November 4, 2008
Participants at a weekend gathering of intellectuals here predicted victory for Barack Obama but also warned that he might disappoint supporters once he becomes president.
Speakers at a two-day series of debates and seminars sponsored by the Institute of Ideas, a British think-tank dedicated to expanding public debate, overwhelmingly predicted that the Democratic senator from Illinois would win Tuesday’s presidential election.
However, despite Obama’s often repeated call for “change” during the campaign, many of the writers and political experts who spoke said Obama would pursue familiar paths as president.
James Matthews, a management consultant based in New York, said that on domestic issues such as education, nearly all of Obama’s policies have been seen before. He predicted that many young college students who were among his strongest supporters would feel severely let down after the election.
“I do think Obama will win, but what he’ll do in office is tarnish the politics of hope and lead to more disillusion and cynicism,” he said.
Shane Greer, a political consultant in Britain and America, said Obama probably would win but he did not expect that the youth vote would be decisive in electing him.
While much has been made of Obama’s popularity on college campuses, Greer said, the great majority of students would be too swept up in exams and university life to vote in large numbers.
He noted that the expected battalions of student voters had not appeared in either the 2000 or 2004 elections. “If we can rely on the youth vote in the U.S. to do anything, it’s to disappoint,” he said.
Brendan O’Neill, editor of Spiked, an influential British Internet journal, said that no matter who is elected president, the days of the United States as the policeman of the world were ending.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
O’Neill said the U.S. is split by identity politics and lacked the sense of purpose to bring order to an increasingly fragmented world. “It simply doesn’t know what it stands for anymore,” he said of the U.S.A.
Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator for The Times of London, said it was a “fantasy” to expect America always to act in the interest of other countries and not its own.
Despite this, she said that America still had a strong role to play in preserving peace in the world, particularly in areas such as the Middle East and Eastern Europe.
She predicted that Obama, if he becomes president, would soon face crises involving the economy and an unstable Pakistan that would overwhelm any pre-planned policy.
Lionel Shriver, an American novelist living in London, said she was excited by the prospect of an Obama win.
At the same time, she said, an Obama victory would raise questions about the state of race relations in the U.S.
White voters could accept an African-American presidential candidate with light skin and a cool, professorial demeanor, she said. “I think the whole package is put together to put white voters at ease,” Shriver said.
Meanwhile the U.S. election campaign has provided an unexpected boost for a London-based firm that connects the buyers and sellers of small businesses in America – and it’s all thanks to “Joe the Plumber.”
When Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher rose to national prominence after featuring prominently in the final presidential debate, BusinessesForSale.com reported a surge in interest in people wanting to buy small plumbing firms.
Since then, Wurzelbacher has made numerous campaign appearances with and on behalf of Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate. He has publicly talked about wanting to start his own business but complained that the tax plans proposed by Obama would prevent him from doing so.
Marcus Markou of BusinessesForSale.com said Wurzelbacher’s story was the type to inspire hundreds of thousands to buy their own business.
“Something like that is a global story,” he said. “And when something like becomes a global story, it immediately enters into the consciousness.”