Berlin - As an American journalist living in Germany, today isn’t so much the day that Americans select a new president but rather the day that German journalists can finally focus their breathless condescension somewhere else. For the past week, the German media – including this paper – has been falling all over itself to first tell us how catastrophic a second Trump term would be and now how disappointing and irrelevant a Biden presidency would be.
Mostly what the journalists want to tell us is what great Amerikaversteher they are and it’s annoying to people who – as we Americans like to say – have a dog in this hunt. I would explain the phrase, but I’m sure all these Amerikaversteher are not only aware of it, but use it regularly (apologies, a true German Amerikaversteher would say “US-Amerikaversteher”).
The truth about this election we learned last election: We have no idea how it will turn out. My own sense is that Trump hasn’t won many new votes because the people who like his politics voted for him last time as well and he’s alienated anyone who sat on a fence – like most Americans, my aging father thought Trump was a rich buffoon (a role Trump played, knowingly or unwittingly, for decades) but my father now sees him as a dangerous, sociopathic buffoon.
Meanwhile, President Trump’s racist and bizarre governing style has energised the opposition. I can’t imagine he gets more votes this time and hopefully Biden and Harris get enough to clear the hurdle that is the electoral college.
Organised insurrection in a country as economically developed as the US is easily foiled by things like ballet lessons and traffic jams.
But again, we don’t know how it will end.
You wouldn’t know that if you read German papers. Today alone I’ve read how America is not only at the cusp of a second civil war but also a war with China. The first is based on Germany’s never-ending incredulity of America’s gun problem and the second is based on – I have no idea what it’s based on but it’s certainly nothing new or one that would be affected much by today’s vote.
While there may be a bit of sporadic gun violence in the US this week, it won’t be any worse than any other week for the simple reason that organised insurrection in a country as economically developed as the US is easily foiled by things like ballet lessons and traffic jams. Obese conservatives love to dress up in army gear and head to government buildings with their assault rifles but they know that if they pull the trigger while there, they’ll never see their weekend house on the coast again.
And for those braying about how a Biden presidency and a second Trump term would make little international difference, let me just ask how a Germany lead by Friedrich Merz would look compared to one lead by Annalena Baerbock.
The absolute worst outcome from today’s election is that we get what we’ve had for the last four years. We at least then know what we’re up against – the world will solve the coronavirus problem despite President Trump and then an adult can return to the White House and clean up the mess, much in the way that President Obama righted much of President Bush’s wrongs (but not all, unfortunately).
I don’t want to downplay a second Trump term – there’s a body count involved – but the sky won’t fall. We’d hopefully get a power shift in the senate that would also create a stalemate and buy us some time until the next election.
My prediction – and I’m wrong an awful lot of the time – is that Biden and Harris win clearly and President Trump announces that that was his intention all along – nobody appreciated him when he was president and he can be much more powerful as a media voice, the über-US-Amerikaversteher, if you will.
And German media can focus on something else.