The World from Berlin Bush Defeat a "Triumph for Democracy"

The tables have turned on the Republicans with Tuesday's midterm election blow. German commentators hail the defeat as heralding the demise of a neo-conservative ideology that caused deep trans-Atlantic divisions. But Europe may now face US demands that they take on a bigger military role in crisis regions.

Deval Patrick is one of 6 Democrats in the US to take over the post of governor from a Republican incumbent. In Patrick's case, he will become the next Governor of Massachusetts.

Deval Patrick is one of 6 Democrats in the US to take over the post of governor from a Republican incumbent. In Patrick's case, he will become the next Governor of Massachusetts.

Tuesday's midterm elections hit the US political landscape like a bombshell. Democrats have wiped out the majority rule that Republicans had enjoyed since the 1994 "Gingrich revolution." The House of Representatives is back in Democratic hands, the Senate probably is as well, as are six new gubernatorial positions that were previously held by Republicans.

The Senate may still hang in the balance if Senator George Allen demands a recall of the extraordinarily close vote in Virginia, where Democratic challenger Jim Webb won by a margin of a mere 7,217 votes, or 0.3 percent. But even without a Democratic majority in the Senate, the Bush White House, if it wants to accomplish anything, will need to return to the politics of consensus during the last two years of this presidency.

European countries have high hopes for the new Democratic Congress. Many expect that a Democratic America will foster more consensus and cooperation with its European allies. But according to some observers in the German press, the new American body politic may have some surprises in store for them.

The left-wing Berliner Zeitung writes that the election was not so much a defeat for the Republican Party as it was "a defeat for a school of thought, a defeat for the neo-conservative ideology." The daily says that "Bush was not so much the head as he was the instrument of a reactionary, imperial-minded wing of his party, whose most visible representative is Vice President Dick Cheney." The paper celebrates the president's decision to order Rumsfeld's resignation, a move that shows that "Bush has acknowledged the new balance of power." The paper hopes that Tuesday's electoral revolution will bring about a "more rational" government vis-à-vis global hot spots and climate change: "Let's hope that American politics will become more pragmatic in the next two years."

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland echoes the apparent electoral sentiment that it is "time for a new beginning." The paper recalls just how close the election was, especially after Senator John Kerry's hapless quip about the intelligence of American troops, which set in motion the "formidable political fog machine of the Republicans, which so skilfully portrays critics as unpatriotic denizens, glorifies soldiers as saints and rallies the nation round the flag." This is the sort of politics that alienated America's European allies, the paper says. They were epitomized by "Bush's most important spin doctor Karl Rove," who became "a kind of undertaker of Euro-American harmony." The Financial Times is happy to see that Bush got an electoral "slap in the face" for the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and his "one-dimensional foreign policy." Now, the common challenge for Europe and the USA will be to "cleanse the 'idea that is America' of the dirty smudge of the Bush-fiasco."

Meanwhile, the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung calls the Democratic victory at the polls nothing less than the "victory of democracy." The paper says "the US nation experienced a revolt of the political center" against its commander-in-chief, whose "arrogant one-party rule threatened to undermine pillars and principles of America's system of governance." Now, "checks and balances are back in effect" with a Democratic-controlled Congress to counteract the Republican White House. "The voters put the over-powerful White House back in its place within the bounds of the US constitution," the paper writes, which is why "the election result is a triumph for democracy more than it is a triumph for Democrats."

But "the Democrats will not make things any easier for Europe," the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes, since they, too, "make policy first and foremost for America." The Republican "project to keep the Democrats permanently small and to turn the Republicans into a kind of everlasting majority party (…) has come to an end for the time being." And another commentator in the FAZ agrees that after 12 years of almost uninterrupted control of both houses of Congress, "some Republicans came to regard the political process as their property." But the electoral reality in America is now such that "the pendulum of power in Washington has swung back from the right to the left, though it didn't get much farther than the middle. That is where President Bush must meet his adversary Nancy Pelosi."

The US president: end of the "era of George W. Bush"?

The US president: end of the "era of George W. Bush"?

Finally, Die Welt argues that although the US president is not yet a lame duck, "the end of the era of George W. Bush has begun." The center-right paper says "the relief in large parts of American society -- and especially in Europe -- is almost physically perceptible." The daily reiterates the general expectation that "the Democrats are going to have to come up with constructive concepts of their own" with regard to Iraq, and further cautions that "there is no such thing as patent remedies and quick solutions." Concerning America's foreign policy after Tuesday's landslide election, Die Welt warns Europeans who may be hoping for a new "golden age of multilateralism" that in fact, "a foreign policy influenced more by Democrats will exact even greater political and military commitments from European allies."

-- Alex Bakst, 2 p.m. CET


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