Mitt Romney will almost certainly win the Republican preliminaries. That means that as far as Europe is concerned, there won’t be all that much at stake in the American presidential elections in November 2012, states professor of Contemporary History Doeko Bosscher of the University of Groningen. ‘The election campaign between Romney and the current president Barack Obama is far from decided, but whoever is sworn in in early 2013 as president, the foreign policy of the United States will remain more or less the same.’
The campaigns of the Republican candidates thus far have not been very exciting, and it’s very much the question whether the national election campaign after August will be anything different, thinks Bosscher. The moderate Romney, who will turn 65 in March, is a man who has to dig deep to talk tough. ‘When he was governor of Massachusetts (2003-2007) his policies were centrist and he turned out to be all too ready to do business with the Democrats in his state’s parliament. Romney introduced a remarkably progressive system of health insurance. Although the emphasis was on different things than in the system that Barack Obama as president wanted to achieve on a national scale, all things considered it was definitely a slap in the face for right-wing Republicans.’
Even with regard to what are coyly referred to in the United States as the LBGT issues (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), Romney was not a hardliner. ‘Although Romney is not a proponent of gay marriage, he was perfectly willing to go with the flow that led to gay marriage being introduced in Massachusetts’, according to Bosscher. ‘When he turned his back on his state to become a presidential candidate, Romney carefully distanced himself from that reasonably progressive line – you’re either a politician or you’re not. But everyone knows that his heart is somewhere in the middle.’
Obama would really like to be re-elected. According to Bosscher, however, it’s very much up in the air whether his rhetorical talent will sufficiently revive to generate great enthusiasm. ‘In 2008, many voters found him irresistible. What he had to say, and above all how he said it, was an enormous relief after George W. Bush. That magic isn’t there anymore in 2012. Obama has very little to favourably compare himself to. At the moment he’s mainly fighting himself and against the idea that the “change we can believe in” that he promised has turned out to be a pale imitation of actual change.’
In Europe, the interest is mainly in what the US’s foreign policy will be. What will the next president do in a hotspot like the Middle East? How will he deal with rising global powers like China and Brazil? Bosscher: ‘On that front there’s no serious difference to be expected between Romney and Obama. There’s very little space between the two politicians regarding the world economy either. In serious discussions with Europe and other major players, both will try to prevent a looming recession and create a more stable basis for the monetary system. So, Obama or Romney? It’s not quite six of one and half a dozen of the other, because the question remains whether or not America will vote in a coloured president for the second time, but the thrills of 2008 are definitely missing.’
Prof. Doeko Bosscher (Heiloo, 1949) studied History at the University of Groningen. In 1980 he gained his PhD with a thesis on how Colijn is commemorated in his own political circle (Om de erfenis van Colijn. De ARP op de grens van twee werelden ). Bosscher has been Dean of the Faculty of Arts (1994-1998) and Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen (1998-2002). He has been a Fulbright Scholar in the United States on two separate occasions. His teaching and research concentrate on the United States and the Netherlands.
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