Restoring America's prestige in the world

Lichtman says the world is open to change coming from within the United States Keystone

Although the Democrats have yet to pick a presidential candidate, it is clear the Republicans will lose the United States elections, a US historian tells swissinfo.

This content was published on April 2, 2008 - 16:03

Allan Lichtman talks about the challenges facing the US in repairing its global image, and the issues that will affect relations with Europe.

The academic is best known for his "Keys" system, which has helped him accurately predict the winner of the presidential elections over the past two decades. He will publish a book on the American conservative movement in June.

swissinfo: From an international point of view it's often said that this year's presidential elections are the most important in decades. Do you agree?

Allan Lichtman: They are very important, but not the most important in decades. We have seen very important elections in 2000 after the Clinton era; they brought about the beginning of a fundamental redirection of American politics.

Eight years later, we're at the end of the Bush era. The ideology of conservatism is crumbling. So this year's elections do have the potential to be transforming yet again.

swissinfo: What are the main reasons why these elections are important?

A.L.: The United States is facing major choices in its foreign policy, especially with regards to the war in Iraq, but also major challenges due to the economic problems as well as environmental and climate change policies.

Also, the development of our relations with Russia and China will affect our image.

swissinfo: If the next president is a Democrat, which areas would most likely see significantly new approaches compared with the politics of Bush?

A.L.: The Democrats will have a new approach to the war in Iraq, to health insurance, tax laws and the environment. And we will no doubt see a return to a more multilateral approach in policy.

swissinfo: The global image of the US has been badly dented. What are the main challenges the new president will face in trying to remedy this situation?

A.L.: It all has to begin with Iraq. If the war continues - a bitterly unpopular war not only in the Muslim world - it will be very, very difficult for the new president to bring about a change in the poor position the country holds in world opinion.

No matter how powerful a country may be, the lesson is, that you cannot go it alone.

swissinfo: Do you agree with the view that a lot of today's anti-Americanism is centered on the person of Bush?

A.L.: I am sure there is a willingness to give the new president a chance. However, it will take a lot of work to undo the ill will that has been sown by the Bush administration.

Still, I believe that the world is open to change coming from within the United States and America's standing in the world can be restored with major changes in policy.

swissinfo: Where do you see the biggest call for action for the new administration in relations with Europe?

A.L.: Trade issues, climate change and Europe's role in the conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq seem to me the most important issues to be addressed.

swissinfo: Do you think trans-Atlantic political relations will ever be as close again as during the Cold War?

A.L.: I think we will probably never see quite such close relations again as during all those years when Europe and the United States were linked through such a distinct common enemy.

Nonetheless, there is a real chance for the new administration to substantially improve trans-Atlantic relations.

swissinfo: Earlier this year you predicted that the Republicans will lose the White House. Do you stand by your projection?

A.L.: Yes. These predictions are based on a series of evaluations that make it clear that there will be a change.

The American people have badly soured on the Republicans. And this will not change before November. John McCain would just be four more years of the same. He will not win the elections.

swissinfo: So you don't think the ongoing race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is damaging to the Democrats?

A.L.: No. I don't think so. The fact that the Democrats have not come up with a candidate as yet works basically in their favour. The interest of the general public is centered on the Democrats and no one looks to the Republicans.

There has been a big increase in newly registered voters with the Democrats, they turn out in big numbers for the primaries.

swissinfo: Who is more likely to be the Democratic candidate in the end, Clinton or Obama?

A.L.: Right now I think it will probably be Obama, but we'll have to wait and see.

swissinfo: Do you think it is of real importance for the bilateral relationship between Switzerland and the US whether the White House is in the hands of the Republicans or the Democrats?

A.L.: Like the rest of the world, Switzerland is in one way or another influenced by the politics of the United States on the world stage.

For bilateral relations there is probably not so much difference in approach however.

swissinfo, Rita Emch in New York

Allan Jay Lichtman

Allan Jay Lichtman (born 1947) is professor of history at the American University in Washington D.C.

Lichtman is also the author of six books. His latest book White Protestant Nation – The Rise of The American Conservative Movement will be published in June.

He is best known for the "Keys" system, which helps him predict the winner of the presidential elections. The system is presented in his books, The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency and The Keys to the White House.

Lichtman has provided commentary for American and foreign networks and cable channels, has appeared in countless interviews and talk shows on American and foreign radio stations and has been cited hundreds of times by leading newspapers in America and abroad.

He has lectured across the world.

He lives in Bethesda, Maryland. His wife is of Swiss ancestry.

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The "Keys" System

The system uses 13 historical factors to predict whether or not the candidate of the party holding the presidency (regardless of whether the president is himself a candidate) will win the popular vote in the election for president of the United States.

The keys were selected based on their correlations with the presidential election results from 1860 through 1980, using statistical methods adapted from the work of geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok for predicting earthquakes.

The system correctly predicted the popular vote winner in each of the elections from 1984 to 2004.

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Americans abroad

Both parties feel that US voters abroad can make a difference.

It is estimated that there are six million Americans living abroad. Roughly 30,000 American citizens are registered in Switzerland (2000 statistics) with 14,000 estimated to live in the French-speaking part of the country. The world headquarters of American Citizens Abroad is in Geneva.

Eligible overseas voters are entitled to have their ballots counted in the state where they last lived.

This year Democrats overseas took part in their own primary, electing 22 delegates from abroad to take part in a national convention in Denver in August.

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