We non-Americans marvel at the questions dominating the U.S. primaries: Were shots fired at Hillary Clinton when she stepped from the plane in Sarajevo? Or was she standing on the runway calmly sipping a cup of strong Bosnian coffee before stepping into an armored car taking her to the U.S. embassy? Did Barack Obama offend American workers in Pennsylvania by saying that in the face of growing financial problems, they would tightly embrace weapons and religion? Could John McCain even be called a liar because he assessed his loaded wife’s considerable income separately from his own?
And what has all this got to do with politics? Seen from the other side of the Atlantic, the U.S. primaries rather resemble TV casting shows like “American Idol” than elections. The German equivalent of “American Idol” is called “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” (Germany searching the superstar, abbr. DSDS). The jury comprises – similar to all other Idol-shows worldwide – more or less well-known personalities from the world of pop. And Dieter Bohlen
This 54-year-old composer, producer and background singer with the year-round fake suntan was once internationally known through German- European disco outfits like Modern Talking and Blue System. Other than that, Bohlen is also famous for his unnaturally white teeth, various and rather short-lived relationships to minor female celebrities and for having fractured his penis some years ago. Also notorious is his scatological choice of words. Apart from his ex-girlfriends, many DSDS candidates had ample opportunity to experience these verbal outbursts hands-on. One would-be superstar was told that, “You sing like a garden goblin on ecstasy;” another had to live with the crushing fact that his singing reminded Bohlen of the sound of a “sausage being stuffed up his dogs bum.” A third victim was told that his voice had something of an “intestinal obstruction.”
Whether one likes this particular way of dealing with people or not – the fact is that DSDS would never have reached the popularity it has without Bohlen. According to the DSDS TV broadcaster RTL, between 30 and 50 percent of the relevant target group watch the show at least once a week. Yet for many viewers, this is not due to the musical performances – which can easily be attested a lack in quality and sincerity – but about the pure entertainment value of Bohlen.
And what are the U.S primaries all about? Reading reports on Clinton, Obama and McCain, it often appears to us non-Americans that the entertainment value of the potential presidential candidates was more important than their political positions – and that the U.S. voters were all small-scale Dieter Bohlens.