ACADEMIA SUPERIOR — Future Research Institute is already tackling the issues of tomorrow, and therefore discusses on the day before the US presidential election with Eugen Freund on the political system in America, its assessment of the election and the potential impact of perhaps the world’s most important poll.
USA connoisseur Eugen friend
With Eugen Freund, ACADEMIA SUPERIOR has invited a true America-expert: Eugen Freund worked for five years at the Austrian Press and Information Service in New York, from 1995 to 2001 as ORF correspondent in Washington, D.C. and he has published, among others, the books „My America”, „President Obama — The Long Road to the White House” and „Focal Points of World Politics: How Everything Is Related to Everything”. Also in today’s election night, he will be seen on domestic TV screens in expert discussions and as a live commentator on the results in the US.
Video greeting of the chairman of Washington D.C.
ACADEMIA SUPERIOR Deputy-Chairman Mag. Thomas Stelzer welcomed around 350 guests to the DIALOG in the south wing of the Linz Castle, and which was supported by Prok. Marietta Kratochwill. The chairman of ACADEMIA SUPERIOR, Mag. Michael Strugl, was present with a video greeting from Washington DC where he is currently watching the election campaign and the election on the ground: „Here in Washington you do not have the impression that the election campaign is in the final”, he describes his impressions.
The way to the White House
Republican candidate Mitt Romney and incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama have come up with an exciting head-to-head race to the very end. Eugen Freund referred to the surprisingly running Primaries (pre-election) with the Republicans and the unusual way Barack Obama in the highest office in the United States. „What is that leopard doing at this altitude?” Eugen Freund quotes the American writer Ernest Hemingway and goes to the bottom of how Mitt Romney made it to the presidential candidate. Even the victory of the then politically very inexperienced Afro-American Barack Obama four years ago after only one legislative term in the Senate was known to be anything but probable.
The slide in the middle
„To win the primaries, one must confess color”, Eugen Freund explains the initially very right positioning of the Republican candidate: abortion is out of the question, the taxes are too high, Iran must be fought, Russia is the greatest threat to the World Peace, etc. were statements heard from Mitt Romney. In order to win the votes of the more moderate Republicans after winning the Republican ticket in the presidential election, the slide into the middle is necessary. This necessarily brings with it the uncertainty of where Romney will really stand as President then.
A heavy heritage
As President, Obama has taken over a heavy inheritance from his Republican predecessor in an exceptional economic situation, Eugen Freund defends the bad economic situation of the United States. During his tenure, he had to make many compromises, but could still implement impressive: The health insurance „ObamaCare”, which gave 30 million Americans an insurance that they could never get under previous guidelines; the rescue of the US car-industry; job creation and not at least the stabilization of the economy after the financial crisis. The main attacks he is exposed to are little known in this country. Thus, due to the spread by certain American television stations, a number of Americans believe that America is ruled by a Muslim foreigner and that under Barack Obama the US will degenerate into a socialist, Europeanized country.
The picture of Austria in the USA
When Eugen Freund was entrusted with the task of adjusting the image of Austria in the United States in 1980, he was confronted with the following picture of the Americans of Austria: „Austria is a communist Nazi country in which the Emperor passes through the capital city of Salzburg riding on a white Lipizzan and whistling on his lips, the national anthem, which comes from „The Sound of Music”.
$ 1 billion per presidential candidate and election campaign
Until the last minute, the two presidential candidates wrestle in the 8 to 10 so-called „swing states” for votes. According to rough estimates, about US $ 1 billion per presidential candidate go into the election campaign, which benefits in particular the broadcasters.
The elections are organized in the states: each state votes differently
Still, the choice is not decided, the swing states decide the election outcome. „Or the election will be decided in the courtroom”, says Freund. Since electoral formalities are regulated differently in each of the US states, there are a myriad of hurdles that could prevent people from voting on the day of the election. Also, the ballot papers are highly complex in most states, because on „Super Tuesday” not only the president (or the electoral men) is elected, but also a whole range of different representatives of each region. There are also referenda and a total of 176 referendums in 38 states. Thus, a ballot may well include several pages.
„An American president does not have as much power as we believe.”
According to the polls and „if everything is right”, says Eugen Freund, Barack Obama will win the election. But ultimately one should not overestimate the power of an American president. Friend emphasized that „an American president does not have as much authority as we believe”, he is bound by the congressional approval and the Supreme Court as a very powerful institution in the US can repeal any law.
Which candidate would be better for Europe?
The foreign policy and the position of Europe played a very subordinate role in the presidential campaign. Nevertheless, Eugen Freund says that Barack Obama would probably be the better candidate for Europe, especially with regard to climate policy. Especially in the field of foreign policy, however, the two candidates do not differ too much. With Mitt Romney, there is more uncertainty as to which direction he will go as he has moved very much into the moderate center during the election campaign; as a denier of global warming, climate policy would play a lesser role in its government, which would have global repercussions due to the country’s huge CO2 emissions and large energy consumption. Domestically, one could expect Romney to reverse health care reform, extend tax breaks for the rich and lower taxes even further.
America before the election
In a lively discussion, the DIALOGUE provided a profound insight into the conditions, initial situations, and possible consequences of the US election, which also highlighted the various dimensions of what it means every four years when „America faces the election.”