Douglas Carswell

18 NOV 2016

Obama represents the problem with political hype

Barack Obama is on his farewell tour of Europe. David Cameron has long since departed Downing Street. Both were in office for the best part of a decade. What did they achieve?

Obama was supposed to mark a clean break with the Bush years. The symbol of hope and change that would unite not just America but the entire world.

Instead he leaves behind a long trail of broken promises.

He pledged to close Guantanamo Bay; it's still there. He said he'd reset relations with Russia; yet they're worse than they have been since the Cold War. He argued that being conciliatory would pacify America's enemies; but, from ISIS, to Iran, to North Korea, they seem to be even more emboldened.

As for bringing America together, between the Ferguson riots, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the election of Donald Trump, it's hard to see how he could have left the country more divided.

David Cameron, too, promised something new. A different, modern, radical kind of Conservatism – prepared to hug hoodies and huskies alike.

But, ultimately, what was Cameronism? Did we ever find out?

His big promise was to sort out the public finances; instead, with George Osborne's help, he doubled the national debt. The "Big Society" turned out to be no more than a slogan. He seemed comfortable in power, but never looked particularly determined to do anything with it.

New, radical Conservatism? With his patrician instincts, David Cameron was more reminiscent of Harold Macmillan than Margaret Thatcher.

In falling short of their promises, neither Cameron nor Obama are remarkable. Very few individual leaders significantly change their countries for the better. Yet, every election cycle, a new supposed saviour is overhyped.

Shouldn't we have learned to temper our expectations by now?

The limited legacies of so many of those who have attained high office ought to remind all of us in politics that we are just passing through. But there's a lesson for electorates too: the more hyped the candidate, the more disappointed we often end up.

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