Saturday 8 November 2008

Catherine Fieschi: we need a politics of emotion and reason

The big lesson of Obama is that progressive politics must be emotionally engaging, says Catherine Fieschi, new director of the British Council think-tank Counterpoint, says

"There are all of these lessons about organisation. What I am most interested in are the lessons learnt by the Democrats in terms of no longer being what Drew Weston calls ‘emotionally tone deaf. It is about realising that voters – while reasonable – will vote overwhelmingly on how they feel about issues - not just on facts and statistics.

We should reject the idea that emotion and reason are opposites. We need the passionate brain – how do we bridge that divide between emotion and reason. So the challenge is how to take facts, how to take reason, and how to package this in emotionally apealling terms. The promise of hope and change – these were not empty words – there was a lot beneath that".

She returned to the theme later:

If we contrast the Democrat campaign with the one four years ago, OK there was an Obama this time. But Kerry was a good candidate: he wasn't an idiot. There had been four years of Bush. The election in 2000 had been stolen. It was already time for a change – but this didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because the organisation wasn’t in place. But you can all of the organisation you want – there wasn’t a clear and compelling message

There was still the view that what you do is to appeal to voters interests. This time, there were a way of capturing what you were doing today with the flashpoints in American history

So the question in Britain is what would those moments be?

Ben Brandzel responding:

"The Republicans wanted to run that campaign endlessly again. You could reduce the campaign of the last three weeks to McCain saying 'Be afraid, my friends, be very afraid' and Obama saying 'No, together, we do not need to be afraid'

It is difficult for progressives to win on a politics of fear. That is not our politics.

But our appeal to collective courage and strength works for us.

The British 'blitz spirit' is about where collective strength in the face of adversity comes from. That still resonates in other parts of the world.

And when people ask me who are the British Obamas. I am not going to name names, but I do believe that we are the Obamas who we have been waiting for. That has been the lesson of the progressive movement politics of MoveOn - paving the way and preparing the ground for a British Obama starts here with you - with us - about progressive change driven by people power".

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