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|Does the economy determine elections?|
Ushio - February 2008
It has become conventional to say that most general elections are won or lost on economic issues, for those are the day-to-day matters that affect more voters than any other. In
According to legend, that slogan was put in large letters in Bill Clinton’s campaign offices, to remind staff that every day they must talk to voters and the media about the economy, not about intellectual distractions such as foreign policy or the reform of health care.
That legend should be kept in mind by anyone who is following the election campaign that is under way in
So will the 2008 election again be one determined by “the economy, stupid”? If
Normally, this can be done quite simply, for it the economy is doing badly voters will be inclined to blame whoever has been in government. That is presumably what happened in
Moreover, there has been something quite surprising about the way in which the American election campaign has proceeded so far. A year ago, if you had asked economic pundits what economic issues would feature during the primaries, especially the Democratic primary, they would immediately have said two words: trade and
The reason why
The conventional wisdom, that it is always “the economy, stupid” may well not in fact be correct. In 1992 Bill Clinton won only 43% of the national vote despite his famous slogan; he beat George Bush mainly because, unusually for
Something similar could still happen in 2008 as another businessman, Michael Bloomberg who is currently mayor of
Also, however, it may well be that even between Bill Clinton and George Bush, it was not simply economic recession that caused voters to support Mr Clinton. The big difference between those candidates was not their economic-policy ideas but rather the way in which Mr Clinton seemed to be in close touch with the concerns of ordinary people while President Bush did not. Famously, President Bush suffered embarrassment in a photo-opportunity at a supermarket check-out where it appeared that he had never used a supermarket before. He looked remote and out-of-touch, just as Shinzo Abe seemed in 2007 to be out of touch with the lives of ordinary Japanese.
This year in
These tasks are related because it won’t be possible to unite the nation if you are not in touch with the nation’s day-to-day concerns. To succeed, it may not be necessary to be populist, nor to claim to “feel the pain” of ordinary voters, as Bill Clinton did in 1992 and throughout his eight-year presidency. What will be desirable is a sense of credibility, a sense that a candidate is open to new ideas and to change, and open to the interests and worries of a wide range of Americans rather than just a core group of supporters.
Thus, my prediction for the true slogan for 2008 is not “It’s the economy, stupid”. Rather, this year’s slogan should be: “It’s the credibility, stupid.”