January 29, 2008
European Press and the Presidential ElectionBy Soeren Kern
The outcome of the US presidential election affects the lives of millions of people around the world. So it's probably not surprising that many Europeans are resentful that only Americans will have a say in it. European media are saturated with election coverage that is heavily biased in favor of the Democrats. And, as in past elections, European elites are also demanding the right to help choose the next occupant of the White House. What follows is a brief survey of what some Europeans are saying about the American way of democracy.
An editorial in the Brussels-based, center-right De Standaard articulates a view shared by many Europeans:
This view is echoed by the London-based, conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph. A column titled ‘If Only We Could Vote for the Next US President' argues:
What European elites really seem to want is the right to "help" Americans choose the "correct" candidate. And if newspaper headlines are any indication, that person is, overwhelmingly, Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Indeed, across the continent, European elites are infatuated with Obama, who is now a cult figure.
In Germany, the center-right Berliner Morgenpost proclaims that Obama is ‘The New Kennedy' while the centrist tabloid Bild says that ‘This Black American Has Become the New Kennedy!'
The left-wing Frankfurter Rundschau compares Obama not only to Kennedy, but also to Presidents Lincoln and Roosevelt
In the Netherlands, the left-leaning De Volkskrant reports that the US primaries are giving the Dutch "goose bumps.... Obama has the authenticity that the Dutch electorate craves."
In France, the center-left Libération says the new leader of the French Socialist Party should be someone with Obama's profile:
Meanwhile, in an online poll at the center-left Le Nouvel Observateur, Obama has an overwhelming 60 percent of the 2,680 votes cast, double Clinton's 30 percent. The late President Kennedy is lagging behind, with only 4 percent of the votes.
In Britain, the centrist Times of London confirms that the Tories are suffering an identity crisis by reporting that
After months of glorifying Obama, European media have tried to portray his losses to New York Senator Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and Nevada as part of an elaborate conspiracy to keep a black man from becoming the 44th president of the United States. After Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, for example, the Milan-based, center-right Il Giornale reported that Obama was the victim of vote-rigging.
In Germany, the Financial Times Deutschland opines:
The state-sponsored Deutsche Welle argues that although Clinton's victory in New Hampshire is being put down to her display of ‘genuine' emotion, it is actually a further example of "US politics descending into self-parody."
France, meanwhile, dispatched its ambassador to keep an eye on campaign events in New Hampshire.
In an essay titled ‘The End of the Obama Revolution', Der Spiegel laments:
The Times of London says:
Indeed, another Times of London story frets that:
In an 800-word rant titled ‘American Primary System Fails to Impress Europeans', Deutsche Welle implies that if Germans cannot help Americans vote Obama into office, then the US political system itself must be flawed. DW asserts that American democracy is "atavistic. It's outdated. It doesn't really reflect democracy in a modern sense." The story goes on to say that America would be better off if it adopted a parliamentary system, just like the one in (surprise!) Germany.
Some Europeans are beginning to wake up to the reality that a Democrat in the White House might not be in their best interests.
The Hamburg-based, conservative-leaning Die Welt offers the most forthright analysis of the implications for Europe of a Clinton victory.
According to the London-based Economist,
In Spain, El Diario Exterior argues that an Obama victory could be especially counter-productive for the European Left, because it will show that America is not the racist state that European elites say it is:
The article goes on to remind readers that Europe's multicultural Socialist utopia has failed to beget its own Obama.
After seeing American democracy in high gear, European publics are fretting about the relative lack of democracy at home. As the Paris-based International Herald Tribune points out in a column titled ‘Don't Look for Democracy in the EU Presidency',
Finally, London's leftwing Guardian concedes that America is doing something right for a change. In a rare case of introspection and self-criticism, the paper admonishes Britons that
Now that's a thought!
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group