Politics 2010: America and the World
date: November 16, 2010
location: Villa Sassetti

Top American and European political analysts, media experts and scholars discussed the results of the U.S. mid-term elections and their impact on political dynamics in the U.S. and the world. The keynote address was given by Former U.K. Prime Minister Mr. Gordon Brown. Mr. Brown spoke about some of the main challenges that face Europe and the United States, the profound transition that is taking place in the world economy and the factors that make him optimistic about the future. Looking at issues globally is absolutely essential to finding solutions to our current problems.

A discussion of the Global Context chaired by David Muir, Former Director of Political Strategy and Special Adviser to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, followed. Panelists, including: Robert Shrum, Senior Fellow Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, and longtime Democratic Strategist; Nicole Bacharan, Historian, Political Analyst and Radio and Television Consultant; Sergio Fabbrini, Director and Professor of Political Science and International Relations, LUISS School of Government; David Frum, Author, Journalist, former Speechwriter for George W. Bush; Claudius Wagemann, Professor New York University in Florence and Lecturer Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane; Michael Donilon, Former Counselor to Vice President Joe Biden; Bruce Haynes, Republican Political and Public Affairs Strategist; Steve McMahon, Democratic Political Advisor and Public Affairs Strategist; Paolo Valentino, Senior Foreign Policy Columnist, Corriere della Sera; Marylouise Oates, Author and activist; Guiliano Da Empoli, Deputy Mayor for Culture, City of Florence -responded to Mr. Muir’s observation that, for the first time in several generations, people today feel that their children will not be as well off as they were. There is tremendous pessimism about the future. Nicole Bacharan believes this is the result of a pervasive fear and sense of powerlessness in the face of the economic crisis; David Frum cited immigration as a key issue that crystallizes people’s fear, especially during this time of economic crisis; and Wagemann thought that the underlying debate is actually about protectionism vs. internationalism in economics, but also more broadly in politics and social policy. With the current instability the issues are magnified and it is often difficult for the public to cut through the political rhetoric and to evaluate competing analyses of conflicting data that support  different policy positions.

A second panel moved towards the American domestic scene, taking a closer look at what happened in the recent U.S mid-term elections. Veteran Republican strategists David Frum and Bruce Haynes, Republican Political and Public Affairs Strategist,  offered a simple explanation for the success of Republican candidates in the recent election: President Obama’s policies have failed. The Democrats on the panel – Bob Shrum and Michael Donilon, Former Counselor to Vice President Joe Biden, argued that its more complicated than that. Shrum suggested that the public has yet to see some of the benefits of Obama’s health care reform and have yet to fully understand the impact of Obama’s economic policy “When a policy saves a job, it doesn’t have the same impact as when a policy creates a new job for someone who didn’t have one before. Many people whose jobs were at risk and were saved by Obama didn’t even know it”.  Donilon in particular doesn’t think the public has abandoned Obama: “The president has failed to articulate a plan that has resonated with the American public. People are invested in this presidency they want to see him succeed, but his policies have been a huge failure. “ Obama still has a chance over the next two years to reinstate the conversation that he started with the American people during his campaign in 2008 and to ask the public to be patient. Paolo Valentino and Nicole Bacharan ended the discussion questioning the misinformation that was circulated by many campaigns during the recent election and suggested that the data does not support Obama’s critics.