Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

What Germans Think of Barack Obama: Continuity We Can Believe In

by Joerg in Berlin Sat Jul 26th, 2008 at 06:19:19 PM EST

I agree with DoDo's conclusion from the Obama speech in Berlin:

The Obama campaign achieved its main goal: the media the world over is talking about cheering German crowds giving an enthusiastic welcome. On a closer look however, we get a more differentiated picture.

This differentiated picture also becomes obvious in the video clip below the fold: Interviews with attendees of the Obama speech, filmed by yours truly:

The total length of the first clip is 10:00 min. At 9:10 min, a German Fulbrighter explains why he is protesting against Obama's support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He wears an appropriate T-shirt.

Here's the second part (5 min)

What do you think of the opinions expressed by the interviewees?

Ben Heine, my colleague at Atlantic Community, concludes from these interviews:

The majority of Germans support Barack Obama for the US presidency, not because they believe he will radically change US policy, but because he is expected to return it to the familiar pre-Bush trajectory.

Is continuity what we want? Wasn't Obama all about change?
by Fran on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 08:25:15 AM EST
Throwing some thoughts out (ramble, ramble, ramble) ...

The campaign slogan 'Change you can believe in' is aimed at the domestic market.  After decades of Right Wing led 'Change' the government and economy just doesn't work for the average citizen.  The litany is well known: jobs shipped overseas, elimination of Civil Liberties, and etc., leading to a steady decline in economic wellbeing and a severe disruption in the socio-political compact.

Things have to 'change,' but the word has, to a certain extent, been privatized ;-).   Thus the additional qualifying phrase 'You Can Believe In' needs to be added.  This holds out the hopeful promise of actually making things better for the average citizen instead of the average International Corporations.

Along with this, when Obama talks about the 'Change' he intends he seems to be talking about changing back to the New Frontier or New Deal eras, a time a large plurality of Americans remember with fondness and regret.  It was during these times the US Federal government made substantial steps in, or at least efforts to, improving domestic conditions for US citizens.  Along with that, of course, was the creation of the military-industrial complex -- started under Roosevelt -- and the creation of US hegemony which, for a time (up until the mid-70s,) benefited the average citizen.  So, in a way, 'Change You Can Believe In' is tied-into the themes of American Exceptionalism and American Interventionism as both of those became predominate during the eras of prosperity as well.

Given the above, one begins to see Obama is not a Progressive Candidate but is more a Regressive, or (small 'r') reactionary candidate.  His appeal seems, to me, to based on a yearning by the US electorate to return to 'normal.'  

I suspect, but cannot prove, there is a certain amount of this going on in the EU as well.  It seems there is a longing on the part of some, political leaders especially, for the environment in which they grew-up, cut their teeth, and felt comfortable.  That is the era when 'change' meant 'minor modification.'  

Tying all this together - in an incoherent sort of way - Obama is talking about Change but he really means ignoring the last 8 years, or so, going back and picking up from there.  'Change' then means 'Continuity from a previous state.'  'Change' does not mean 'something completely different.'

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 09:30:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sort of like "Going back to the Future". :-)
by Fran on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 11:22:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Joerg in Berlin ((joerg.wolf [AT] atlanticreview.org)) on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 01:07:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Continuity or change to how things were before mean good or bad, depending of whether the step being undone was relatively bad or good.

After saying such a banality, let me state something also very simple, but that it seems to not be mentioned by anyone:

The american revolution may have represented an advance to the political regimes which existed in Europe in 1777, but the political clock hasn't stopped in Europe in the last 200 and something years.

So, what is the substance of this american leadership? Domination by numbers?

by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 11:35:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Until the end of the Cold War the substance was military power.  Since then interests have diverged and while the power remains, it is now more problematic for Europeans.  Most of those who were adults in 1990 have a considerable amount of brain structure in place that, on the whole, is favorable to US leadership, especially when it is properly addressed.  GWB has done much to diminish the effect of that substance, but I suspect that it, (i.e. brain structure embodied in specific people,) is the real substance of any future US leadership.  In order for an appeal to that substance to work, US leadership will also have to appeal to genuine universal values, not to bogus claims of American exceptionalism.

