Greek public opinion and the US election: other peoples’ troubles or hopes

by Antonis D. Papagiannidis

Joe Biden is President-elect, Donald Trump sulks away. Still, the last week – day by day – worked as a test case of how far the politics of far-away nations, little understood in their technicalities, can capture the imagination of the public opinion in a politics-obsessed country. Like, in our case, Greece.

Having to deal with the mounting fear that the coronavirus pandemic is here to stay for quite long a time, as Greece gets into its second lock-down of the annus horribilis 2020, with intense political infighting over both the health issues and the economic consequences of the pandemic on an already-weakened economy, Greek media and public opinion got a welcome chance to deal with other peoples’ troubles. Day by day, the tally of votes in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia or Wisconsin (places little-known in more than a geographical sense) was religiously watched; the intricacies of vote recounts or of electoral lawsuits were dissected; the vocal claims of victory on the part of Donald Trump, then of his victory-being-robbed accusations were watched; the presidential pronouncements of Joe Biden, who nonetheless was treading quite carefully for some time after election day, were tracked.

Part of this interest was – well, self-interested! In the context of Turkish aggressivity in the region, the resulting balance of power in the U.S. is quite important for Greece: “who will lift the phone in Washington in case there is a flare-up in the Aegean?” is an oft-repeated question. Still it is even more interesting to see Greek public debate – especially in TV talks shows or in social media – rage over the potential future of Trumpism in the States and its incidence on our part of the world. Also, the Left-Right divide, always important in Greece as a tracker of progressive-conservative options colouring all matters from foreign policy to the national health service or the economic-policy response to the pandemic, is also viewed through a Democrats vs. Republicans angle. Or is it a more the mainstream vs. populist divide that has played out at the US in the Trump era? Is the streak of authoritarianism revealed by the Trump antics inherent in 21st century populism? Will the Washington consensus get a new twist under a Biden administration, especially post-corona? or will more social=democratic policies prevail (without the dreaded work “socialism” being uttered)?

Other peoples’ worries, troubles, hopes, expectations or whatever make always good watching.