European View of US Politics today
Europe and USA, two continents, two identities with so many different points of view. European vision of the United States may be very different from the one envisioned from the other side of the ocean. It’s worth to put a frame on a basis of American democracy, in order to better understand it, by having a quick vision on the one document that stands above all.
The U.S. Constitution, a relatively simple document, is the self-designated “supreme law of the land”, and since it was first adopted, its basic principles remain the same now, as it was in early 1787.
The three main branches of Government are separate and distinct from one another. The powers given to each are delicately balanced by the powers of the other two, and each branch serves as a check on potential excesses of the others; and although being each one independent on the other two, there’s a partial interweaving of their functions.
At the federal level the three powers are divided as follows:
• legislative power in the Congress of the United States, consisting of the House of Representatives and the US Senate, elected every four years in congressional elections.
• executive power to the federal Government, composed of the President of the United States, elected every four years in presidential elections, the Vice-President and the Cabinet.
• judiciary power by the federal courts, the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Numbers to understand
One thing is clear: most Europeans think America’s political influence in the world was quite negative over the past few years, but also say it has taken a sharply positive turn since Barack Obama’s first election as 44th U.S. President on November 5th, 2008.
The most downbeat country was Greece, where 88% of respondents said U.S. political influence was either “negative” or “very negative”. Other countries, including the Netherlands (80%), Switzerland (80%) and Belgium (78%) also had predominantly negative views of American political influence, even if some countries were less negative than others.
Thirty-two percent of Romanian respondents said U.S. political influence was negative, the lowest level in the survey. Bulgaria (40%) and Poland (41%) were close behind. The largest share of positive votes in this category came from U.K, a historical ally of the U.S., (19%), trailing the category, with “positive” or “very positive marks”.
Countries in Central and Eastern Europe have tended to be more pro-American than other parts of the globe in recent years.
Many cite the U.S. as a positive force against a resurgent Russia, which shrouded the region under Communist rule only a generation ago.
Europeans are even more optimistic about Mr. Obama’s presidency than Americans. In Belgium and Sweden, 84% of respondents believe America’s political influence in the world will change in “positive” or “very positive” way as a result of Mr. Obama ‘s election. In Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, 82% of respondents gave the same answer (while in the U.S., only 61% of those surveyed gave a ”positive” or “very positive” reply). Elsewhere in western Europe, Greece (59%), Spain (63%) and France (68%), gave the same reply about U.S. political influence since Mr.
Obama’s election, showing that while most of the world sees the new U.S. President in a positive light, countries aren’t uniformly elated. Many of the countries that had a less negative view of U.S. political influence over the past five years were among the least enthused about Mr. Obama’s presidency. In Poland, 45% of those surveyed said Mr. Obama’s election marked a “positive” or “very positive” change in U.S. political influence. Romania (47%) and Bulgaria (48%) were close behind. Russia led this category, with only 27%, saying Mr. Obama’s election marked a ”positive” or “very positive” change. This result could be skewed, however, since 32% of Russians surveyed gave no answer to the question, by far the highest level among the countries polled. In Central and Eastern European countries, the response to Obama has been a little less positive, but on the whole, the “Obama effect” is very “noticeable”.
Vision through lens
A little over seventy years since the end of World War, sixty-five from the first European Community, more than a quarter century since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Atlantic ties are less stringent than in the past. The American dream has not existed for a while in Europe: young people of the old continent see the United States as an opportunity among many, certainly not the best ever, as it has been in several generations of ancestors. The general perception is that in Europe there is now more democratic status than in the United States, a state with less crime, a more humane society where, to name a few, people do not circulate armed and there is no death penalty, there is less racism, the public health system assists the needy, the reception policy for migrants is more generous, to name a few.
In general, Europe seems to be a more open society, with less social discrimination: in short, “European welfare society as well as the United States of warfare company” or, in the words of a creative American political scientist, Robert Kagan, Europe and America as Venus as Mars. But, the other side of the coin is, Europeans still want and need military protection and nuclear umbrella from the US. Consequently, they put their foreign and security policy, while embellishing the autonomist ambitions and irenic presumptions, in the wake of big sister America, being de facto criss-cross linked.
As presidential elections are getting closer, Europeans are now looking at U.S. and both candidates with a great deal of interest, being aware that the results will affect the old continent, on both a political and, therefore, economic point of view.
The nomination of Hillary Clinton seems, seen from Europe, the more balanced. It has a strong sense of realism and is placed in the " possible. " It is all in the contradictions and unresolved injustices of American society, beginning with those that touch most of the blacks and still too many women. It embodies a moderate foreign policy and not adventurist, but which intends to start to show the required muscles, too. Also, due to the complexity of American society, main issues will include proposing the themes dear to the middle class, white collar and young educated.
Her counterpart, Trump, a real estate mogul turned-politician, but also a television personality, is known for his unconventional methods, and for thinking outside the box, but who’s gaining more and more attention, making illegal immigration his top cause, fixing his attention on free trade agreements he believes are unfair, which had given to him particular support among blue collar voters, as well as voters without college degrees. Many of his remarks have been highly controversial, and have helped his campaign garner extensive coverage by the mainstream media, with the globally-known slogan “Make America Great Again”.
It will only take a few months to discover who will sit on the White House’s Oval Room, and Europe, and European heads of State are ready to welcome U.S. President nr. 45 on the other side of the ocean.
E Pluribus Unum. Source : Luigi Troiani – march 5th, 2016 – Teacher of History and International Relations and EU Policies at the Angelicum in Rome.
Article Authored by Sonia Russo, firstname.lastname@example.org