American Views Abroad

Thursday, May 03, 2007
There's tremendous interest in the upcoming final French presidential election on Sunday. TV late evening news led with the long, rather vigorous debate between the two candidates yesterday as did radio news this morning. It isn't so much that Germans are taking sides as that they are curious how the French will vote. Will continental Europe actually be run by two women soon - two women who couldn't be more different in practically all ways starting with their political leanings? There is, however, no denying that seeing women in positions of power is uplifting in a subconscious way. What is even more interesting is how both of them managed to get to the top (or, at least, close to it). First and foremost, neither of them is rich or had to scrabble around gathering millions and millions of euros and there is no discussion about how the one with the most money has the best chance of winning. Compare this to the media frenzy in the US about how much money candidates rake in from fat cats or other donors indicates their chances of winning --- a slam dunk so to say. John R. MacArthur mentions this in I Deconstruct My Recent French Vote:

France's publicly financed campaigns remain remarkably unpolluted by plutocratic wealth, special interests and vote fraud. Strict limits on campaign spending and TV advertising ensure that the richest candidates or parties don't necessarily get the greatest amplification.
....So I had the luxury of voting intelligently for president of my maternal republic in a way that I'm almost never afforded in my paternal republic.

Germany too has strict limits on TV advertising and it is delightful to sit back and watch the handful of tiny parties, often with non-professional ads, fill up their designated five minute campaign time on national TV. No, they certainly haven't any chance of winning a seat, but they do have the feeling of getting their pitch out to the greater public. It certainly feels more like a democracy when the discussion isn't only about tons of money. One other thing can turn an American green with envy. They don't need to jump loops trying to register to vote. Information about where their polling station is, and if they so choose how they can very easily obtain an absentee ballot is sent in the mail. Since Germans are required by law to register whenever moving at a local office, they are automatically registered to vote.

One thing like noticed or mentioned in the press when Schroeder was being snubbed by Bush at the beginning of the Iraq war was how Schroeder grew up without a father in a very working class background, attended public schools and universities and became Chancellor without family wealth and influence. It's quite liberating that no one mentions (in Germany) what universities someone attended, for example.

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