Sunday, October 28, 2012


To understand the workings of the United States of America one is supposed to have digested Tocqueville's claim to fame, "Democracy in America," published in 1835. He visited the young republic, James Madison regnante.  He elaborated mostly about the Puritan founding, the American Constitution, the place of women (a "first" almost) and religion. No doubt his generally positive analysis was also indebted to the times of President Madison, who was an extraordinary personality, both as a politician and as a diplomat.

Tocqueville was an admirer of the way the American Constitution had created an architecture of checks and balances which could avoid at all times the trappings of despotism. His awe was nevertheless lucid enough to foresee possible shortcomings in a secular system, besieged by religion.

If he were to return he might have to write a different book. The United States today is a showcase for aberrations, which might occur when a society becomes unable to bridge structural gaps. The Congress finds itself prisoner of ideological prejudices. The Supreme Court is divided between those who adhere to the letter of the Constitution and those who want to give it a breathing space in time. The presidency is no longer judged on merits but on bias. The States of the Union follow paths which are often as divergent as what one might expect to find in the EU machinery (suffering from chronic indigestion, it found nothing better than to give membership to Croatia, foster child of Germany, the Vatican and others who better remain anonymous.)

One is tempted to assert that the American supremacy is over. This is contradicted by numerous facts which help to put the current crisis in perspective. The country continues to harvest Nobel Prizes and to attract immigrants who bring grey cells rather than empty pockets. The economy suffers as other economies worldwide do, given the globalization process. As painfully as it will be, the United States will be the first to regroup, thanks to the mobility of labour and the creativity of Wall Street, which has no parallel in the world. Obviously the caveats of the "fiscal cliff" at the end of 2012 and the debt must be addressed in the shortest term.  The "indispensable nation" is finally turning its back on costly, absurd wars and returning to rearrange a world order wherein the "multiple" is finally seen as an opportunity rather than as a "negative."

For sure Tocqueville would be lost in America today. He would also feel disoriented in Europe, by the way, but he might probably have the mental agility to take stock of a changed world. Europe does not even figure in the presidential debates. Voltaire's and Napoleon's premonitions about China have become a fact of life. The BRICS are pushing the doors open. America remains, nevertheless, the world's keeper and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Already one can see how it is switching from an Atlantic to a Pacific commonwealth while Europe finds itself captive of its former illusions, with more clients than allies.

The coming elections in the United States are over dramatised. Both candidates are able politicians who, unfortunately so, have to submit themselves to the applause of often undesirable followers. One does not choose his public. Obama is more philosophically inclined (but deserves credit for "redirecting" rather than "enduring"). Romney is the man of the praxis. The latter might fit more into the current mood of the country. The former might still appeal to the utopia America was built on.

Finally, it is high time for poison talk and poison pens, which are unworthy of this country, to take leave.

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