For Danes, there’s something about Obama
If Denmark were the 51st state to vote in the upcoming US election, it would probably have as many electoral votes as a state like Minnesota – ten – a state with a population of 5.3 million settled in two dense urban centres and miles and miles of countryside.
And while US polls put the two candidates in a dead-heat going into the final week before the election, there’s no doubt which candidate would win Denmark. A Gallup poll released earlier this autumn showed that 96 percent of Danes would vote for President Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Speaking with some would-be Danish presidential voters, it appeared that while many of those who backed Obama in 2008 had lost faith in his message of change, Danes were still confident he could live up to his promise.
Julian Fawaz, a master’s student at Copenhagen Business School, expected that come election day, many doubters would wind up voting for Obama.
“I think the American people are disappointed – they wanted an immediate change, and they didn’t get it. Hope went on a slide and hit a real low. But I think they still believe in that ‘change’.”
Fawaz predicted that Obama would wind up winning, and that he would use a second term in office to live up to his promises.
“The big changes Obama proposed in 2008 can’t be accomplished in four years, especially considering the mess George Bush left: the economic crisis, two wars.”
For other Danes throwing their support behind Obama, the reason for doing so had less to do with something as fleeting as hope, and more to do with the hard realities of global politics.
China is the largest foreign-holder of US debt, owning over one trillion dollars, and as America’s deficit continues to grow, its economic stability depends increasingly on its foreign lenders. For Christoffer Sandberg, a student at the Copenhagen Business Academy in Lyngby, keeping Obama in the White House would prevent an ill-timed rivalry between the two countries.
“Romney is very critical of China, and it doesn’t seem smart to make moves that will weaken that relationship,” he said, adding that he thought a Romney-Ryan administration would mean more years of war for the US, with many implications for the Danish armed forces, who have already sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I think with Romney, the US will be forced into war again, and that will sadly cost Danish lives,” Sandberg said.
The threat of war has consequences beyond the unfortunate loss of life, however, and Sandberg considers avoiding further conflict pivotal to the world’s economic recovery.
“If the US goes to war again, its deficit will grow out of control and the value of the dollar will fall. It will have a major impact on the entire financial system, and it just can’t handle that right now,” Sandberg said.
Other voters, such as Christa, an architecture student who declined to give her surname, said they felt more in tune with Obama on social issues than Romney.
“I think every Dane would vote for Obama. I think the Republican stance on abortion would be enough for most Danes; even most Europeans [to vote for Obama],” she said.
David Miller, the head of the Danish chapter of Democrats Abroad, echoed that sentiment.
“I like to say to Danes that if they lived in the United States, they’d all be Democrats,” he said. “Whether they vote progressive or conservative in Denmark, they all believe in universal healthcare and free university education, and most wouldn’t give up a woman’s right to choose or have any problems with same-sex marriage.”
Although finding a Romney supporter in Denmark proved as elusive as the polls indicate, those who do support the Republicans often state economic concerns as their reason for doing so.
For Danish graduate students who travelled to the state of Virginia to campaign for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the economy was very much on their minds. One of them, Morten Dahlin, thought America needed a new strategy in its economic competition with China.
“We need America to be the engine of growth in the Western world, and this is an election for us about who do we want to be the main economic factor in the world: China or the US,” Dahlin told The Huffington Post recently.
“We would prefer the US. But if the US keeps going down the road it is on now, it’s going to be China. We are very dependent on trading with the US in Europe. It seems the road that Obama is taking has not been a road with more free trade.”
While voter support for Obama remains astronomical, not all of his decisions have been universally applauded here. In July, he came under a whirlwind of criticism from MPs for his use of unmanned drones against military targets in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Radikale foreign policy spokesperson, told Politiken newspaper at the time that the drone attacks “violated international law”, while Søren Pind, of the opposition party Venstre, added that the attacks are “much worse” than the torturing of prisoners under President Bush.
Even with these criticisms, most Danes would stand by Obama, according to former foreign minister Per Stig Møller (Konservative), who said Danish political beliefs tend to naturally align with those of the American Democratic Party.
“The impression is that the Republican party is against the welfare-state and collective responsibility. [Obama’s] healthcare programme is an example, and is certainly supported by most Danes,” he said.
Leading up to the election in 2008, Obama had to defend himself against claims his policies were socialist. Clearly, that’s a defence no American politician will ever have to make in Denmark.
Complete coverage of the US election results will be broadcast live on TV2 and DR1 starting at 9pm on November 6.