Does anybody remember what regular news looks like?
There are only two days left in a campaign season whose length has approximated the gestation period of an African elephant, and personally, I’m thrilled. Aside from the fact that the events of the past six months have slowly eroded distinctions between real life and The Jerry Springer Show — see here, here, here, and here — to be frank, it’s getting a bit boring seeing photos of campaign rallies on the covers of The Times and The Post (Washington, that is) every morning. My sense is that most people seem to feel the same way. The cast of SNL have replaced their subjects as media darlings, and unless Obama actually makes an announcement like this one, I’m predicting there aren’t going to be any dealbreakers between today and Tuesday. So rather than write about Sarkozy’s prank call to Sarah Palin, Obama’s illegal immigrant aunt, or any of the other microstories floating around the blogosphere, I’d rather take a look at what the rest of the world is thinking.
Within the European media, this weekend’s major issue is the concern that Obama could still lose. In Germany, Der Spiegel has decided to celebrate the election with an issue about the decline of the American empire, complete with a slideshow of embarrassing Bush photos and an assessment of US politics that betrays a kind of fascination ordinarily reserved for rare insects. On the other end of the optimism spectrum, The Guardian published a rather rosy-cheeked op-ed about what Obama’s rise says about European politics (Europe, unlike the enlightened U.S., is not ready for a black president) and El País ran an opinion piece about the ways in which Obama is a post-racial candidate. Regardless of whatever Esquire thinks, it’s not because three out of four neo-Nazis support Obama.
Outside of Europe, many of Obama’s biggest supporters can be found on the far side of the Pacific, where a Japanese town serendipitously named Obama has been whipped into a political (and commercial) frenzy over the past several months. As The New Yorker‘s Dana Goodyear observed, while Obama was best known for its “temples, mackerel, and lacquerware” 18 months ago, it has now emerged as the Japanese epicenter of Obamamania, and it has the Obama-branded bean cakes to prove it.
Another bastion of foreign support is Kenya, which has enjoyed international attention as the candidate’s fatherland, and still is home to many of his relatives. Over the past year, a slew of reporters have made the pilgrimage to rural Kenya to visit Obama’s grandma, who last saw him in 2006 and now keeps a lifesized cardboard cutout of him in her living room. As Slate‘s Andy Isaacson observes, Kenya’s support of Obama is tied into the idea that he is the country’s prodigal son, and as such, he will alleviate Kenya’s most crippling problems like unemployment and HIV. This belief is so deeply ingrained in the Kenyan mentality right now that there’s no room for dissent, a fact reflected in the recent deportation of an author set to publish an anti-Obama book.
But Japan and Kenya are exceptions. Recent polls have shown that China and Latin America tend to have little interest in who wins the U.S. election and are more concerned with economic issues, which they don’t believe will change regardless of who’s president. In India, however, people are thinking differently. From The Hindu, here’s a really interesting op-ed about why business leaders support McCain. Siddharth Varadaraja has summarized the argument as follows:
President Bush might have launched a disastrous war in Iraq and may be responsible for unleashing a financial tsunami across the world through his promotion of unregulated capitalism but at least he was “good for India.” And of the two presidential contenders, they say, Mr. McCain is most likely to continue pursuing a strategic partnership with India, even if his other foreign policy moves generate tension between the U.S. and major powers like Russia and China.
In contrast, Mr. Obama is seen as less likely to treat India as a special partner. His lukewarm support for the civil nuclear initiative, his successful attempt in the Senate to limit the amount of nuclear fuel India can receive under the Hyde Act, his advocacy of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and his critical remarks on outsourcing are all cited by strategic analysts as evidence that an Obama presidency might lead to a return to the equivocation of the Clinton era.
Apparently Obama’s socialism doesn’t extend to nuclear materials. Perhaps, in spite of the protests of liberal Europeans, it’s sometimes a good thing that the presidential vote is only proffered to American citizens. To close, here’s a feature from Al Jazeera asking leaders and experts from all across the world what message they would like to give to the incoming U.S. president. The overarching theme seems to be anything but more of the same. Also, Arundhati Roy suspects that whoever the next U.S. president is, they will most likely be a fascist.