Brendon O'Connor (US Studies Centre, University of Sidney): "Americanism, anti-Americanism and the 2012 Presidential Election"

29.10.2012, 18:15 Uhr, U7/01.05

In Zusammenarbeit mit dem Lehrstuhl für Literatur und Medien.

American presidential elections often play out as dramas about American national identity. Americans and non-Americans seem remarkably willing every four years to see presidential elections as discourses about what it is to be an American and what America stands for. Maybe this is America’s fate as long as it continues to be seen as an ideology as much as a place. In 20th and 21st century presidential elections, traditional and fairly static notions of American national identity, or what can be called Americanism, dominate. Some version of the log-cabin to White House (American Dream) story is generally used by candidates. Further, candidates constantly present a perfect movie world commitment to family, religion and America with such rigidity that is suggestive of great national anxiety on these issues. A current example of this anxiety is the overblown rhetoric of American exceptionalism regularly employed since 9/11.

Non-Americans are very familiar with these narratives and this familiarity gives them significant influence in presenting American political goals as noble. These narratives, which are often little more than political fantasies and soap operas, help reinforce American global power. However, there is also a flip side to this foreign familiarity and it is contempt (anti-Americanism). Reagan and George W. Bush played into such anti-American stereotypes across the world; and Romney (as well as other Republican candidates) have in 2012 elicited anti-American sentiment globally as they tap into fears of, and a distaste for, American capitalism, insularity, ignorance and arrogance. Whether Americanist or anti-American narratives will have the most important impact globally will depend in 2012, somewhat superficially, on who is elected president.

Brendon joined the United States Studies Centre in 2009 as Associate Professor in American Politics. He was previously with the Department of Politics and Public Policy at Griffith University. Brendon was the Australia Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington DC in 2008 and in 2006 he was a Fulbright Fellow at Georgetown University. He is the editor of seven books on anti-Americanism and has also published articles and books on American welfare policy, presidential politics, US foreign policy, and Australian-American relations. He has taught courses on American domestic politics and foreign affairs, and supervised theses on a variety of topics such as anti-Americanism, neoconservatism, the Iraq War and presidential politics.