US elections: a German insight

AllemagneWhen Barack Obama became President in 2009, it seemed like the whole world was celebrating. He brought hope for change that caught fire beyond just America. Germans were there shouting his slogan, “YES WE CAN,” right along with enthusiastic Americans.

His ideas were indeed very European: his plans for a public healthcare system, solving international conflicts with diplomacy rather than boots on the ground – it was all music to German ears.

In 2016 at the end of his presidency, the enthusiasm in Germany has quieted down. However, he is still a very favorable president in the eyes of the majority of the population – even if it is not openly admitted.

The US has been an extremely important partner in trade, foreign policy and also historically as a promoter of democracy. Now the German Government is regarding the upcoming elections in the US very closely. Whoever enters the White House in 2017 will have huge consequences for the German-American partnership.The obvious successor to Obama on the Democratic side is Hillary Clinton. In Germany, she is seen as the safest candidate, who will destroy little of what the Obama Administration and Chancellor Angela Merkel have established – the Iran Deal, the fight against Climate Change, and collaboration in NATO affairs. Most importantly though, she has promised to welcome in over 65,000 of refugees to the US – a subject that has concerned Germany more than anything else in the past year.

“Radical Socialist” Bernie Sanders, as he might be called in his home country, is not so radical to Germans at all. A free education system? Already in place in Germany! Healthcare for all? Introduced in 1880’s. On the left side of politics, Bernie Sanders would definitely fit in. On some topics such as LGBT rights and a high minimum wage, Germany surprisingly still lags behind, which is why the young hipster community would, in the United States, support the 74 year old in his progressive ideas.

The common notion is that Germans can’t identify much with the Republican party – or can they?

Surprisingly, Republican candidate Donald Trump, whose ancestors actually came from a small town in Germany, draws a crowd which is growing in many countries in Europe. People afraid of the tumultuous and exponentially changing world order overshadowed by terrorism and redistribution of economic power see isolation as the only way out. While supporters of the AFD, a radical right-wing party in Germany, call for an exit from the EU, while Donald Trump pleads complete detachment from the rest of the world by building economic and quite literally geographical walls.

German Secretary of State, Frank Walter Steinmeier, warned against making “Politics of Fear.” “Building walls is a bad idea – no matter who pays for it,” he says, hinting at Trump’s plan to make Mexico pay for keeping immigrants out of the US. Good-hearted citizens, volunteering at numerous Refugee Shelters, would be outraged if Donald Trump took the Oval Office. To their own surprise though, he would veto the TTIP Agreement (against which they demonstrated loudly every weekend) and keep US-genetically modified corn off their plates.

by Pauline F.