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Obama, Kinnock and the dangers of triumphalism

By       Message Fritz Groothues     Permalink
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Looking at Obama's Europe trip from a UK perspective, the contrast to Bush's recent visit is striking: Germans gathered in their hundred thousands to hear him. One cartoonist showed the crowd in Berlin with a banner that just read: "SAVE US."

 

Merkel, Sarkozy and Brown basked in his glory. Socialist opposition politicians in France tried to be included, in vain. Surely all this shows two things: Obama's undisputed stature as a statesman and a Europe that is ready for a change in America. Surely Obama must now be unstoppable.

 

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The same feeling--time for a change--pervaded Britain in 1972, and it looked as though the Conservative government under John Major could not possibly win the general election. Opinion polls showed a clear Labour lead, so what could possibly go wrong?

 

A week before the election, on 1st April 1972, the Labour Party held a rally, a triumphalist show-business event during which Neil Kinnock tried to convince the electorate that victory was in their pocket. He shouted at the audience in Sheffield, and at the whole country via the TV news bulletin: "We're all right! We're all right!" The day after, Kinnock's and Labour's popularity dipped sharply, and Labour lost the election. Kinnock's triumphalism is seen by many analysts as one of the factors leading to this defeat.

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Of course circumstance are different in the US, but the risks of appearing too sure of victory are applicable. There is a danger that the slightly boring solidity of John Major McCain might suddenly seem preferable to Obama's idealistic exultations.

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Fritz is a freelance journalist and media consultant living in London (England).

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Obama, Kinnock and the dangers of triumphalism