November 4th

A lot of attention has been given here in Europe to the US presidential election 2008. According to some recent polls 78% of the French, 72% of the Germans and 68% of the Spanish would like to see Obama in office. Some European pro Obama “voters” see him as a welcome change from Bush, others are looking to America as an example of true democracy (how many black presidential candidates have we had in Europe?) and still others think he would usher in a new era of Transatlantic friendship and cooperation.

What do our readers think? First of all, who will be the next US president? What would it really mean for Europe to see Obama victorious? And what about McCain? Surely he must have something to offer us as well?

And, as a bonus question, are there countries in Europe that are ready for a black, or immigrant, PM or president?

Personally, I have no real answers to these questions. The only thing I am worried about is this:

Oh, and check this out. (hat tip Sargasso)

15 thoughts on “November 4th

  1. The true test for most of the countries of Europe will come, I think, in a few years to a few decades, depending on how early immigration started.

    Without need for racism, first-generation immigrants are very unlikely to start a political career due to all kind of issues, from simple citizenship to a handicap in understanding the electorate and the political landscape (there are exceptions, of course – Ayaan Hirsi Ali being the most famous).
    Second- and later-generation immigrants, who in many countries are now in their youth, are the ones where the racial openness of Europe will be tested. That is, assuming they don’t grow up unnaturally isolated from the pulse of their , which unfortunately happens for both external (banlieues) and internal (many Chinese communities) reasons.

  2. We haven’t had a female PM either 😉
    But we vote for the party, not for the PM and we do have female party leaders..

    Last time I checked we had in our House of Representatives 41% women (62 of 150) and 6% “foreign born” representatives, which is both slightly less than representative for the population but not much. I don’t know how many of them are ‘POC’ (I’d have to look at their pictures and/or names and guess – feel free to try) but the oldest member is 71 and female and the youngest member of our House is a 20 yo male (former) refugee from Afghanistan.

  3. I doubt that Obama’s election (hugely likely at this point, though not exactly certain) is going to alter European opinion of the US overly much. Certainly most Europeans will be happy to see Bush gone (as will most of us, actually – take a look at the man’s bottomed-out approval ratings), but then they will have other things to worry about. Though they label themselves strongly anti-McCain at the moment, I think that is more a function of disapproval of Bush (and the desire to see the US make a clean break him by voting out the Republicans) than it is any concrete objection to McCain. Europeans will find themselves able to deal rationally with whichever man wins the White House in a way that they might not have been with Bush (sorry, but there is a certain kernel of truth to Charles Krauthammer’s “Bush Derangement Syndrome” charge). Perhaps they would prefer Obama, whose policy proposals are certainly closer to European standard, but there wouldn’t be the kind of visceral hatred of McCain that one often saw on display in Europe for Bush either. Relations with Europe can only improve.

  4. I don’t know how many of them are ‘POC’ (I’d have to look at their pictures and/or names and guess – feel free to try)

    Well I was bored earlier today so I did try. I counted four blacks and one Asian. There also were a few who seemed to be Turkish or North African, plus the 20-y.o. Afghan, don’t know if they’d be considered persons of color.

    Actually, the one thing that struck me as most remarkable about the Dutch MP’s was their hair color. Here in America the stereotype is that most Dutch people are blond-haired. Most of the MP’s appear to have darker hair, however, at least the men (women are more likely to dye their hair). In fact, the PM is just about the blondest of the bunch!

  5. In fact, the PM is just about the blondest of the bunch!
    I doubt it. His nickname is Harry Potter ;). PM and government are found here, the other link was just the House.
    Kids here tend to be rather blond, but hair darkens when you get older – and we’ve been French and Spanish in the past 😉

    I rechecked, more time today. I still have difficulty knowing what to count as POC though, we are more focussed on ethnicy here. The Asian lady has a half Chinese/Indonesian mother, does that count? I have white red-haired friends who were a quarter Indonesian…

    Other than that I looked at place of birth and found that of the 150 people two were Molukkans (born in the Netherlands but long a seperate group), one was black and born in the Netherlands, 2 were born in Surinam, 2 were born in Curacao, 2 in Turkey, 1 in Afghanistan and 3 in Morocco.

    Of the 27 people in government only two are foreign born, both Secretary of State, one Turkish and 1 Moroccan (the latter just became mayor of Rotterdam). Do they count as POC though? They came here as kids, does that count as first of second degree immigration?

    Does this say anything about how ready we are for an immigrant PM? I think it starts with a reasonable proportion of representatives in politics, so that is a good start. We still have a right-wing party (9 of 150 members of the House) who thinks you cannot have any government position if you have double nationality. But our PM is the party-leader of the biggest party in the coalition, so it depends on wether the members of the bigger parties vote for an immigrant.

  6. Best guess at the moment is that Obama will win the election. But I seriously doubt that this would “usher in a new era of Transatlantic friendship and cooperation”.

    The United States – just like the rest of the World – has just far too many internal troubles and can’t take any active role in international politics during the next four years. Obama will have to focus on domestic affairs; that’s what he has declared that he’ll do, and that’s what the people who are voting for him are expecting him to do.

    Obviously, when it comes to “Transatlantic cooperation”, even a passive role would still an improvement. During the Bush administration, the said cooperation was being actively destroyed by ham-handed pseudo-diplomacy. Obama’s passive foreign policy, dictated by the circumstances, will still be far better for “Transatlantic cooperation” than Bush’s active foreign policy, which ignored the circumstances.

    … some readers will remember that I’ve said before that I don’t even regard “Transatlantic cooperation” as a necessary component in the Euro-American relations. My opinion is that at the moment, some splendid isolation is exactly what both the EU and the United States need. Of course, McCain can offer that same isolation; he’d be quite easy to ignore in international affairs.

