The past few weeks have given American news junkies more election analysis than anyone could possibly ask for. But Americans aren’t the only ones following the election, and the foreign press is filled with analyses and prognostications of its own. Putting aside their predictive power, these can be a useful guide to how other countries view American politics. With this in mind, a collection of pieces in German weekly Der Spiegel give us a sense of how the Germans see the election. The results are…interesting.In an article headed “Destroyed by Total Capitalism,” Jakob Augusten makes the case that regardless of who comes out on top this evening, capitalism will continue its devastation of America:
Anyone who sees this as a contradiction has failed to grasp the fact that America is a country of total capitalism. Its functionaries have no need of public hospitals or of a reliable power supply to private homes. The elite have their own infrastructure. Total capitalism, however, has left American society in ruins and crippled the government. America’s fate is not just an accident produced by the system. It is a consequence of that system.Obama couldn’t change this, and Romney wouldn’t be able to either. Europe is mistaken if it views the election as a choice between the forces of good and evil. And it certainly doesn’t amount to a potential change in political direction as some newspapers on the Continent would have us believe.
And not only is America being ravaged by capitalism; it is in decline as well. The Spiegel cover story this week argues that America is quickly, and possibly irreparably, losing its status as an important global power. To back up its case, the magazine looks at the decline of American trains and pavement and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy:
Large parts of America’s biggest city and millions of people along the East Coast could now be forced to survive for days, possibly even weeks, without electricity, water and heat. Many of the backup generators intended for such emergencies didn’t work, so that large hospitals had to be evacuated. On the one hand, these consequences of the storm point to the uncontrollability of nature. On the other hand, they are signs that America is no longer the great, robust global power it once was.Europeans who make such claims have always been accused of anti-Americanism. But now Americans themselves are joining the chorus of those declaring the country’s decline. “I had to catch a train in Washington last week,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, whose columns are read worldwide, wrote last April. “The paved street in the traffic circle around Union Station was in such poor condition that I felt as though I was on a roller coaster. I traveled on the Amtrak Acela, our sorry excuse for a fast train, on which I had so many dropped calls on my cellphone that you’d have thought I was on a remote desert island, not traveling from Washington to New York City. When I got back to Union Station, the escalator in the parking garage was broken. Maybe you’ve gotten used to all this and have stopped noticing. I haven’t. Our country needs a renewal.”
So regardless of who wins, America is toast. Naturally, it will be worse if Romney wins: in a bold display of non-partisanship, Der Spiegel sat down with Madeleine Albright to get a completely unbiased view of Romney’s foreign policy abilities:
I do not think Americans feel that the US is in decline. We are still a “beacon of hope,” a country that accepts diversity in a way that other countries do not. There is no other country like that; we are exceptional. We see demagogical campaigning by Governor Mitt Romney, saying that America is not as strong as it once was. But that simply unmasks his shallow and misguided understanding of foreign policy. President Obama has highlighted again and again that, in a more multi-polar world, America is stronger in partnership with growing powers.
Perhaps this all makes more sense to a German audience. And fortunately, the European Union is managing its affairs so brilliantly that our friends overseas have plenty of time to pick over our many faults.