One of the more unusual aspects of the 2008 US presidential campaign is that Europeans seem to be just as engaged and excited as Americans—and in some cases, even more so. Looking ahead to next year, Europeans believe there’s one thing they can be certain about: things are going to get better.
There’s good reason to expect that whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain in the White House, America’s approach toward many of the most divisive issues in transatlantic relations will shift favourably. The Guantánamo Bay prison will be shuttered, the US will reject torture and a new administration will make a serious effort to combat climate change. Both McCain and Obama have already proven that close relations with Europe will be a high priority. They have taken valuable time away from the campaign trail to visit key European capitals - the first time that the two major party candidates have done so this late in the political season.
We’ll see the European excitement on Obama’s overseas trip this week, when the presumptive Democratic nominee will draw rock-star worthy crowds seeking to catch a glimpse of America’s newest phenomenon. Yet America’s European friends should not be lulled into thinking that the election of their preferred candidate and the exit of Bush would mean that all of the tough problems would be solved and the hard work would be over. In fact, the work would just be getting started.