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Swiss in the US hope for Democrat victory

Swiss Walter Liniger, professor at the University of South Carolina. cla.sc.edu

As election day approaches in the United States, many of the 71,000 Swiss citizens living there say they hope President Bush won’t be re-elected.

This content was published on October 26, 2004 - 19:11

In the run-up to the presidential vote on November 2, swissinfo contacted some of them to get their views on the past four years in America.

Around 40,000 of the estimated 71,000 Swiss in the US are dual Swiss-American citizens, many of whom say they are fed up with the Bush administration’s actions abroad.

“I’m not voting ‘for’ a candidate, but rather ‘against’ one,” said Walter Liniger, a music professor living in South Carolina, who says he is “ashamed of his American nationality”.

Fear and terror

“The worst thing is that Americans don’t know what to do… they are completely disoriented by fear and terror and their incomprehension of what’s going on,” Liniger told swissinfo.

His comments were echoed by Bernard Nussbaumer, a film producer from canton Vaud who now lives in Dallas, Texas – President Bush’s home state.

Nussbaumer says the past four years in America have left him “disgusted and without hope”.

“Half of this country is blind and anaesthetised,” he said. “I don’t think Bush is dishonest or has bad intentions… but I believe his values are fake, that he has caused a lot of damage to the US and that his country isn’t even aware of it.”

He added that Americans had gone from being seen as “victims to aggressors” in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Security

According to Matthias Meyer – a Swiss who spent many years living in the US as an executive director at the World Bank – terrorism has catapulted security and foreign policy issues to the top of the election agenda.

“The attacks and the war in Iraq have led to a new situation where foreign policy is at the heart of the election campaigns,” he said.

“That has never happened before in the history of the country,” added Meyer, who was in the US following the terrorist attacks, and has now returned to Switzerland.

He added that the period since September 11 had resulted in “an obsession with security and a heightened level of patriotism” in the US.

“The attacks strengthened the president, who was seen as weak because of how he won the election,” said Meyer.

“He took on the appearance of a leader who could guarantee stability and this made him more appealing in the public eye.”

Social erosion

Besides being fed-up with US foreign policy, many Swiss citizens and dual nationals living in America are also critical of the Bush administration’s domestic track record.

“When it comes to the environment, social issues and civil liberties, like freedom of expression, we have gone backwards by decades,” said Nussbaumer.

Meanwhile, Liniger believes America’s disadvantaged have been “manipulated by fear mongering” and that they are just as likely to vote for Bush as “the rich that have become richer under him”.

He also cites an “erosion of the middle class,” which, in his mind, is becoming “more critical and liberal”.

But he says he has been unable to convince his students that a Democratic win would help “avoid further social erosion”.

Backing Bush

But not all Swiss in the US share Liniger’s opinion.

Peter Jordi, a businessman living in New York, is a strong supporter of the Bush administration.

“I totally agree with what President Bush has done,” said Jordi, who added that he was happy about the tax breaks granted by the Republicans.

He also said he was in support of US foreign policy and the war against terror.

“I know this isn’t how most Europeans feel, but in my opinion, the European way of thinking is defeatist,” said Jordi, who predicts that Bush is certain to win next week’s election.

For his part, Nussbaumer believes a Republican victory wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

“If Bush gets re-elected, the Americans won’t have any more excuses and they will have to make some choices… a little bit like children who have to learn,” said Nussbaumer.

“Perhaps it’s better to let the Republican abscess burst… then we can try to heal it,” he added.

But he is sorry to see how deeply the country has been divided by the election.

“It’s like a gigantic iceberg splitting in two, with both parties following opposite currents,” Nussbaumer said.

swissinfo, Isabelle Eichenberger

In brief

There are roughly 71,000 Swiss citizens living in the United States, including around 40,000 dual nationals.

Those who support a Democratic victory in the US presidential election on November 2, cited concerns over civil liberties, US foreign policy and the Iraq war.

Others strongly support Bush, and his administration’s domestic and foreign policies.

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