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Belmont Club

Looking at the Election from the Outside In

November 5th, 2012 - 11:00 am

The mainstream media is still the major source news on America for foreigners. Andrew Bolt describes how the Australian Broadcasting Corporation presented Mitt Romney to its readers. He is characterized as slippery, deceitful, and vaguely crazy. If that’s all you read, that’s what you would think Bolt concludes: “It was an excellent hatchet job … This is not reporting, but pandering to prejudice.”

Michael Gurfinkiel describes the election coverage in France.

PARIS – During breakfast this morning, I listened to RTL, one of France’s major radio channels (my wife’s choice, not mine). There was a quick report on the impending U.S. presidential election.

“Yesterday, we followed Barack Obama’s campaign,” a young woman said. “Today we turn to Mitt Romney’s campaign.” All right. Except that “following Romney’s campaign” amounted, incredibly, to an interview with a certain Dr. Gordon, who explained that most Americans were grateful to President Obama for having introduced Obamacare. Especially those women who otherwise would have been deprived of any access to birth control. Some journalist at RTL then explained that Romney would abolish Obamacare. And the report was over.

Most people don’t really have a lot of time to spend on foreign news. Pity the poor Frenchman who must form his impressions from RTL.  He is left with the image of America as a country  in the dark ages; an overgrown ape of a nation whose bulging muscles are too large to control from a pea-sized brain.

This is view with variations is subtly dinned into people everywhere.  A poll  appears to conclude that almost everybody in Europe would vote for Obama. The proportions are especially interesting.

Austria: 93 % Obama, 7 % Romney
Belgium: 93 % Obama, 7 % Romney
Finland: 93 % Obama, 7 % Romney
France: 88 % Obama, 12 % Romney
Germany: 92 % Obama, 8 % Romney
Greece: 82 % Obama, 18 % Romney
Ireland: 86 % Obama, 14 % Romney
Italy: 87 % Obama, 13 % Romney

They are almost North Korea-like in their disproportion.

The problem is that Americans will probably elect Romney in a couple of days, possibly by a landslide.  This will cause no end of perplexity among foreign observers. They will scratch their heads. They will gnash their teeth. They will rush off to the nearest pub, or cafe or wine shop and calm their frazzled nerves.

The world is in peril. A superpower in the hands of an imbecile! Romney! Romney!

Andrew Bolt concludes that in the event of a Romney victory “ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] voters will be astonished – or convinced Americans must be mad, or even bad.”

When it breaks many Europeans are going to conclude that Americans have taken leave of their senses.

The primary purveyor of the notion that Americans are illiterate, backward, bloodthirsty religious fanatics are the US media outlets themselves, closely followed by Hollywood. They tirelessly tell the world how bad America is.  If all the information you had to form an opinion about America came from CNN, the BBC, the New York Times, the Guardian and Michael Moore you would think the North American continent looked like this.

There are any number of jokes told about the American ignorance of foreign places; but the ignorance runs both ways. There are probably a large number of “well informed” non-Americans who believe that Lincoln was a Democrat or that Nixon started the war in Vietnam.

And why would they not? It is not normally the business of people to know the histories of other countries. Add to this natural condition an insistent and insidious propaganda and you can see how most people can get the wrong idea.

But there’s probably another reason, beyond the sheer lack of information and cultural bias, for the persistent misrepresentation of America in news outlets overseas. It is conscious disinformation.

The idea of America, with its notions of small government and individualism — in addition to the physical outputs of the United States itself — are a competitor to other worldwide models: in particular to European social democracy, Islamism, and authoritarian economies like China.

It is an ideological threat and a market competitor. A strong America not only rivals with other economies, but provides a model against which their own establishments are judged. It cannot help but have that effect.

This effect is magnified during a world crisis or when America is doing well.  In European social democracy’s salad days it enjoyed a genuine popularity among its adherents. Then it was secure. But now it is falling apart and it is particularly vulnerable to other models which are succeeding. What has saved Europe over the past year, as it stumbled through a debt crisis, unparalleled unemployment and economic weakness, has been a similar weakness in America.

If Barack Obama had not made such a hash of the American economy; had he made even a half credible attempt to get out of the way of American enterprise, Europe would have faced an even greater threat of capital flight than it does today. It would have looked bad, very bad.

Obama objectively served the cause of European social democracy not only by openly admiring it and by copying it through Obamacare, but principally by being such a bumbler. The same incompetence made him similarly convenient to both to radical Islamism and to China. There is a saying that you should never complain if your opponent is making a mistake.

No wonder they like him. It is unnatural to hope  for your competitor to better himself. Rather you will cheer for whatever makes your competitor weaker.

None of this necessarily means that a Romney election will automatically bring about a renewed American ascendancy. However, it might.  An Obama re-election simply guarantees it won’t.

The potential danger that Romney represents is that he might be a perceptibly better president than Barack Obama. Not by a long margin of superiority, but perhaps just enough to make a difference. He may be a little better than the sad sacks who currently run France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Brussels.

There is a story told which illustrates the point. Two peaceful herbivorous dinosaurs were grazing on ferns when they spotted a T-rex coming over the hill for them. One of the plant eaters immediately lumbered away. The other herbivore cried out, “why are you running? You can’t outpace a t-rex!”

“No,” said the other, “but I can outrun you.”

And that captures the danger that Romney represents. He might not be able to outrun Ronald Reagan. But he might just outrun Europe. And that possibility alone, as they face the unresolved conflicts in the Eurozone, makes the potential of a Willard Mitt Romney victory a perilous one indeed.


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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