A not so disguised “endorsement” for President Obama
In 1994, Germany’s incumbent federal chancellor, Helmut Kohl, was in trouble. General elections loomed, and his challenger, a social democrat, was leading in the polls. East Germany would be blooming, Kohl had promised four years earlier, in the 1990 general elections, the first after German reunification. But in 1994, the five new federal states were anything but blooming. There was some disappointment in West Germany, because it had become clear that the road to a blooming East Germany would be long – and costly for West Germans not least. The East Germans were probably even more disappointed – the 1990 elections had been their first free elections on the national level ever since the Weimar Republic, and these first four years with a all-German parliament had taught them a number of disillusioning lessons about election promises.
On October 16, 1994, the Kohl coalition government won the Bundestag elections by a narrow margin anyway. Compared with the 1990 elections,chancellor Kohl’s christian democrats lost 2.2 percentage points in former West Germany, and 3.3 percentage points in former East Germany. But this still proved a stable majority for another four years.
Many observers had considered Kohl politically dead in 1989. He had been chancellor for seven years by then, and change was in the air. Then came the fall of the Berlin Wall. The way Kohl handled the aftermath, especially reunification talks with America, the USSR, Britain, and France, brought him back. The surprise was that in 1994, after he had been in office for twelve years, people, even if fed up with him, gave him another chance.
Contrary to Americans (and French people, probably), Germans are (sometimes shockingly, maybe) patient when it comes to politics. Four years are considered a short time for things to grow in my country. Many Germans probably agree that to cap a political chief executive’s maximum time in office to eight years would make a lot of sense – but to change the direction of politics every four or eight years wouldn’t necessarily make as much sense – unless a government turns out to be quite a disaster. Even as the going got tough under Helmut Schmidt, in 1976, his social-democrat/liberal coalition was confirmed, even if only narrowly. In 1980, it was confirmed with an even bigger majority – and times had become still tougher in the meantime. Unemployment had risen to unprecedented levels in post-war Germany, but justifiably or not, Germans gave Schmidt’s government credit for what they saw as a still better situation than the one found elsewhere in Europe. In the end, it wasn’t the voters who finished his government – it was the social democrats’ coalition partner, in 1982. Kohl replaced Schmidt, and remained in office for sixteen years, before a majority of German voters decided that his government had become useless. When the shift came, it came swiftly, and with a clear majority for the opposition parties.
In its September 1 issue, The Economist – no friend of “big government” – graded Barack Obama as follows:
More details here »
The Obama administration’s marks in the field of industrial policy, according to the Economist’s report card, indicate maximum failure. In short, saving Detroit alone isn’t an industrial policy after all. It’s just crisis response. But then, I can’t even imagine Mitt Romney‘s industrial policy. “Buying American” isn’t one, either. However, taking cases to the WTO is still better than branding China, or any other global manufacturing competitor, a “currency manipulator” at a time when it makes less sense than any time previously in more than a decade.
Maybe Obama’s core problem is the messiah-like status he had reached in 2008 – naturally, he wouldn’t live up to that image. Another problem may be that he hasn’t sufficiently “reached out” to the Republicans when it came to Obamacare. But then, Obamacare was pretty much Romneycare. If that couldn’t satisfiy even a single Republican on Capitol Hill, one may wonder how Romney should convince them – chances are that as a president, he would only be able to deal with Congress once there is a Democratic majority, say,
after 2012 after 2014.
I don’t know how the American people will decide on November 6. But I do know what I would do. I’d vote for Obama, and for Democratic candidates for Congress. Yes, a president needs to show leadership. But it seems to make no sense to me to build a tea party into any presidential term, be it a Democrat’s or a Republican’s presidency.