Yes, Americanization, and anyone who knows (e.g. from reading F&V) what I think of politics, American style, knows that I am not praising Germany with a headline like this.
During the campaign for general elections in September, a lot of press coverage used the term, Amricanization. It typically referred to the candidate-centered nature of the campaign. For example, for the first time in German history, there were debates between the leaders of the two largest parties, patterned after US presidential debates. Such debates, although now practiced in New Zealand, Canada, Britain, and other parliamentary systems, are a rather odd fit for parliamentary systems, where the collective program of the leader’s party matters much more to the polititical and policy-making process than does the candidate for the top executive position. The Americanization went even further in the extent of coverage (much of it rather negative, and even sexist) of Angela Merkel herself, and in the extent that poor popular evaluation of Merkel may have contributed to the unexpected collapse of her party’s lead in the polls late in the campaign.
Now Americanization has emerged in another, sinister, sense. Among the many features of American politics that are subsersive of democracy is the common practice of policiains to cash in after their term is over, going to work for companies whose bottom lines have been enhanced with the assistance of the politician while he or she was in office.
Former Chancellor Gerhard SchrÃ¶der is at the center of an increasingly damaging scandal for having taken a lucrative job with the Russian corporation Gazprom almost immediately after leaving office. In the last two weeks of SchrÃ¶der’s chacellorship, Germany and Russia signed a six billion dollar contract for Gazprom to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic sea to transport Russian gas to Germany, thereby bypassing Belarus, the Baltic states, and Poland (each of which currently benefits not ony from access to some of the gas itself, but from fees collected from various land routes).
I was watching DW’s European Journal (an outstanding news program carried on LinkTV) one night last week and I actually heard SchrÃ¶der justify his taking of this job on the grounds that the practice of retiring politicians accepting jobs with companies that had business with the government is very typical in America.
Shame on Mr. SchrÃ¶der for his sleaze, and shame on American politicians for setting such a low standard of democratic ethics.