Obama's '08 Election Inspires Copycat Campaigns

Although many PolicyMic writers have commented on their disappointment with President Barack Obama’s term in office, the legacy of his campaign and the historic 2008 election endures. Socialist leader Martine Aubry's campaign for French president has drawn many comparisons to Organizing for America’s efforts three years ago. Her website boasts a similar design and her campaign’s slogan — “Une vision pour espérer, une volonté pour transformer” (in English, “A vision of hope, a will to transform”) — is reminiscent of Obama’s message, “Change we can believe in.”

While these similarities suggest that Aubry is channeling the president’s persona, she is not. The French Socialist Party and America’s Democratic Party have conflicting ideologies, indicating that Obama’s victory has encouraged others to emulate him superficially in pursuit of similar success. Additionally, the heavily contested 2008 Democratic primary inspired France to bolster its democracy with further reforms.

Aubry officially declared her candidacy for the Socialist primaries on Tuesday. Her nomination superseded that of embattled former International Monetary Fund chief and former party-frontrunner Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Representing the Socialist Party, Aubry is in the company of politicians who have suggested a minimum wage raise, lifetime housing guarantees for the poor, and increases in retirement benefits for the country’s lowest wage earners. Her platform stresses true socialism in a way that Obama never has, while the French right wing (UMP) incidentally shares many more principles with the American Democratic Party. Thus, it is clear that Aubry is only mirroring Obama’s campaign graphics and rhetoric as a political trick. In making people believe that she can arouse hope like Obama did in 2008, Aubry hopes to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

But influence of the American political system on France’s current election cycle does not end at Aubry: For the first time in French history, a political party is holding an open primary. In the past, only active members of political parties could vote in their primaries (i.e. one needed to be registered within that party and pay an annual fee). Today, the only requirements are to declare one’s support of left-wing values and to pay a euro to vote in the Socialist primary. As opponents criticize these elections, denouncing them as promoting an anti-democratic system, supporters defend it by using America as an example of its viability. Since it has been working for two centuries in the U.S. without endangering American democracy, they argue, it follows that the system should be transferable to France’s elections as well. In implementing this system, the party hopes to achieve more unity. Just as former Senator Hillary Clinton supported Obama’s nomination in 2008, so should French politicians of the same parties support each other in the final race. Having an open system draws attention to the primary and discourages those with no chance of winning, such as perennial Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal, from entering the race.

Since officially declaring her candidacy, Aubry’s mimicry of Obama has even extended to her interactions with the public. For example, she began to sign her personal tweets “M.A.," just as Obama signed his “B.O.” Aubry’s actions indicate that even if some Americans are criticizing Obama, he remains a symbol for many. Even if the ideological counterpart of the Democratic Party in France is the Right Wing — the Socialists’ political opponents — the Socialist Party is dreaming of the same success Obama enjoyed.

But, Aubry is hardly a French Obama, and the public should not be misled. These similarities are mere communication tricks that threaten to make us forget that the Socialist Party's platform is very different from the American Democrats’, even on global affairs. 

Photo CreditWikimedia Commons