The German Fascination About Obama

Election campaign in the United States

The German fascination about Obama

Germany is eagerly watching the U.S. pre-election campaign. Not one day passes without the “Phenomenon Obama” being discussed in the media. But would an Obama also be possible in Germany? Jens Teschke lets his mind wander.

A black man stands in a gigantic stadium and enthusiastically encourages the crowd with “Yes, we can!” Thousands of people are screaming in fascination, the media are thrilled. Right now, Barack Obama is the “Savior”, the “Hope Pope”, and the “Messiah” in the U.S. election campaign. Germany is watching, and the German media are passionately joining in the excitement.

As if of any value, surveys already ask: Who would you vote for? The result: The Germans support Obama. Absurd: If only one of the prime candidates acted like Barack Obama in Germany, he would immediately be labeled as absolutely unworthy electing. At once, he would be criticized for being “way too lofty” and “too vague in his messages”.

The biggest America haters are the Germans

Why then do the Germans still jealously look upon the United States? It is because of a certain schizophrenic German relationship to Americans. Sure, we love the Grand Canyon, find Hollywood movies pretty well done, and admire every single pop and rock star that comes from the States. Of course we hate George W. Bush, find hamburgers disgusting, and condemn the U.S. for their harmful environmental policies. And yet, we do stop at McDonald’s “every now and then” and hop on an airplane to Malle [comment transl.: “Malle” is German slang for the island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea, a very popular and cheap travel destination among Germans] without being especially concerned about CO2 emissions.

Polls show that 70 percent of the Germans dislike the United States, which makes them, next to the Turks, the greatest America haters in Europe. In the German language use, the term “Americanization” is almost exclusively reserved for bad and negative forces. At the same time, however, Germans make up one of the largest groups of European tourists in America. An exchange year in the USA is still desirable. And sure enough, we think highly of Obama and suddenly wish for something like an “Americanized election campaign” in our own country. This German attitude toward America is quite exhausting.

Sentiments of Palatine social democrats

Let’s discuss who could be our Obama next year: Obviously, we can’t turn Angela Merkel into an Obama. The physicist could much rather be compared to Hillary Clinton: ambitious and not emotional enough. A CDU election campaign with the Chancellor as the leading figure will be factual next year. There won’t be a “Yes we can!”, no message “for all of us”, no stadiums filled we CDU fans cheering for the Chancellor. A few Junge-Union [comment transl: Young Christian Democrats] chapters in revolutionary orange outfits will try to create a cheerful atmosphere, but “Angie Obama” will certainly not work out.

How about Kurt Beck? His Palatine social democratic sentiment is still light-years away from the fireworks of pathos spread by Southerner Barak Obama. “We need to establish a reasonable minimum wage” might sound more substantial than “Yes, we can heal the nation!”, but it is less inspiring as well.

The “Guidomobil” was simply embarrassing

When Guido Westerwelle toured Germany in his “Guidomobil” [comment transl.: a RV covered in slogans to advertise for the FDP] during the election campaign of 1997, he got somewhat close to a U.S. election campaign. However, as happens so often when Germans act too casually, Westerwelle’s campaign turned out to be an embarrassing undertaking with only modest results. In the upcoming year, the liberals will most likely stay on the beaten path and refrain from a campaign “Obama-style”.

The Green Party has long since lost its spontaneity and anti-conventionalism and has turned into a party of tie and suit wearers. All we can expect from them are a few election posters that are wittier than those of other parties. Here as well, emotions are tied to the fear of a climate apocalypse and not to enthusiastic optimism à la Obama.

On the contrary, left-winged social democrats know how to stir up emotions. They will focus on social envy, the fear of war, and class inequality. However, neither thematically not in its format can this be compared to U.S. election campaigns.

German election campaigns are hard to digest

No, the German election campaign will be difficult to digest once again. It will bear none of the American characteristics, no “Yes, we can!” sentiments, no optimism, and no wallowing in emotions. Politicians will not admit to canvassing for voters and their sympathies. German election campaigns are about competition, not election. Although political parties in the United States are competing as well, they also offer American citizens a spectrum of possibilities. Among the candidates, one can find an African-American, a Woman, a Vietnam veteran, a Baptist preacher, a millionaire, and an outsider. They all introduce themselves to the public, canvass for voters, and have to prove themselves. And what happens in Germany? Everything is dutifully discussed among the parties, everything is already figured out. Be it the outsider, the radical tax reform supporter, the Turk, or the Catholic moralist: neither of them ever gets the chance to become a prime candidate in a democracy of “back room wheeling and dealing”.

Thus, it is not surprising that we admiringly look at the U.S. election campaign. After all, this is how a democracy is supposed to work: with election meetings, with emotions, with pathos. If there happens to be no Soccer World Cup in Germany, emotions are rare. I personally wish for more positive emotions in the election year 2009. Considering the problematic demographic data, the economic challenges, and the tarnished market economy image, I wish for candidates that entrain us, carry us along, and express their ideas clearly. I want a little more Obama, and a little less Merkel-Beck.

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