Destroyed by Total Capitalism America Has Already Lost Tuesday's Election

Germans see the US election as a battle between the good Obama and the evil Romney. But this is a mistake. Regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday, total capitalism is America's true ruler, and it has the power to destroy the country.

Cleanup after debris following Hurrican Sandy in the Queens borough of New York.

Cleanup after debris following Hurrican Sandy in the Queens borough of New York.

A Commentary by

The United States Army is developing a weapon that can reach -- and destroy -- any location on Earth within an hour. At the same time, power lines held up by wooden poles dangle over the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart there and in communities across the East Coast last week, and many places remain without electricity. That's America, where high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation. No country has produced more Nobel Prize winners, yet in New York City hospitals had to be evacuated during the storm because their emergency generators didn't work properly.

Anyone who sees this as a contradiction has failed to grasp the fact that America is a country of total capitalism. Its functionaries have no need of public hospitals or of a reliable power supply to private homes. The elite have their own infrastructure. Total capitalism, however, has left American society in ruins and crippled the government. America's fate is not just an accident produced by the system. It is a consequence of that system.

Obama couldn't change this, and Romney wouldn't be able to either. Europe is mistaken if it views the election as a choice between the forces of good and evil. And it certainly doesn't amount to a potential change in political direction as some newspapers on the Continent would have us believe.

A Powerless President

Romney, the exceedingly wealthy business man, and Obama, the cultivated civil rights lawyer, are two faces of a political system that no longer has much to do with democracy as we understand it. Democracy is about choice, but Americans don't really have much of a choice. Obama proved this. Nearly four years ago, it seemed like a new beginning for America when he took office. But this was a misunderstanding. Obama didn't close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, nor did he lift immunity for alleged war criminals from the Bush-era, or regulate the financial markets, and climate change was hardly discussed during the current election campaign. The military, the banks, industry -- the people are helpless in the face of their power, as is the president.

Not even credit default swaps, the kind of investment that brought down Lehman Brothers and took Western economies to the brink, has been banned or even better regulated. It is likely the case that Obama wanted to do more, but couldn't. But what role does that play in the bigger picture?

We want to believe that Obama failed because of the conservatives inside his own country. Indeed, the fanatics that Mitt Romney depends on have jettisoned everything that distinguishes the West: science and logic, reason and moderation, even simple decency. They hate homosexuals, the weak and the state. They oppress women and persecute immigrants. Their moralizing about abortion doesn't even spare the victims of rape. They are the Taliban of the West.

The Winner Makes No Difference to Europe

Still, they are only the symptom of America's failure, not the cause. In reality, neither the idealists and Democrats, nor the useful idiots of the Tea Party have any power over the circumstances.

From a European perspective, it doesn't matter who wins this election. Only US foreign policy is important to us -- and Obama is no dove and Romney no hawk. The incumbent president prefers to wage his wars with drones instead of troops, though the victims probably don't care if they're killed by man or machine. Meanwhile, despite all the criticism, his challenger says he wouldn't join Israel were the country to go to war with Iran because the US can now no longer afford such a thing.

In any case, it is wrong to characterize Republicans as the party of warmongers and Democrats as the party of peace -- or even to call the latter a left-wing party at all. After all, it was Democratic presidents Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson who started the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Republican presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon ended these wars. And Ronald Reagan, who Europeans see as the embodiment of both the evil and absurd aspects of American politics, was a peaceful man compared to the standards we have since become accustomed to. He only ever invaded Grenada.

The truth is that we simply no longer understand America. Looking at the country from Germany and Europe, we see a foreign culture. The political system is in the hands of big business and its lobbyists. The checks and balances have failed. And a perverse mix of irresponsibility, greed and religious zealotry dominate public opinion.

The downfall of the American empire has begun. It could be that the country's citizens wouldn't be able to stop it no matter how hard they tried. But they aren't even trying.

Discuss this issue with other readers!
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Page 1 11/05/2012
1. Correct but incomplete
A large number of US citizens will agree with this writing. This is a glaring omission in this article. This sins of civilization are being played out on the US stage. We are desperate for Hope.
Sacrifice 11/05/2012
2. Simple and Smug
It is ironic for a German to be so judgemental about the US in view of the catastrophic failures of 20th century European 'civilization' and the current and recent (see Yugoslavia) state of affairs in the so civilized EU. The US has many problems and has made many mistakes in its 235 years of existence. We will make many more. However, our failings and errors compare quite favorably to those of any other world power at any time or place in world history, especially those of the constituent nations of the EU.
retarded-freak 11/05/2012
Der Spiegel is making better articles lately. I read it a few years ago, but there were some conservative journalists employed then like a lot of Gabor Steingart types. I quit looking at this site due to disgust, but this article is on point. America is impossible to understand except on the most basic human level of everyday struggling. Just before this hurricane, I was noting that we have exposed powerlines everywhere in my little city. I am a landscape painter, and was painting them, and thinking about the meaning behind them, and I thought of them as "class lines". The poorer neighborhood seems the most full of telephone lines. For me being poor is not a bad thing though. I dont have any ambition to be rich or own anything. I was painting a soup kitchen scene with impoverished people standing in line to get food, and it doesnt bother me. It may be because I am an artist, but I feel quite content to be poor, maybe drop into a soup kitchen, and wear second-hand clothing. I feel almost a sort of pride at being shrewd, at not being taken in my capitalism, at getting things cheap, and living in sort of the prole zone of 1984.
mollycanadian 11/05/2012
4. USA is not a democracy...
Canadians are also confused by the United States. It is not a true democracy. The president has very limited powers and must co-operate or bargain with the Congress to get anything done. The electoral college voting system means that the person who gets the most popular votes does not necessarily become the president. An interesting and flawed system. 11/05/2012
Great article, but the sad truth, it seems to me, is that a large percentage of Americans are so greedy and mean-spirited they’d gladly let thousands of their fellow citizens die from lack of healthcare, for example, than pay one dime more in taxes. And there is an endless supply of equally greedy politicians and religious leaders that are happy to label this wretched attitude as both patriotic and religious –when it is, of course, neither. Wall Street, I suggest, isn’t the source of his attitude, just it’s most well-financed reflection.
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