Will a Republican presidential victory in 2008 do permanent damage to America’s ties to Europe? According to this op-ed article from Financial Times Deutschland columnist Thomas Klau, ‘A Democratic President or a woman President would be seen as a symbol of change. But if a Republican wins the U.S. election of 2008, the long-term Atlantic rift will be insurmountable.’
By Thomas Klau
Translated by Julian Jacob
December 13, 2007
Germany – Financial Times Deutschland – Original Article (German)
A Democratic President or a woman President would be seen as a symbol of change. But if a Republican wins the U.S. election of 2008, the long-term Atlantic rift will be insurmountable.
In their annual report on global security last week, the U.S. intelligence services averted the threat of air strikes on Iran – for now. So we non-Americans can now breathe a sigh of relief and focus on the drama that residents of the global village are offered every four years.
In three weeks, the citizens of Iowa will signal the opening shot of a U.S. presidential election year that could make cultural history. With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the Democrats have fielded two candidates that stand for much more than just new policies at the White House.
There is currently a fashion among political analysts to warn of excessive expectations on this side of the Atlantic, and to recall that even a Democratic President could disappoint hopes for a Europeanized-U.S. policy. Of course, American policy is rooted in a continuum.
But those who look only at roots easily miss the forest. A President Hillary Clinton – and even more so – a President Barack Obama, would be perceived beyond U.S. borders as a new beginning with which Americans could reconnect to the progressive momentum of earlier decades. That alone would have an impact on whoever holds the office.
Some experts say that after the debacle of the Bush years, a period of introspection lies ahead – especially if a Democrat replaces Bush. But the comments and inclinations of the party’s most prominent candidates are in a different language.
SAVIOURS OF AMERICAN PRESTIGE
Hillary Clinton has a burning interest in foreign policy, and Barack Obama sees the world from the perspective of his youth in Indonesia and Hawaii – which is less nationally-influenced than other American politicians. Anyone who listens to them comes to the conclusion that besides taking active leadership of America, both would seek a more active role in the world, for example in formulating a new global climate protection policy. Actively working to restore America’s global prestige and U.S. leadership in general is a central theme in the election campaigns of both politicians. They can count on the support of a large portion of their electorate, as polls among Democratic supporters consistently show.
But it’s not impossible that in three weeks, Iowan voters will bury the hopes of Clinton and Obama under a crushing pre-election defeat. Competing with the two media stars is the third Democratic favorite, John Edwards, who appears to many of his supporters as the only safe choice. The doubt that Americans will actually elect a woman or an African-American as their 44th President remains a factor in the electoral calculus. One must assume that when in doubt, Republicans will try anything to awaken resentment in the White men of the American republic – against the reign of a woman or the son of an African.
America knows that 2008 will test and set new limits on its own capacity for social change. But Americans may not realize that this election also tests future relations with Europe. In the debates and their explanations of intent, Democrats find Europeans more worthy of confidence and even cross party lines to show it; while the discussions of Republicans – with their dual focus on religion and the threat of terrorism – act to contrast them, making them seem like strangers with whom one is no longer related.
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