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Looking across the English Channel

There has been a lot of commentary in parts of the English-speaking media and blogosphere about the US presidential elections, and of course this part of it has had its commentary about the candidacy of the likes of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, for example. The coverage shows how US politics looms quite large over the UK, or at least certain parts of it.

Compare and contrast with the level of commentary one might expect to get about the mid-year polls for the presidency of that neighbour, France. In part, the difference is that the French elections do not hold out any prospect of a pro-free market, limited government candidate making much running, although I may be wrong about that. The language barrier is an obvious issue but it cannot be the only explanation for this difference in coverage. And I also note that in another country, Germany, even the so-called quality papers give pretty scant coverage of the machinations of the Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and the other parties. Considering that the future of the euro might hang on who gets to control the German parliament in Berlin, you might think a bit more interest might be a good idea.

We are told that the European Union was all about bringing the big happy European family closer together, and yet as far as parts of the English-speaking media is concerned, some of the more consequential nations in the world get less coverage than a primary race in a US farm state (Iowa). That, I think, is very telling. And it does suggest that the idea of the Anglosphere, as Brian Micklethwait suggested the other day, has legs.

9 comments to Looking across the English Channel

  • Dizzy Ringo

    The idea of the Anglosphere is not new – it dates back at least to Churchill after WW2. He was all in favour of the EU but without the UK. He favoured a Commonwealth linkup for the UK with, I think, the US thrown in.

  • Richard Thomas

    OTOH, inside the US, coverage of *anything* outside the US is, to all practical purposes, non-existant. Unless it involves devastation affecting upwards of six-figures of people or an entertainer, it didn’t happen.

  • Dr Gonz

    I have just taken a straw poll (using this) and the reports might not be on the front page, but they tend to be high up within the relevant section (Politik, Ausland). In comparison to the UK there are very few daily national papers (and perhaps the two best are explicitly Regional in name – the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and the Süddeutsche Zeitung) and this may have something to do with it as well. The recent result was splashed quite heavily. However, given the speed with which candidates rise, fall and drop out, and the time until the elections, a reticence to follow the twists and turns might be understandable. Of course, the Bild Zeitung (an odd mixture of the Sun and Mirror) can be relied upon, concentrating on the “Embarrassing Candidates from the Republican Party”, and yesterday was still leading on Bachman who was “tipped to win Iowa…”.

  • Paul Marks

    Let me guess – Bild (like the rest of the German media) is both for the man made globel warming theory and AGAINST nuclear power.

    And the German media accuse American Republicans of being “embarrising” in their lack of rationality….

    As for the election.

    Agreed the French Presidential election is not really relevant from a free market point of view – as there are no candidates who do not want an even BIGGER government (including the current President of the Fifth Republic).

    But the French socialists are demented (well all socialists are…..) – for example they would close down nuclear power stations that provide 80% of French electricity (and which other countries, such as Britain and Germany also rely on).

    On America.

    We will know by South Carolina.

    If neither Santorum or Gingrich manage to defeat Romney there, it is all over.

    If Romney wins S.C. he will be the nominee – it is the last chance to prevent that.

  • Paul,
    The fundamental tipping-point for Germany on nukes was Fukushima because of course Germany is a noted earthquake zone. That is the level of derangement going about.

    Shut down France’s nuke-plants? Bloody hell! Might as well vote Asterix!

  • manuel II paleologos

    My impression from being in France for the past 4 weeks is that the Iowa caucus is bigger news than the French presidential elections even there. I don’t think it’s anything to do with Anglospheres.

    It’s all presented from an irritating viewpoint – gasping at the cretins who might vote against Obama – but it’s still big news.

  • People look at what is going on in the US because the US is big and powerful. It probably is easy for British media outlets to report because the language is the same, but I think the Germans and the French pay nearly as much (or as much) attention.

    British interest in the politics or ongoing affairs of the other English speaking countries is low, despite the common language and some common history. I’ve occasionally posted pieces on Australian politics here, and interest has been tepid, if that. Interest in British politics from Australia is equally tepid.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Writing from 92200:

    There was a burst of interest over who the Socialist Party candidate would be, following the arrest on charges of attempted rape of the expected frontrunner.

    However, Francois Hollande is a somewhat boring figure with no experience whatsoever in business or political office. The only interesting thing about him is that he dumped his girlfriend (the last Socialist Party candidate) immediately after she’d lost the 2007 election. He then presided (as party secretary) over a very contentious election between is by then ex-girlfriend and Jacques Delors’ daughter for the leadership of the PS.

    The big issue right now is that voter registration has now closed for the elections in April and May. Unlike some American states where people living in Illinois will be allowed to “register” on election day in neighbouring states and their votes will “accidentally” not go in the provisional ballots.

    There is no big theatrical event in the French elections until Easter, so most people are paying no attention at all.

  • I dunno, I only spent the one year in Germany but my impression was that the population was admirably well-informed about its politics and that detailed information on the machinations of the Bundestag/rat was much easier to come by than similar info about Congress in the US (this will have changed with the ubiquity of the internet). Even so, Germans seemed somewhat less interested and certainly less invested in their political process than we are. I’m assuming without evidence that a citizen of the UK living in Germany would make a similar comparison, but someone please correct me if I am mistaken.

    I think the difference is that Germany is (a) ideologically settled and (b) somewhat more of an authoritarian culture than the Anglosphere. Point (a) means that elections revolve more around policy details, because there’s no philosophical debate (and no concomitant hyperbole about the sky falling if one’s opponent wins, etc.) Everyone is just socialist/corporatist. Point (b) means that people feel like they have less of a stake in it anyway. I remember having an argument about speech rights there, for example – specifically about whether it was ethical for Germany to censor racist speech – and my opponent couldn’t get past the fact that such speech was constitutionally forbidden. The idea that this could be changed simply wasn’t on the table – which was very alien to me.

    Of course, there are plenty of radicals about, who are happy to shout about their extreme (mostly left-wing) positions and burn things etc. etc. But this tendency is entirely outside the discussions about elections.