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.”