On Tuesday Americans (re)elected a president who proposes to offer them a tolerant and mutually supportive society. It’s a society that Europeans have made their model for decades, and for which they claim paternity. Today, by a curious combination of historical circumstances, both sides must take up the same battle and the same challenge: to prove that this social project is realistic and still feasible.

The U.S. President will struggle to impose this solidarity on the large part of American society that does not want an institutionalised safety net for everyone and prefers rewards to be earned on merit. Europeans, for their part, must struggle to preserve their social security system for all, shaped differently in the details from country to country.

Which of Europe’s Obamas or Romneys will carry the day?

Obama and European leaders have an incentive to join their forces and their thinking to find a way to preserve their political project: the caring society where, as Obama said, everyone has a chance, whether rich or poor, black or white, sick or healthy, gay or straight. Their enemies are the same: yawning budget deficits, a profound economic and structural crisis, and the “Romneysation" of our societies. Individualism, fuelled by the economic crisis, is now expressing itself in the same way on both sides of the Atlantic, in a push to have social "benefits" distinguish between those who deserve them (workers) and all the others (the "assisted").

What solidarity? Can we afford this generosity? How could we modify it to make it affordable? Which of Europe’s Obamas or Romneys will carry the day? And can we believe, as Obama proclaimed, that it is still possible to make the compromises we need for society to move forward without being blinded by optimism? This is the very difficult dilemma of the moment. The good news since Tuesday is that the Europeans are not alone in still having faith – and in being forced to find a solution.