On Withdrawal

How to survive the U.S. elections without Jon Stewart:

The U.S. elections are a farce, have always been a farce and will remain forever a farce. They last for a long time — a very long time. Between Donald Trump’s opening announcement in early summer 2015 and the actual voting in November 2016, a year and a half will have passed. An estimated $5 billion will have flooded into the candidate’s war chests. And the result of stuffing the drum with all those dollars is a meager voter turnout of some 50 percent. A significant reason for that is the American electoral system itself: The elections are decided in a few so-called swing states so the candidates ignore a significant number of other states where the populations only see a TV ad campaign.

This time, observers have a choice between being trampled (or Trumpled) flat and those candidates offering thoroughly choreographed appearances in which their positions are determined by current opinion polls; between religious abortion opponents, xenophobes, the completely vacuous and the Socialists (which will forever be a dirty word in the U.S.). From the European perspective, a U.S. election always seems somewhat bizarre, with the candidates trying to outdo one another with the patriotism, piety and platitudes that the U.S., as the greatest nation on the face of the earth, so reveres. All of this isn’t always easy to cope with.

Helping us cope with it over the past 10 years, we’ve had Jon Stewart. The American satirist provided us with outstanding entertainment and excellent information about the latest developments in U.S. policy and politics. Unfortunately, Stewart left The Daily Show in August. We made it through the first half-year of cold turkey withdrawal, but what do we do about the remainder of the election? Here’s a helping hand for you.

For Cynics

Get your head out, keep your knees up and off you go: Just relax and enjoy “The Trump Show.” To reassure your concerned friends, we recommend you take a look at election guru Nate Silver, who correctly predicted all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.) in Obama’s 2012 re-election. He just estimated — against all the other prognostications — that Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination were around 10 percent. Only cynics can win with this election, because if Trump really loses by such a margin, your pinch of sympathy up front will be repaid with the knowledge that your world view was right on target.

For Optimists

Rejoice in Bernie Sanders, an American politician who has traditionally represented genuine Social-Democratic positions. It’s scarcely believable that Sanders’s demands for affordable college education, a higher minimum wage and more taxes on the rich could ever gain traction with the political mainstream. But tens of thousands of young Americans flock to his campaign events where he regularly fills the nation’s gymnasiums.

For Anti-Americans

Come on, let’s be honest. What has Barack Obama done differently than his predecessors? Whether George W. Bush or Barack Obama was president, the National Security Agency spied on the world as it pleased. Atrocities were committed at Guantanamo, and human rights were violated. Foreign policy interests may no longer be carried out through “boots on the ground,” but come from killer drones in the sky that also kill thousands of innocent bystanders. You thought the Middle East could not get any more unstable? Wrong! The Iraq war has been replaced by a chaotic power vacuum in which the Islamic State and Bashar Assad call the shots.

And at home? A polarized Washington ensures political paralysis on an unprecedented scale because Republicans and Democrats are like two testosterone-overloaded alpha male stags with their antlers hopelessly interlocked. Cooperation? Yeah, right. One might think things have to go better under Obama, an African-American. What do we get? Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, the outing of America’s institutional racism and a wound that transects American society — a wound that can’t be healed.

For Academics

So, is Obama a failure? By no means. America’s first African-American president has changed his nation and its foreign relations like none of his predecessors were able to do. “Obamacare” just by itself means that for millions of Americans, the personal shock of being stricken by a serious ailment isn’t inevitably accompanied by financial ruin, not to mention better medical care as well. Where Europe destroys itself in the wake of a financial crisis, under Obama’s leadership the U.S. has weathered the global recession quite handily. The economy is functioning once again, new jobs are being created, and unemployment is at its lowest point since the beginning of the crisis. America is back, but not just back at home.

Against great odds, domestic industry and Congress have [led to] progress in negotiations with China in the area of climate change. Abandoning the absolutely unsuccessful isolationist policies against Cuba and Iran has resulted in cooperation. America’s erstwhile archenemies are now its trading partners. Did withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq result in chaos? Not at all! The waste of billions of dollars spent on military operations there only prepared fertile ground for terrorism and anti-Americanism, and certainly didn’t make the U.S. any more secure. In addition, Obama succeeded in bringing Osama bin Laden to justice. The thorn that was 9/11 doesn’t sit quite as deeply as it did.

For Strategists

Is it really so important who occupies the Oval Office? America’s reign as the world’s only superpower is long since history. Unimpressed by Washington’s threats, Putin ordered his “green men” to march into Eastern Ukraine. In Syria, he wages a proxy war against U.S. allies. The American air war against the Islamic State group remains almost totally ineffective.

In trade policy, the U.S. administration may well conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, but the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement with Europe has become bogged down. The charisma of the U.S. economy is no longer as attractive as it once was. Especially German citizens and small to mid-sized firms in Germany have decided that advancement of social standards and consumer protection laws should play a role alongside new incentives to transatlantic trade.

China is the new major player, and therefore we strategists need to keep our focus on the pinnacle of the Beijing power pyramid. The Communist nation proceeds to expand airfield runways on territorially disputed islands in the South China Sea. Economically, China has set the tone for all of Southeast Asia for some time now. And Europe is unable to counter its attraction. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, all were there when the Chinese launched the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite the U.S. government’s request not to do so.

For US Fans

Is the American eagle actually a toothless tiger? Not to worry. It has long since been shown that those who write off the U.S. with predictable regularity end up learning the same lessons over and over. America’s strength and power to influence continue unabated. That was recently demonstrated with the Iran nuclear deal, developed over several years under U.S. leadership. Intelligent diplomacy instead of reckless military action seems to actually have been the current theme of America’s foreign policy. But Washington’s prudence should not be mistaken for weakness. Militarily, the U.S. will be far and away the dominant force globally for decades to come. What’s important is how and where this power is used. And those are decisions made by the commander-in-chief in the White House.

For Activists

Do it again, Jon Stewart! More than 335,000 people have signed a petition asking to have Jon Stewart moderate one of the debates between the presidential candidates. Democrat Martin O’Malley and TV icon Larry King have expressed support for the idea. If it should happen, one almost wishes the Republicans would nominate Donald Trump. Other than that, Stewart’s latest announcement about a comeback should help. In 2016, he will be doing short takes on political happenings on various HBO platforms.

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