The Economist has a good cover story about John McCain and explains quite well why Americans might elect him as president. It is a good summary for the average reader, who is not a news junkie.
Such an analysis is missing in the commentary of a Washington correspondent with the German public broadcaster ARD: Anna Engelke fails to understand McCain's appeal. Instead she makes a list of problems for McCain (his age, the bad shape of US economy, high debts and deficit, two wars) and concludes that a skilled politician like Barack Obama has to lead in the polls, if you take a "sober look at it."
She mentions only two reasons why Obama does not have a strong lead in the polls: It might be partly due to his inexperience, but it is primarily due to his black skin. Engelke opines that Obama would win this election "with the utmost probability," if he were white.
And then she mentions that cab driver in Denver and that 80 year old in Houston, i.e. the (un)typical characters some journalists like to use as reference for their arguments, when they are too lazy to look up opinion polls or interview experts. Anna Engelke's commentary is titled "Latenter Rassimus bei US-Wahl" (Latent Racism Could Decide US Election).
Sure, racism does exist in the United States and opinion polls do not reflect racist sentiments accurately, because Americans do not want to appear racist, but: A politician like Obama probably would not have much of a chance to be elected chancellor. Yes, latent racism could decide the US elections, but so can a dozen other factors. Engelke's failure to consider those other factors shows once again the lack of understanding among Germany's correspondents in the United States. Watch the video statement by Rüdiger Lentz of German TV in Washington:
In US presidential elections, Europeans tend to overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate. Yet, Europe misplaced its bets in both 2000 and 2004. The qualities that Europeans value in a US president are not the same ones that matter to Americans. Europe should tone down its expectations, and come to terms with the possibility of another GOP presidency.
It would be great if German journalists would read the Economist and travel across the United States rather than stay at the East and West coasts. Hm, perhaps they do that already, but do not dare to ask too much of their readers by making complicated arguments and therefore talk about race?
Anna Engelke's commentary was published on the website of Germany's premier TV news program Tagesschau, which has recently also published an article by Michael Castritius (German, English) explaining the success of Jamaican sprinters at the Olympics with the history of slavery: Only the strongest men and women were taken from Africa to the new world. Only the strongest survived this hellish journey. Then they gained strong muscles working on the sugar plantations and the owners made them have sex with each other, says Castritius. Therefore Jamaican sprinters are now winning Olympic gold medals. If think it is not necessary to point out the many flaws in this line of argument to our smart readers. Via Spreeblick.
What's going on over at Tagesschau.de? Why this strange focus on race? Why don't they feature only sound analyses like The Economist?