One thing is certain.  Any claims based on US economic strength and policies are now greatly diminished in power.  The bases of that strength is increasingly foreign owned.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jul 27th, 2008 at 02:57:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
with fondness and regret" :) Seriously?

How old is an American today who was even a teenager, say 15, during FDR's first and second term? This was the New Deal interregnum which congress effectively ended upon the recession of '37.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jul 28th, 2008 at 02:13:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Substitute "recalling," "hearkening back," "nostalgia for," "looking back with regret at," & etc. and so on then.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Mon Jul 28th, 2008 at 09:30:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. How about "recovered memory"? Reading a variety of academic historiographies has been instructive. Likewise, testments collected by Studs Terkel in Coming of Age, many of which gloss formative lessons of the Depression that propelled their life projects. Merle Hansen, 74 (in 1995) however is a provocative exemplar.

I grew up in the depression and really wanted to get off the farm. We were in real poverty. All I can remember is my father and mother struggling to make land payments, pay taxes, and hang on. But I appreciate farming. It's a wonderful place to raise a family. We don't own a lock on the door. We feel secure.

I was thinking this morning about the people around here being eliminated every day. About three-fourths of these farmsteads have been torn down, farmed over. In just the decade of the '80s, one-fourth of our country's farmers have been wiped out. For the first time, there are less farmers than there were before the Civil War. In 1945, we had six million farmers in the United States. Today we have about two million.
There's been two Americas, run not by generous people but by greedy, selfish ones. Even back in Revolutionary times, the Continental Congress at first rejected the Bill of Rights. We have to thank some farmers' uprisings, like Shays's Rebellion, where about ten people were killed. They said no, we've got to have basic rights. We can't be taxed out of our farms, out of our homes. Finally, the Continental Congress set up a country for white male property holders. Women didn't have a right to vote, blacks didn't, Indians didn't. It's been a struggle all the time to expand democracy.
I was about thirteen. My father was active in the Farm   Holiday Association. In 1928, he bought a garage in Newman Grove and was going broke. The group would meet in this garage. I'd go and liked to listen to these arguments.

One of the first actions of the association in October of '32 was to repossess a couple of trucks that the International Harvester Corporation had taken away from them. They just broke into the building and drove the trucks out. My dad was one of those people. The next day, they went up to a farm sale in Elgin, Nebraska. A widow woman with five children was being foreclosed. They were determined to stop the sale, so they set up a committee to do all the bidding. They were going to give this farm back to the woman free of mortgage. The total sale brought in $5.35. There were several thousand farmers that showed up.
Roosevelt called up Milo Reno. He said, "You got a revolution going on out there." Reno said, "Boy, I sure have." So Roosevelt went to Congress and said, "Listen, by God, you better do something because these farmers are revolting, tippingover trucks and hanging judges. You sure as hell better do something."

So it's interesting how changes are made. Some in the Roosevelt administration were sympathetic, like this guy, Tugwell [cf Schlesinger]. They come up with the idea of parity and nonrecourse loans . It was like a minimum wage for farmers. Parity is the relationship of what farmers buy with what they sell. Today, in the '90s, parity is even lower than when we had ten-cent corn and two-cent hogs. No price at all for sheep.

A lot of the reforms took the fire out of the protest. What triggered it off in the '30s was that it hit all the farmers at the same time. One of the reasons labor has more unity than farmers is because it happens to everybody in the factory at the same time. More recently, we've had ups and downs in agriculture. In certain areas, crops have been tolerable and acceptable, but in other things, farmers have been going broke pretty bad. Remember, the tractors went to Washington in 1977. I was among them. It was pretty bad then, but it's gotten much worse since. [Turkel, 124-126]

So you may imagine, I can't wait to crack open Hard Times: An oral history of the Great Depression.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Mon Jul 28th, 2008 at 03:22:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]