With the election imminent, it now appears that an Obama presidency is more likely than unlikely. That being the case, we would like to offer a few predictions as to how many in German media and society will react. We actually believe that these reactions will all play out to one degree or another:
Reaction One - Condescending Euphoria
The American "friends" have reformed themselves and deserve another chance. We in the German media elite can now (temporarily at least) welcome the United States back into the fold of civilized nations despite the nearly unforgivable actions of the past eight years. We love the fact that the United States has elected its first minority head of state (though we would never dream of doing so ourselves). After we gloat a little more about the demise of Bush and engage in a round of "told you so" on how right we were to oppose his every move - we will push for Obama to sign Kyoto, close Guantanamo, abolish the death penalty and quickly exit Iraq. Obama must consult with us and go through the United Nations before taking any military action. This would vindicate our worldview and assuage our anger at America's many transgressions over the past eight years. Should Obama not do any or all of the above, we reserve the right to once again treat the United States as the World Scapegoat and depict Obama as the head of a mad-rogue cowboy nation.
Analysis: The initial euphoria of an Obama victory and Republican defeat will lead some to predict a bold new era of happiness in transatlantic relations. These predictions will gradually be worn to a cool realism/cynicism by geopolitical realities which will inevitably manifest themselves through differences over trade, the use of force in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East, the unwillingness of even the Democrats to go along with Kyoto, etc. Obama may remain quite popular as a personality in the German media. The Republicans - despite their reduced role - will continue to act as foils and receive blame for all that goes wrong. The refrain that what Bush has broken will take time to fix may well grow to become a reflexive defense for some time to come among those who insist on clinging to their own initial euphoria.
Reaction Two - Cynicism
Obama's election is a hopeful sign - but the United States remains a fundamentally "other" nation. We will pay lip-service to the progressive direction that the United States has embarked upon - which increasingly mirrors our own. That - however - does not change the fact that the United States is a fundamentally backward nation that will remain dominated by the primitive instincts of predatory capitalism, oppression of the weak, religious bigotry and a tendency towards uncontrolled violence. Even if Obama is everything that we hope him to be (and he probably isn't) - he will inevitably be constrained by the society in which he exists and by the vile Republicans who oppose him. We will continue to blame the United States for most of the world's ills - albeit with an initially more restrained tone - and wait until Obama confirms our views of the United States by launching any military action or repeatedly compromising on issues that matter to us such as the death penalty, environment, gun laws, etc.
Analysis: Cynicism and pessimism remain core reflexes among much of the German intellectual elite. This sector of the German media has already concluded that it will inevitably be disappointed with Obama and - to spare itself the embarrassment and emotional roller-coaster of Obama euphoria - has concluded that the United States will not fundamentally change course. They will correctly point to the fact that Obama has profited from a confluence of factors such as war-fatigue, economic downturn, Bush-fatigue, etc. and conclude that these circumstances - and not a fundamental change in American societal attitudes - are what led to Obama's victory. This view offers adherents the obvious advantage of being able to play the profitable Hate-America card at any time.
Reaction Three - Let's Feel Better
Obama wins and now the hip people in Germany can finally feel better and get off the anger streak towards the United States - a country that produces lots of stuff we think is cool like iPods, hip-hop, Blackberries and Lionel Ritchie. Obama may not do everything we Hope - but we are pretty tired of bashing the United States and it's time for Change. Feeling better makes us feel good - so we are going to just do it - even though nothing much is going to change except for our feelings - which are pretty important. Now that Bush is gone - we will need to find a new super-villain to feel bad about - which makes us insecure about making sure we pick the right bad guy...(and maybe Bono can help us out here...) The tone makes the music and all that - so we are kinda friends again with the United States until the Republicans come back. By the way - we still won't give you any more troops for Afghanistan and we expect you to help us save the trees and polar bears. We will write plenty of angry letters to bad people with you if that's what floats your boat...
Analysis: The less serious bubble-gum tabloid media is likely to revel in the ongoing feel-good Obama-mania. On a societal level, these are - to a large extent - the folks who turned out for the Obama speech in Berlin. For Americans living in or visiting Germany, this may translate into fewer close encounters of the Hate-America kind in certain bars, taxis and social gatherings. The trendy types will have to drop Hate-Bush for some other cause-celeb and pick up a new ultra villain to rail against. This in itself may lead to some angst and uncertainty.
Reaction Four - America in Cultural Decline
Obama is hopelessly inexperienced and thoroughly represents the fleeting and superficial nature of American society - which will follow slogans, glitz and glamor in any direction. The election of this non-European is simply a confirmation of America's slow descent into mediocrity. Bush was bad - but Obama will be equally bad if not worse - and may threaten our business and trade interests if he gets too protectionist.
Analysis: Some in the culturally conservative German elite (and perhaps some on the far-far-left) will see the election of Obama as a sign that the United States continues to deteriorate culturally. Though they will not (often) openly express their racial views, they will depict Obama's election as a sign that the United States is slowly becoming a Third World nation increasingly dominated by a combination of non-European (and in their view inherently inferior) influences and superficial bumper-sticker politics. This will not manifest itself in most mainstream German media, but will be hinted at on the fringes.
Reaction Five - What Do You Think?
Now that we have put four potential reactions out there - we would like to know what you - our readers - think. Are these four scenarios on the mark? Are some more accurate than others? Are we missing something? What are your thoughts?
UPDATE: More than one publication has already posted a list of Europe's demands and expectations now that Obama has been declared the winner.