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UCPH experts examine US election `magic´

As the US election day approaches fast, the University Post has a conversation with two experts on US politics from the University of Copenhagen. This election is all about diversity, they argue. But compared to 2008, this election is still a bit of a downer

With a week to go before the big American presidential showdown, two experts from the University of Copenhagen talk to the University Post about what we can expect, and how it matters to us in Europe.

Russell Duncan and Joe Goddard teach and research American politics. We met them at their Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies to analyse the Mitt Romney-Barack Obama showdown.

What is interesting about the upcoming US election?
Russell: There are particular things about this election which are interesting; many of them hark back to four years ago when Barack Obama used ‘magic’ words like hope and change. These inspired the world and helped give him a Nobel peace prize, even though he is one of the most aggressive war presidents we’ve ever had.

Fruition of American diversity at last

We have two men, whose fathers were born outside the United States. Romney’s in Mexico and Obama’s in Kenya. They are the ‘other’ in many ways. We’ve got a black man and a Mormon.

So the election is different. In many ways it has to do with the amount of money that was released by the Super-PACS [political action committees that fund candidates, ed.] and also by the demographic changes in the United States. We’ve probably already got a ‘brown [non-white, ed.] majority’ nation , although it doesn’t vote yet, because there are so many kids who haven’t gotten to be 18.

Joe: Certainly it is a special election in that it showcases diversity and not just between Romney and Obama but also the people who ran for the republican nomination. There is tremendous diversity among these candidates and for some reason there is perhaps a movement towards the fruition of American diversity showing itself. It is perhaps an interesting continuation, A few weeks back Romney’s wife talked about Obama’s elections in 2008. She said that now it was possible for an African American to be elected president, a Mormon could be too.

Outside US: Obama a clear winner

From a global perspective, considering the economic situation right now and the idea of America as a superpower, what would be the effect on the rest of the world?

Joe: There wouldn’t be a tremendous difference between two of them

Russell: They are both in line with the traditions of US foreign policy. The world is generally happy with who they have, i.e. Barack Obama. I don’t believe that they really want to change that. China is in support of Obama and in Scandinavia; I couldn’t imagine people wanting to vote for anyone but Obama, obviously.

(A snap online poll current on for example has nine out of ten supporting Obama)

The ‘Messiah’ disappoints

What would be the effect on Denmark?
Joe: I am not sure it’ll make a great deal of difference to Denmark as the US and Denmark have been allies and friends for so long. There is unlikely to be a change in US foreign policy towards Denmark.

Would it change the opinion of Danish people towards America?
Russell: Danes are pragmatists who follow the leader. As long as the [Danish, ed.] government decides we are going to do this, the Danes will comply. And even though many of the Danes dislike Romney, they respect democracy,

Joe, you are offering a course on the elections this semester at University. Do you think Danish students are interested in American politics?
Joe: Danes have become more interested in the elections than say going back 8-12 years ago, there is so much information out there and is also quickly and easily accessible.

Russell: I don’t think they are as interested as they were four years ago, when Obama defied gravity. His win was outside scientific reason. The election is a downer this year because of the choices they have. Obama is the best that the Democratic Party can put forth. He is a corporate democrat and not a populist democrat. And by being a corporate democrat, he upholds too many institutions that he cannot reform. He got health care passed, he got equal pay passed, but this focus on unemployment issues and trying to get employment issues put through, he compromised a bit too much. He defied gravity on one hand and compromised on the other. How did that happen? This is the messiah!

The non-closure of Guantanamo bay and the war in Afghanistan are also failures.

Outcome still uncertain

Will it be a shock if Romney wins?
Russell: Around the world people expect Obama to win, there are very few places that people don’t expect Obama isn’t going to win.

Joe: But looking at the early voting and the TV debates, the elections seem to be equally balanced. We have to watch each individual state to know for certain.

The US election will be held November 6th.

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