Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Democracy has returned"

Stefan Kornelius writes a commentary on the election in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeiting titled Amerika hat sich neu erfunden (America has invented itself anew) 05.11.2008.

Even though I know it's there at times, I'm still surprised when Europeans express almost starry-eyed admiration for American democracy. For all their Old World cynicism, they still can look at America as a symbol of a hopeful future.

But it's not the American brand of "turbo-capitalism" or "killer capitalism" they admire. And certainly not our nineteenth-century approach to public services. A spokesman for conservative party in Spain just made a statement saying that Obama was even more conservative than they are. With our Bircherized Republicans here are saying Obama is a socialist, when their own Party just carried out the largest nationalizations of private businesses ever done outside the Communist world, the Spanish conservatives are trying to gain points by identifying themselves with Obama - and at the same time reassuring people they're not that conservative.

And it's not that people look at America as constantly being an current example of how to practice democracy. The US couldn't qualify to be a member of the European Union, because there are too many democratic deficits in our system: the Supreme Court deciding the 2000 election, the massive voter-suppression efforts, the politicized Justice Department making blatantly partisan prosecutions, the fact that the President got away with eight years on the assumption that he didn't have to obey the law or even the Constitution under Dick Cheney "Unitary Executive" theory, the excessive independent power of the military. We don't meet the EU's minimum standards for a stable democracy.

But the Jacksonian brand of democracy represented by the movement that elected Obama, that Europeans do admire.

Kornelius writes in his column (my translation):


The 44th President of the USA [Obama] had made history before he even took office. There are few Christmases that feature so much emotionality, so much genuine and deeply rooted relief and joy. America is freed from a burden. The country on the morning of November 5 wakes up in the knowledge that it has renewed itself, that it has made the most radical change in its recent history - and that know innumerable chances will open for internal healing and for reconciliation with the world.

Barack Obama is an exceptional politician for a very unusual time. ... Obama didn't sell a political program, he brought America to itself and promised the most important political product there is: hope. Hope is what America needs most.

Because that is the real great achievement of the new President: not he himself, it's not Barack Obama that stands in the middle point of the campaign. It was America that rediscovered its political calling. America experienced the politicizing of an apathetic voting public, and democracy has returned to a country that was filled with doubt. "Yes we can!" is not only a campaign slogan. "Yes we can!" is a wake-up call for a nation experiencing its own downfall.

... America has invented itself anew. Now the world awaits the new President.
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