U.S. Election Big Across the Pond

In Uncategorized on November 13, 2008 at 6:36 am

page3electionAs the election of Obama still incites both cheers and tears of joy, for the newest president elect it is more than just his campaign for change that got him here. He was able to take his new ideas and convince not only people around the United States to vote for him; he owes his win to the Americans living outside the mainland US as well.

The number of people living abroad that were eligible to vote by absentee ballot in this election, otherwise known as expats, is numbered at about six million people.. Whether a person is just studying abroad during an election or has never held a permanent residency in the United States, if they are a citizen they have the right to vote abroad as well as pay their taxes to the IRS.

Both candidates targeted expats in this election as well as in the previous few elections. According to SKY News UK, thousands of Americans held result parties across the UK; both Republicans and Democrats, American and British alike, watched the results in unprecedented numbers.

Though election coverage surely took over the American media, the foreign press also picked up this election like none other. Splashed all over the front pages of British, Irish, French and countless other European newspapers were photos of both McCain and Obama; coverage began to quadruple every day as the election loomed closer. This election wasn’t just for the American public to enjoy; the whole world was watching.
For Americans studying abroad this election was an opportunity to take part in something distinctly American with a foreign perspective. Daniel Rockoff, junior political science major from Northwestern University studying in London, was able to take in the election the Danish way. Spending the big night watching the coverage in a pub called The Happy Pig in Copenhagen, Denmark he found that in Western Europe people were very aware of what was going on with the election. “The European view is that US presidential elections affect them to an extent that I think Americans really don’t stop and think about it,” said Rockoff.

He found that people were very positive when discussing the results, while asking for directions a Danish woman even stopped to congratulate him on the election of Obama. “I think Obama’s victory really instantly changes a lot of people’s perceptions of America, and that’s a good thing,” added Rockoff.

Jared Salisbury, junior mathematics major from Northwestern University studying in London, also felt the positivity as election night came and went. “British people were so excited about our election. Everyone was asking questions about who we had voted for and they seemed to be really invested in the results. It was covered in the same way it would be at home, the BBC only covered the results all night and there were a lot of places where you could watch it with other Americans. It was a really cool experience; one I’ll never forget,” said Salsbury.

Arcadia junior Erin Gilbert who is studying at the University of Greenwich also enjoyed the election abroad. “It was different than it would have been if I was at home. It was almost more exciting. We went to an election night party at the London School of Economics student union and it was packed with way more British people than Americans. They were excited that I voted for Obama; there were a lot of boos for McCain and cheers every time Obama won a state” said Gilbert on her election experience. “I didn’t realize before hand how much this election meant to other countries but it seemed to really resonate with all of the British people I was with.”

Many British students took notice of the election, not only on the big night but beforehand as well, watching the debates and following the campaign. Alexander Sanné of Sturry, England who is a second year theology student at King’s College London began following the candidates early on. “I was more interested in the external issues of their platforms. I found that it was hard to separate John McCain from President Bush. He didn’t seem to bring any fresh ideas to the table. Our countries are so closely related economically and your [American] foreign policy has a large influence on ours. As far as I’m concerned Obama’s foreign policy and ideas for the economy fit better with what I would want to influence the UK; his attitude on the issues is way more important that his experience.”

Amber Smith, first year geography major from Preston, England found solace in the election of Obama as well. “I feel reassured in the United States now that Barack Obama has won. The decisions and actions made by the Bush administration had made me personally lose a bit of faith in your government and this gives me a bit of faith back. I really trust Obama to make the right decisions.”

Whether American or British, everyone agreed that this election was a major turning point for the world’s view of the United States. It sparked a lot of interest and got people really excited for the future of the US and what that could mean for their respective countries. The streets of streets of London were full of headlines celebrating Barack Obama’s victory and five days later the BBC is still closely following the progress of Obama, having set apart a whole segment of their website just for his presidency. As President Bush’s days are numbered the Obama administration has already been pushed to the forefront of global politics. The question now is not only can he deliver at home, but abroad as well?


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