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Why does Europe love Obama? November 10, 2008

Posted by didacgp in Uncategorized.
Tags: , ,
 by Dídac Gutiérrez-Peris

Perhaps because he is a citizen of the world?

His last speech in Chicago was more than a “national” speech, and in Tiergarten, in Berlin, some months ago, he showed that he can mobilize people who are not necessarily American.

Do we like him because is not the typical “American hero” like McCain is? Because he seems like a political outsider in the United States, neither extremely linked to the Democratic Party, nor depending on being funded by lobbies?

Perhaps we like him just for more obvious things: he’s young, attractive, intelligent, fascinating, a good speaker and he promises a change from the most unpopular American administration in history.

I’ve even heard that we like him because is black, and us Europeans, even during the 60’s and the 70’s, we are proud to show the world how we are more tolerant than the United States. Important American artists and political personalities, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., who were excluded at home, were in fact stars in the Old Continent. We Europeans, we like to think that this high degree of tolerance is still there, even though everybody knows that it disappeared years ago, with the waves of immigration to Europe that began in the 90s and which led to increasing feelings of xenophobia.

But perhaps the most important reason why Europe loves Obama is that he represents something that Europeans want but are not able to reach. I think that’s the point. We see in him a “European” without him being one.


Obama represents Europe’s greatest wishes

Europe would like to speak with one strong and respected voice, moving the world to fight against the climate change and poverty. Obama does this. Europe’s greatest wish is to some day be a leader able to fight around the world for its values (democracy, human rights, justice, economical development, pacifism). Obama does this. Europe’s biggest hope is to build an international system where multilateralism and the power of ideas will always be stronger than military power and unilateral acts.

Eight years of Bush’s Administration have shown how Europe is not ready at all to accomplish the hard task of being leader of the world. Unfortunately, we have shown that we are not ready to replace even a leader more worried about his internal problems (as United States did during the Bush Administration) than about the world. Europeans have definitively shown their lack of unity and their weak capacity to produce hope and courage among their citizens.

Why does Europe love Obama? It is not difficult to answer: it’s simply because he represents our failure as Europeans to play an important role in the international arena. Because he represents the future, and not the past. Because with just a strong political discourse and the power of rhetoric he can produce record-breaking participation in the election, while Europeans politicians provoke exactly the opposite.

One united country speaking with one voice, an international reputation and the power of ideas: that’s Obama, as well as the European dream.



1. Camille L. - November 11, 2008

I agree that Europe has very high expectations for Obama, but I will not be so pessimist about Europe’s situation. What I personnally like in Obama are his multiple experiences in Hawai, Kenya, Indonesia, Chicago, New York, DC… (for more info, read Dreams from my father, a good book though sometimes a bit annoying). I think Europeans feel Obama is not just American but a citizen of the world, as you put it, or he is, as Justin Vaisse puts it, “a mirror of Europe”, of what Europe would like the world and them to be. And the project of letters of the European Foreign ministries show how much they want to work with him. Hopefully we won’t be too disappointed by our high expectations.
Ref : Justin Vaisse, l’Europe au miroir d’Obama, Fondation Robert Schuma, Question d’Europe n°116, 3 Nov 2008 (unfortunately just in French)

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