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"Obama Effect": increased diversity in global politics?

“Prejudice in Europe is more than skin deep”, writes Columbia University historian Mark Mazower in the Financial Times:
Europeans find it hard adjusting to a colour-blind world. Indeed their hesitancy is growing. In Austria, the extreme right carved out big gains in September’s general elections. Pope Benedict weighed in over the summer to warn against a possible resurgence of fascist values in Italy. Europe as a whole, according to recent polls, has become significantly more xenophobic over the past few years. Fears of Islamic terrorism and anxiety about globalisation have fed this trend. So has fervent anti-European Union sentiment, strongly correlated to populist anti-immigrant rhetoric. By contrast, Mr Obama’s story is that of the immigrant dream, a tale of upwardly-mobile success that cut decisively across race lines. Immigrant voters played a decisive electoral role in Mr Obama’s win, yet immigration – for all the prior public debate – figured little as a campaign issue.
It will be interesting to see if a black president in America will reverse the trend of rising xenophobia in Europe cited by Mazower.  Al Jazeera also poses an interesting question, "Will the 'Obama effect' encourage more diversity in global politics?"

See also from Atlantic Review:
* Five Reasons Obama Would not be Elected in Europe

Five Reasons Obama would not be Elected in Europe

Denis Boyles argues in the National Review that while the vast majority of Europeans are hoping Obama will be elected President of the United States today, he would not have a chance of success were he running to lead any European country. Boyles offers five reasons why:

1. “His tax policies are frightening,” in that they are too far left for Europe.
2. “His views on abortion are way too extreme for Europeans.”
3. “His lack of experience means trouble.”
4. “He’s in love with failed ideas.” Boyles calls Obama a “socialist romantic”, compares his policies to the EU Constitution, and then argues that the dream of Obama and all liberals is to have kids raised by the state – the first argument makes no sense and the second argument is simply not true.
5. “His name, incidentally, is Barack Hussein Obama. Sorry to save this for last, but the sad fact is a politician with Obama’s racial and ethnic background wouldn’t stand a chance in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, or anywhere else in the European Union no matter how charming his speeches were.”

Continue reading "Five Reasons Obama would not be Elected in Europe"

Understanding John McCain's Appeal to US Voters

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.

Continue reading "Understanding John McCain's Appeal to US Voters"

German Parliamentarians Criticized for US Trip

The Guardian

A German diplomat has criticised a group of Bundestag MPs over their behaviour on a recent visit to San Francisco, accusing them of using a racial slur and of choosing sightseeing and shopping above meetings with US counterparts. Rolf Schütte, the German consul general in San Francisco, wrote to the foreign ministry in Berlin to express his outrage. His confidential letter, which is furious and frank in tone, has been leaked to the German press and created a public debate about the legitimacy of publicly funded foreign political trips and whether they should be more tightly controlled.

One of several articles in the German press: Die Welt: USA-Dienstreise wird für Politiker zur Blamage

Correction of the Guardian article: Not a member of parliament, but a parliamentary staffer is accused of the racial slur.

"Germany's Intolerant and Militaristic Culture"

"Support for the far-right National Democratic Party quadrupled in local elections in the eastern state of Saxony on Sunday. In the village of Reinhardtsdorf-Schöna, one in four voters chose the NPD," writes Spiegel International.

Michael van der Galien of the PoliGazette blames Germany's culture for these election results. He also claims that most of his Dutch compatriots "basically believe that what happened in World War II was not an 'accident,' but a logical result of Germany's intolerant and militaristic culture."

Such accusations will not lead to more German troops for Afghanistan, more burden sharing within NATO or a higher defense spending, which have been long-standing demands by the United States and other NATO allies. Instead these accusations contribute to the dominant feeling among the majority of Germans that we should not participate in any wars on foreign soil anymore.

Well, the Dutch press -- in contrast to their US or Canadian counterparts -- has not called for more German troops for Afghanistan. I thought the reason was that they understand that there just is not enough support among the rather pacifist (a better term might be: "war-weary") German public. Though, perhaps van der Galien is right and "the Dutch" are really concerned about the next invasion by their xenophobic and militaristic neighbors and therefore they don't want the Germans to play a stronger military role in Afghanistan, but I doubt it. I think he exaggerates Dutch concerns regarding Germany.

"All Germans Are Racists"

I appreciate very much the many smart and insightful comments on Atlantic Review. (Thank you all!) Once in a while, someone leaves a stupid comment. Yesterday someone called Ahmed left such a comment on "Racism in Germany" posted in May 2006. His comment starts with "Racism in Germany is an inborn error, from which every German citizen suffers." I wonder whether Ahmed realizes that this statement is racist? The comment is so stupid that it is funny.

Conscience Rather Than Profits

Dialog International presents an example of civil courage "that we can all applaud. Johannes Lohmeyer, manager of the Holiday Inn in Dresden (Germany) wrote a letter to the leaders of the neo-Nazi NPD."

The manager conveys his astonishment that the NPD politicians would choose to book rooms at an American hotel. Then he tells them that they are not welcome on his premises. Hat tip to Bernd for pointing it out and to David for the translation on Dialog International.

Speaking of profits: You can support the Atlantic Review by starting your Amazon shopping with click on the link on our website. See black button in the column on the right.

UPDATE: The banner in the top right corner on this website is not a paid advertisement, but a link to an interesting transatlantic project. Check it out.

Swiss Right-Wing Party Wins

People who vote(d) for the Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei, SVP) probably consider it "civic" or simply conservative. But the international press (from the UK to South Africa to Israel to the U.S.) calls it what it is: "nationalist", "right-wing", "rightist", "far-right" or "anti-immigrant".

In national elections yesterday, the SVP received almost 29 % of all votes, gaining seven more seats in the Swiss parliament (according to projections). It has therewith established itself once more as the country's largest political group. The result came after an aggressive election campaign that many observers consider blatantly racist. One of the SVP's infamous, posters showed a black sheep being kicked from a Swiss flag by three white sheep; another one black hands grabbing Swiss passports. According to African News Switzerland The party was once ordered by a judge to remove a campaign video from its website: Footage had shown staged scenes of youth violence and pictures of foreigners juxtaposed with picture-postcard scenes of Switzerland, along with the message: “Heaven and Hell”. Continue reading "Swiss Right-Wing Party Wins"