Unpresidential! How dare he take time out of his busy schedule to promote his own policies! Who does he think he is, the President? Humour is the best way of undermining an opponent and if his critics just don’t get it, they don’t get it. In his own words, ‘Thanks Obama!’.