November 5, 2012 at 10:00 AM
A European Perspective on the Presidential Race
Some Europeans say that they should be able to vote for President in the United States, because whoever gets elected has a huge impact on the whole world.
SHORELINE — How do people outside the United States perceive the election and the presidential candidates? Do they follow American politics? Specifically, do they follow presidential politics? I thought it might be interesting to get a glimpse of the outside point of view, so I asked. I spoke with my parents, who live in Finland and are very keen on the news and current events. I also asked my cousin to report what she observed from Belgium, where she’s lived for many years.
Let’s see what they had to say.
Brussels Historic Center
My cousin reads the Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, which recently analyzed both presidential candidates. According to my cousin, the paper listed some examples of what Belgians admire in the United States: the federal government and the government infrastructure in Washington D.C., innovation labs, U.S. universities, ethnic diversity, and culture. They dislike our federal budget problems and the financial crisis, inequality, military status (military industrial complex) and agricultural policy (super farms and GMOs).
The Belgian press follows the U.S. elections closely, but does not “endorse” a particular candidate. Belgians in general, however, are more closely aligned with the Democratic Party and its views regarding social policy and foreign relations. They find the current Republican Party with its extreme views distasteful.
Helsinki: Cathedral, National Library and University
A major Finnish newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat, devotes a whole page on its site to the U.S. presidential campaign with daily articles about new developments in the race.
My parents would both probably vote for Obama. My father tends to vote “conservative,” but in Finland that word means something different that in the United States: “individual freedom and responsibility, equality, Western democracy and economic system, humane principles and caring” (National Coalition Party). My mother is more flexible with her election choices, voting for a person whose qualities as a candidate she likes, regardless of party affiliation.
What my parents find difficult to understand, is how Americans have allowed religion to mix with politics, given the founding principles of separating church and state. They feel that it is divides people unnecessarily.