WASHINGTON, D.C., November 5, 2012 — According to the polls, America is almost perfectly divided between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The swing states are all the too-close-to-call states, and whoever wins, half the country will be somewhere between annoyed and despondent, while the other half will be relieved to jubilant.
There’s no doubt about preferences in Europe, though. If he could vote, Vladimir Putin would vote for Obama (who borrowed Putin’s ad featuring a young woman losing her electoral virginity to the virile Great One). The vast majority of Scandinavians prefer Obama, fewer than five percent would vote for Romney, and the rest are likekly too drunk to care.
Obama is the huge favorite of Germans, Russians, Italians, Spaniards, Belgians, and (it almost goes without saying) those most un-American of Europeans, the French. 72 percent of the French would vote for Obama, only 2 percent for Romney. The rest are trying to pick up drunken Swedes.
Obama is the clear choice of Europe. He’s their voice of moderation, the man who can make them feel good about America. He gives them hope for American civilization.
What’s not to love? Obama is a European man (I mean that figuratively - there’s no evidence he was born in Maastricht), a fan of moderately large government, moderately high taxes, moderately capable military forces, and moderate liberty. America is a place of messy immoderation. Europe is America as imagined by Disney, a wonderfully tidy theme park.
Obama likes the theme park, and the theme park-dwellers like him.
Not that there’s anything wrong with theme parks. It’s wonderful to walk in the Alps, which are nice and neat (no grizzlies there!), filled with trails which pass through pleasant meadows with cows with cowbells waiting to be milked to make next year’s cheese.
No little town in Beaujolais is without a decent bakery or more than a ten-minute walk from a good restaurant. Life is ordered, pleasant, and moderate. There are never riots in Paris, the free healthcare is never less than attentive, competent and utterly professional in England, Russian businesses always offer service with a smile.
And of course Franco is still dead.
Still, there’s something deeply satisfying about aggravating the Europeans, sticking your thumbs in their eyes, especially when they turn preachy and moralistic on us (most of the time). Europeans unanimous on anything is never a good sign.
There’s something pleasant in contemplating the mass suicide of the Norwegian parliament and the end to the Nobel Peace Prize.
The gulf between America and Europe is huge. Why? Europeans are a cultured, moderate lot, but they’re not terribly civilized. Americans are civilized. For civilized people, manners are a way to make strangers feel at home; for cultured people, they’re a way to demonstrate your superiority and your social class.
Civilized people are interested in who you are; cultured people are interested in how you look. Civilized people think that fair play is paramount; cultured people care only about the final score. Civilized people work to keep their affairs in order; cultured people want a bailout when they don’t.
The birthplace of western civilization, Greece, seems to have become one of the most cultured spots on the planet.
Let cultured Europe have the leaders it likes. America will choose for itself. America may choose Obama, it may choose Romney. Plenty of us will have something to celebrate and mourn either way. But the desolation of the European soul if we choose Romney is really very tempting.
If that coin comes up one way in the voting booth, I might think of Europe and make it two out of three.
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