One of the savviest political observers I’ve come across is Mick Jagger. I was invited to a dinner that included the legendary rocker in London before the British Election (I took about 9,000 selfies), when I discovered that Mick has been a political junkie his whole life. When he’s on tour he has a lot of down time, which he spends reading, he explained to me, and I learned that he’s become a master not only of UK politics but of the American political scene as well. “You’re going to win,” Mick told me at dinner, despite some polls showing that my client, Prime Minister David Cameron, was still trailing in the race. “Why do you think so?” I asked. He replied: “The average guy thinks Cameron makes tough decisions and things are getting a bit better. They won’t change from that. Your opponent has come across like he is a retreat to the past.”
Mick was right, of course. No matter where you go, successful election campaigns are always about the future, not the past. Ed Miliband was an old-style Labour leader, unlike Tony Blair, and he paid dearly for that on Election Day. Mick’s advice, in fact, reminds of something another rather savvy political observer, Bill Clinton, told me in 2011, as we were preparing President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign: ‘All national elections are always a referendum on the future, and the candidate that can grasp that mantle wins.’ In all major elections after the Great Recession, the candidate who provided the clearest economic vision looking ahead prevailed. President Obama won two elections on that exact premise…
If the message the GOP takes away from Cameron’s win is mainly about the renewed power of right, they will fail in 2016, I believe. The truth is that British politics is skewed much further left than ours. Cameron personally led the fight to legalize gay marriage, made addressing climate change a top priority, and defended generous British humanitarian aid worldwide even as he was attacked for it. During the campaign, his manifesto called for a dramatic expansion of child care for working families, new apprenticeships for young people and eliminating taxes on workers at the minimum wage. Much of his agenda aligns very well with the modern Democratic Party platform.
The message of that election for us in the United States is less that Hillary Clinton needs to stay in the center than it is that Republicans need to move beyond their base.