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PIOTROWSKI I¶m a young, Caucasian, university-educated male. Like many who match that description, I have a longstanding man-crush on the President of the United States, due to arrive in Canberra this afternoon. It¶s not just because Barack Obama is such a cool cat. It¶s not just because of those 2008 YouTube videos of good-looking ladies singing about how excellent His Excellency is. It¶s not even really because of his policies, some of which are spot-on and others, questionable. I¶ve got a man-crush on Obama for an old-fashioned reason. He can spin a story that¶s at times, enchanting. He can tell compelling yarns with Hollywood-style blockbuster special effects. His speeches have always been powered not just by the oracular spectacular of his cadences but his storytelling abilities. During the last election, Obama¶s opponents often billed him as running on just ³hopey changey stuff´. What they didn¶t realise at the time was that while ³hope´ and ³change´ were small words, they told much bigger stories. ³Change´ didn¶t just mean a change in government. For some, it no doubt meant the ³change´ in race-relations that the ascension of an African-American to the big seat in the Oval Office would mean. For others, it meant a ³change´ from the political class represented by Obama¶s competitors, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. A fresh face leading the free world. ³Hope´ suggested all of this was achievable, despite the times. Obama¶s narrative in 2008 perfectly suited the mood of the
American people at the time. And the President has had some big political victories since. The biggest health reforms in the US for 40 years. Ordering an end to Osama Bin Laden¶s existence. But a single narrative can only get politicians so far. Obama¶s run into some turbulence this year. Sans Bin Laden, 2011 hasn¶t been pretty for his administration. America is in the economic doldrums and the President¶s opposition has been so fierce they barely agreed that the United States should meet its debt commitments. We¶ve seen something similar in Australia recently too. Kevin Rudd, in a dorky way, sold himself to the public in 2007 with a similar narrative of newness. He promised change from a tired government. Kevin was ¶07, not 1997. For the first couple of years, at least. Then he ran into turbulence. And when he dumped the ETS, Australians could no longer understand what Rudd was all about. Americans, too, are a little confused as to what Obama¶s all about right now. Hope seems to have gone into recession with the economy. Obama¶s 2008 story doesn¶t speak to them anymore. The New York Times¶ resident expert recently pegged Obama as having a 50-50 chance to win the election next year. Obama has a charisma. The excitement over his arrival in Australia is a testament to that. But while charisma can win you friends and help you become the object of man-crushes for dorky kids just out of uni, it doesn¶t win elections. What Obama - and whoever is leading the major parties in Australia next year - is going to need in 2012 is a new story to tell about how they¶re going to take us to brighter future.
Otherwise, they¶re just running on hope. And just like what happened to Kevin, there might be a change.