“Is this presidential election really the most important in our lifetime?” That was the question asked, in so many words, by a concerned Brit at a discussion in London a few days ago. His words were directed at Larry Sabato, the American political analyst, whose countenance had been beamed onto a screen in a conference room like some giant electronic guru. Sabato didn’t blink. “This presidential election,” he replied, “is definitely the most important since 2008.”
Appreciative laughter followed, but the audience wasn’t entirely satisfied. For the British—as for most other Europeans, and indeed most other foreigners—that aspect of this election is extremely hard to understand. Is the 2012 presidential race “important”—that is, will it mark a momentous change in American foreign policy and American attitudes toward the world—or will its result make no difference at all?
The source of the confusion is clear. Shards of harsh rhetoric from this nasty campaign do drift across the Atlantic, and many Europeans are aware that some Americans think Barack Obama is a Marxist-socialist bent on destroying America, while others think Mitt Romney is a vulture capitalist who will rob the poor to feed the rich. The British in particular like to “ooh” and “aah” over the stacks of cash Republicans and Democrats are spending in the apparent belief that the outcome matters a great deal.Read more.