Chris Matthews isn’t alone. Gunvor Holm Vibroe, a Danish woman who traveled all the way from her homeland to the state of Ohio to campaign for President Obama, “trembled in her pants” when she met the great man in person, she confided to the Danish newspaper Politiken. “I’m still trembling a little in my pants,” she confessed.
When she told Obama that she was Danish and had traveled to Ohio to help out with his re-election campaign, he was impressed. “You came all the way from Denmark to work for me? Wow!” he said.
“He was very moved by that,” Gunvor said.
It’s been widely reported that while the ecstatic European enthusiasm that Obama enjoyed early in his term has long since subsided, he would still receive the overwhelming majority of votes on Tuesday if it were up to European citizens to choose between him and Governor Mitt Romney. “A survey of seven European nations, including longtime U.S. allies Britain and France, has found that Obama would win more than 90% of the vote if the respondents could cast ballots in Tuesday’s race,” reported the Los Angeles Times last Thursday. “The poll, which covered Britain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, found that Romney failed to garner more than 10% support in any of those countries. In Sweden and Denmark, the former Massachusetts governor fared even worse: Only 1 in 20 people named him as their choice.”
Apparently by way of explaining President Obama’s popularity in Europe relative to Romney, the Times sugested that, despite many disappointments with his record, such as his failure to close Guantánamo, “Obama is still seen as an inspirational figure.” But surely a major part of the reason why he’s the big favorite among Europeans is that his political views are far more aligned than Romney’s with those of your average European statist. Europeans take Obamacare as a sign of the President’s acknowledgment that they’ve got health care right and we’ve got it wrong. His eagerness to appease Islam, and to gut the First Amendment in order to do so, brings him closer than any previous occupant of the White House to the thinking of European leaders on the subject. And so on.
European anti-Americanism has a long history, dating all the way back to colonial times. Over the generations, it’s risen and fallen for various reasons. During the last days of the Cold War, Ronald Reagan’s strong language about the Berlin Wall antagonized plenty of people in Western Europe who thought that the wall was there to stay, that the best approach to the situation was to make nice with the Russians, and that Reagan’s rhetoric was crude, sentimental cowboy nonsense that could only antagonize the Kremlin and make matters worse.
Europeans have always preferred American presidents who projected weakness and apologized for the U.S. to those who unapologetically asserted American strength, preached American values, and reminded Europeans, in one way or another, of their own dependence on American military defense. Europeans don’t like U.S. presidents who go on about freedom; they prefer those who criticize capitalism and who seek to redistribute the wealth. Above all, they’re attracted to a U.S. head of state who projects an air of not really, entirely, completely being American himself – whose own upbringing (in part) in another country sets him apart from his Oval Office predecessors and who delicately intimates, between the lines of his speeches, that he thinks of himself as a citizen of the world.
Europeans are also accustomed to, and most comfortable with, the idea of heads of government who have spent their lives in politics. Obama’s rise from Chicago community organizer to Illinois congressman to senator to president of the Republic is something they understand. By contrast, Romney’s background in business is, for them, not a reason to hope that he stands a better chance than the incumbent of rescuing the U.S. (and the world) from the economic mess it’s in but, rather, a cause for serious discomfort. In their view, after all, one of the most important roles of government is to protect the people from the excesses of private enterprise – to keep corporations in line. For Europeans, big business, not big government, is the enemy. They don’t worry, as many Americans do, about entrepreneurs being overtaxed or bureaucratized to death by the state; they worry about the state being unduly influenced by evil capitalists.
Naturally they prefer Obama.
And naturally Obama’s re-election campaign, according to some sources, has solicited and accepted good-sized donations from Europeans who are eager to play a small part in his securing another four years in office – a practice which is, ahem, not quite legal.
Our friend Gunvor’s decision to make her way to Ohio and work for the Obama campaign came suddenly and at the last minute – specifically, Saturday before last. On the spur of the moment, she decided to book a ticket to the Buckeye State, found somebody to stay with, and got herself a volunteer job at a campaign office, where her job is to phone registered voters or to go door-to-door singing the praises of the Commander- in-Chief. It was while she was sitting there one day at the campaign office making her phone calls that Obama dropped in. Gunvor, whose regular job is with DanChurchAid, a charitable organization connected with the Danish National Evangelical Lutheran Church, told Politiken “that the president had warm hands, that he pressed her hand, and asked if she was enjoying the work. He concluded the forty-five-second-long conversation with ‘Keep up the good work!‘”
“It means a lot to me – and also to my children’s future – who will run the U.S. during the coming years,” Gunvor told the newspaper, and added: “I’m still trembling a little in my pants.”
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