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Not The Politicians We Need But The Ones We Deserve

This is a guest post by Myles Nester


Romneybot 3000 and Miliborg.


There has been considerable frustration on both sides the Atlantic at opposition leaders who have failed to capture the public’s imagination or excite their own party base despite poorly polling governments and continued economic hardship. Why have two large, successful parties only just out of government failed to produce the leaders their country needs?


The tactics created by Bill Clinton’s campaign team and perfected by the New Labour electoral machine put the political centre ground at the heart of any successful strategy. In winning historic re-elections for their parties, Blair and Clinton defined the electoral tactics of a generation.


The promise of the centre ground has led the British Conservative party to elect David Cameron on a promise to take it back and caused Barack Obama to morph from an idealist into a centrist Republican. The result has been a squeezed, highly prized centre ground where Romney and Miliband cannot make themselves distinct but are too fearful of going to the right or left to find their own voice.


Whilst parties have converged, the global recession has polarised activists. Both the Occupy Movement and the Tea Party are reactions to a crisis of capitalism but they view the crisis differently. For Occupy, the banking crisis proved that the rich have governments in their thrall and operate only for their own concerns. For the Tea Party the bailouts are the issue, arguing that by not letting banks and other businesses fail capitalism has been compromised and socialism is taking control. Both movements represent a failure of their respective natural parties, Labour and Republican, to lead and take the opportunity of the recession to change the world, causing activists to look elsewhere.


Romney and Miliband are unwilling and unable to tap into this groundswell of momentum, fearful of taking their parties away from the mainstream and appearing extremist. They not only leave their natural support frustrated but also confuse the message of the left and right in their countries. Romney struggles to get out of the shadow of a Tea Party ideal that terrifies many voters, while UK Uncut and Occupy steal Miliband’s spotlight as the real opposition.


To lead and win both Romney and Miliband have to take control of their parties and the wider movements. They have to become the focal point of the opposition in their country, a task that will not be made easy by their determination to hide their own personalities from public view. Britain had a satire boom in the late 80s and 90s whilst America had its in the 00’s. The effects of these were to humiliate and mock those politicians who looked, sounded or acted differently. Satire in the UK was put into retreat by New Labour and Blair’s supreme slickness. In America satire still ravages the Republican side, notably making a joke of Sarah Palin within weeks of her naming as John McCain’s running mate. Satire is normally based on appearance, not deed, for instance, the successful attacks on Peter Mandelson’s camp villain act compare with the kid glove treatment of the blandly malevolent Alistair Campbell while they performed broadly similar roles. Satire creates nonentity politicians insulated from the mocking gaze, Cameron, Clegg and now Miliband. Romney may not be the best Republican candidate but his status as least mockable is of greater importance.


Romney and Miliband seem terrified of voters. Voters who demand change but elect continuity, voters who reject extreme views but let them lead the debate, and voters who want personality but who mock difference. To paraphrase the Dark Knight, they are not the politicians we need, they’re the politicians we deserve.


Myles Nester is also a guest contributor at





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