Election USA
Sunday 2 November, 11.00am until 12.30pm, Seminar Space

Just two days after the Battle of Ideas, on Tuesday 4 November 2008, Americans will go to the polls to elect a new president. The campaign so far has revealed an appetite for change, with the Republican John McCain distancing himself from his party’s current regime, and Barack Obama beating Hillary Clinton to the Democratic nomination by emphasising his own ‘outsider’ status. ‘Change’ seems to be the keyword for the campaign, so are we seeing a major shift in American politics? Some commentators suggest the old division between red states and blue states has diminished in importance. What does the campaign tell us about American society today? What kind of change is represented by the different candidates?

The US ‘presidential style’ has long been seen in Europe as emblematic of the focus on personality in American politics, with figures like Tony Blair and Nicholas Sarkozy representing the Americanisation of European politics. Traditionally, this was seen as a bad thing, but with UK politics offering little in the way of entertainment, British political junkies have greeted the US election like a new season of The West Wing, seemingly intoxicated by the drama of primary races and spin and counter-spin. What does the excitement on this side of the Atlantic about the election tell us about politics in the US and UK respectively?

Susan Jacoby
author, The Age of American Unreason; programme director, Centre for Inquiry - NYC; fellow, Centre for Scholars and Writers, New York Public Library.
Lionel Shriver
novelist, We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Post-Birthday World; commentator for the Guardian, the Telegraph, and the Sunday Times.
James Matthews
management consultant; founding member, NY Salon; writer on economics and business
Shane Greer
executive editor, Total Politics; political consultant and commentator
Alice Fishburn
online comment editor, The Times; author, Uni in the USA; formerly ran Current, largest national student magazine in United States.
Jean Smith
specialist development consultant; co-founder and director, NY Salon

 Produced by
Dr Tara McCormack lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches

Dolan Cummings associate fellow, Academy of Ideas; author, That Existential Leap: a crime story (forthcoming from Zero Books)

Dr Cheryl Hudson lecturer in American history, University of Liverpool

 Recommended readings
The end of the party: how we could be heading for a post-democratic era

From Nigel Farage to Russell Brand, Marine Le Pen to Beppe Grillo, a new breed of charismatic figures speak to the desire of electorates for leaders who understand their concerns and satiate their anxieties.

Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce, New Statesman, 1 August 2014

Barack Obama plugs into a political Facebook

Social networking tools are the key to engaging a new generation of young voters

Will Straw, The Times, 30 October 2008

The battle of hope and experience

Will America choose the old hero who favours tax cuts for business and the rich and backed George Bush’s wars? Or the young man who promises health care for all, a swift exit from Iraq and more money for the average worker?

Economist, 2 October 2008

Why Experience Matters

Philosophical debates arise at the oddest times, and in the heat of this election season, one is now rising in Republican ranks. The narrow question is this: Is Sarah Palin qualified to be vice president?

David Brooks, The New York Times, 15 September 2008

What makes people vote Republican?

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies?

Jonathan Haidt, Edge, 9 September 2008

The Audacity of Hype

The pretension of the fake Grecian temple setting clashed with the high-decibel, rock-star format and overwhelmed the history implicit in the event. Ancient Greeks had a word for it: hubris.

William Safire, New York Times, 31 August 2008

The Racism Excuse

Things are supposed to be looking rosy for Democrats this November. But in case Barack Obama loses the Presidency, an excuse is all ready to go: America's too racist to elect a black man.

Wall Street Journal, 26 August 2008

Savor the Moment

Friday was the 40th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy. Had he lived, he would be 82 now.

Bob Herbert, New York Times, 7 June 2008

The Audacity of Hope

I'm inspired by the people I meet in my travels--hearing their stories, seeing the hardships they overcome, their fundamental optimism and decency. I'm inspired by the love people have for their children. And I'm inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.

Barack Obama, Canongate Books, 7 February 2008

Session partners

in association with