November 6, 2012 | New York Daily News

If Only France and Germany Were in the Electoral College

The rest of the world adores Obama, but it shouldn't matter when Americans go to the polls
November 6, 2012 | New York Daily News

If Only France and Germany Were in the Electoral College

The rest of the world adores Obama, but it shouldn't matter when Americans go to the polls

As they vote for President, Americans are not thinking that much about the world. But the world is certainly thinking about them.

Nervous Europeans, Africans, Asians, Latin Americans — people everywhere — will be glued to their television sets until the wee hours tomorrow in hopes that Barack Obama will be re-elected President of the United States.

This anticipation is hardly unusual. The U.S. is the world’s sole superpower, and its decisions have global impact. What’s also not surprising is that the “international community” is lock step behind the re-election of Obama.

A BBC World Service poll released last month found that, among 22,000 people surveyed in 21 countries, an average of 50% support Obama’s reelection, while only 9% support Republican challenger Mitt Romney. On the European continent, 90% of people support Obama, according a poll commissioned by the British firm YouGov.

Obama’s supporters regularly tout such polls as prime facie evidence that he is the better person to lead the United States. Such claims are most often heard among the younger, more cosmopolitan, and wealthier cohorts that can afford overseas travel, and are particularly sensitive to foreign perceptions of the United States. It can be tempting to be swayed by these global attitudes. But the presidential election should not be a global popularity contest.

America is an exceptional nation. It was founded on a set of ideals — individual rights, freedom, the separation of church and state — by people who fled Europe. And unlike in Europe, membership in “the nation” that is America is not predicated upon blood. Anybody can become an American.

Indeed, in my travels, I’ve met many “notional” Americans; people who have never stepped foot on our soil but have felt, from a very early age, destined to become Americans. This, more than any other quality, is what makes America not only exceptional, but great.

It also distinguishes America from every other country on Earth. As does America’s free enterprise system, which many around the world see as rapacious and cutthroat, but which has nevertheless been the engine of the world economy for seven decades.

Global prosperity depends upon it. And our status as global superpower — something that America did not seek and only reluctantly accepted — is unique in that it has not been achieved via conquest and exploitation, as was the case for empires of old, but through consensual alliances.

So it should come as little surprise that many people around the world don’t understand the United States, and why their views on the American election could be so dramatically off-kilter when compared to the people actually voting in it. Here in Berlin, where Obama took the unprecedented step in 2008 of addressing a foreign crowd while in the midst of a presidential campaign, there is a uniformity of opinion on the presidential race that is, frankly, creepy: Gallup International found that 97% of Germans support Obama’s re-election. Most Germans cannot fathom how any sensible person could vote Republican.

Oftentimes, the reasons why foreigners so overwhelmingly prefer Democrats to Republicans are at cross purposes with what many Americans would consider our own national interests. Much of the world, for instance, says that it wants to see a less militarily powerful U.S., naively thinking that this would lead to a more peaceful world — and they support Obama because his rhetoric and actions suggest that he agrees with them.

Interestingly, the only country in which more people support Romney than Obama is Pakistan. (Though both the number expressing an opinion, 25%, and Romney’s margin of victory, 14% to 11%, are negligible). The reason for Obama’s unpopularity there is likely due to the fulfillment of the promise he made in 2007 to authorize raids into Pakistan to kill terrorists. Most Americans are supportive of the drone strikes Obama has since ordered, not to mention, obviously, his skillful dispatch of Osama Bin Laden from this earth. Yet drone strikes are enormously unpopular in nearly every single country polled.

While Republican claims that Obama is a European-style socialist are exaggerated, Europeans certainly see him as being closer to one of their own. Given the massive economic crisis facing Europe, which has inevitably arisen as the result of unsustainable social welfare programs and demographic decline, Americans are right to ask whether our European friends are really the best judges of economic management.

The generous European social welfare states so beloved by American liberals, moreover, have in large part been funded by the US, either directly through the Marshall Plan, indirectly via the American-funded defense umbrella (which obviated the need for Europeans to spend on their own militaries), or more holistically by the global economic growth driven by our free market, entrepreneurship-driven economy.

Finally, much European support for Obama owes itself to the import of his African-American heritage, which can be seen in the praise that America has shown “progress” by electing a black man President. This is a fine sentiment, and one shared by most Americans, regardless of party. But it is somewhat patronizing coming from people who will almost certainly not elect a racial minority president anytime in the near future. Not a Turk in Germany, not an Algerian in France, and not a Moroccan in Spain will become president or prime minister in the next 50 years.

None of this is meant as an endorsement of Mitt Romney. It’s just a plea that Americans rely on their own unique, innate wisdom on election day, that same innate wisdom which, through times good and bad, have ensured America place as humanity’s last, best hope.

Kirchick, based in Berlin, is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.