    Assuming that Obama will get a second term, that would be a period when foreign policy is likely to become a serious issue, after this planet has managed to emerge from the ongoing economic purgatorio… and possibly also found a way to alleviate the ecological purgatorio.

    (This is what, in my opinion, makes McCain’s alleged foreign policy expertise irrelevant in these elections; foreign policy just won’t be that much of an issue for the next four years, and given that the man is, well, old, he’d be unlikely to run for a second term.)

    As for immigrant prime ministers or presidents in Europe… personally, I think that the definition “immigrant” or more preferably just “non-European ethnic minority” would be the operative word here, not “black”. Assuming that, say, the United Kingdom would someday be ready for a PM of Pakistani origins, the country would probably be ready also for a PM of Ugandan origins.

    (This varies from country to country. Just to give a deliberately extreme example, Slovakia would probably be more likely to elect a black African immigrant as a PM or a president rather than any of the local Romani, even though they are a native minority.)

    But it depends, and given time, the natural and inevitable assimilation would make pretty much anything possible. After all, most of us have family roots across the borders. Martti Ahtisaari, for example, was a third-generation immigrant. His grandfather decided to take the Finnish citizenship, and his father decided to change the old Norwegian “Adolfsen” into the new Finnish “Ahtisaari”.

    N.B., at least in this country, an immigrant not born in this country simply cannot be elected to the office of president. When it comes to presidency, this country has the same exact qualification of “native-born” as the United States has in its constitution.

    (For those who regard this fact as terribly discriminating; in my opinion, considering that the role of president is becoming increasingly symbolic, it’s by no means unreasonable to expect that the person who’s given the task to represent the country abroad would be someone who has also had a continuous connection with this country from his/her birth. It’s the same thing as with European monarchies, except that an elected president can at least be a member of any religious group that he/she pleases, and his/her mating or marriage preferences or ability to procreate usually don’t become political issues.)

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  7. LOL.

    The main problem of close to 50% of American voters is that Obama is piece of s…t, not that it is brown.

  8. @ Jussi Jalonen

    Obama will have to focus on domestic affairs; that’s what he has declared that he’ll do, and that’s what the people who are voting for him are expecting him to do.

    Remember that in 2000 Bush opposed nation-building, but ended up doing exactly the opposite. I’m not sure we can expect an Obama administration to focus on domestic affairs. The major issue for Americans this election, economy notwithstanding, is the country’s image in the world, which is seen has having suffered during the last eight years. So I think it is reasonable to expect an active foreign policy involvement by the Obama White House.

  9. In fact, the PM is just about the blondest of the bunch!
    I doubt it. His nickname is Harry Potter ;). PM and government are found here, the other link was just the House.

    My mistake, I thought Wilders was the PM. And there definitely is a resemblance between the real PM and Harry Potter 🙂

  10. I’m not sure you’re making a proper analogy. You remember, of course, that Bush’s presidency was quirked from the beginning by this unpredicted, spectacular event that took place in September 2001? Small wonder that he ended up acting in contrast to one thing that he had spoken.

    So, I would still claim that yes, we can still realistically expect Obama to focus on domestic affairs on his first term. I’ll add the proviso that this may change if there’s an event which literally forces him to direct his attention to the rest of the World. But that’s unlikely.

    Also, I should perhaps specify that foreign policy towards _Europe_ is still likely to be relatively quiet, for the reasons that I have already stated. But there’s some stuff brewing in South America which just may turn out to be an acid-test for Obama’s foreign policy skills already on his first term.

    Also, quite frankly, I don’t believe that “image” is a major issue for Americans in this election. When the economy is in shambles, the average American probably isn’t particularly concerned of what the rest of the World feels about the image of the United States.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  11. But there’s some stuff brewing in South America which just may turn out to be an acid-test for Obama’s foreign policy skills already on his first term.

    Americans don’t much care about what goes on in South America because there’s no Islamic angle. We live in such mortal dread of Muslims that the non-Islamic world fades into meaninglessness.

  12. Obama still has to cooperate with European allies in Iraq and Afghanistan and in intelligence gathering. But I agree that Europe will not matter overly much for him.

  13. “Americans don’t much care about what goes on in South America”?

    Uh, yeah, right. Clinton didn’t give a damn about Haiti, and Bush Junior couldn’t care less about Venezuela. It seems pretty likely that president Obama will pay attention to the Central and South American events.

    By the way, assuming that your comment about the “Islamic angle” was true, that would mean a victory for McCain, and it would have also meant a victory for Clinton in the democratic primaries. Reality disagrees with you; right now, it seems that most Americans are just fed up with being scared of towelheads.

    I have to add one more exception where foreign policy will come to play already on his first term; international cooperation in financial affairs, with the economic and foreign policy morphing into one entity. Gordon Brown has already asked the United States to take “leadership” in the mutual cooperation for the resolution of the financial crisis.

    Cheers,

    J. J.

  14. Can one ever make a “proper” analogy? You say that it’s “unlikely” that another event may force the Obama White House “to direct his attention to the rest of the World.” But so was 9/11.

    Also, quite frankly, I don’t believe that “image” is a major issue for Americans in this election.

    I have to disagree. Image is a major issue, albeit it has declined from its July height of 83% to 51% in September (see pg. 2 of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs full report in PDF). More reports are here.

    Thus my original position remains valid. The state of the economy is important, but foreign policy issues dominate (i.e. terrorism, nuclear weapons, energy supplies).

    What’s relevant for us is that 51% see improving America’s standing in the world as a very important foreign policy goal for the United States.

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