The Election From Overseas

Posted: November 4, 2008    Categories: Travel

I get asked this question so frequently, I figured I should write about it. I try to avoid talking about politics, because I think there are things in the world so much more important and interesting. Also, lets face it, you can only end up pissing people off when you talk about politics. This post isn’t intended to be preachy, just to answer some questions of how I have viewed the election play out over the last 18 months from outside of the US.

Did I Vote?

No. For the first time in my adult life, I did not vote. I am not losing any sleep over it either.

For starters, I’m not sure I’m legally eligible to vote anywhere. I’m no longer a resident of Minnesota. My drivers license is from Wisconsin, but I didn’t stay in Wisconsin long enough after I sold my house to be considered a resident (I think). I’m sure if I had wanted to, I could have cast a vote in Wisconsin and no one would have been the wiser, but I saw no need to go out of my way to do it. If the electoral vote is close, and Wisconsin ends up in a tie, I’ll get more joy from seeing that than if I had voted. Besides, I always vote for third party candidates, so my vote wont be missed. Unlike many people, voting doesn’t make me feel good and I don’t get a cheap thrill about being part of the democratic process. (I would have voted if I could vote for “No” or “None of the Above”)

I felt the choices this year were between the douche and the turd sandwich. My politics lean libertarian. I think Bush has been a horrible president. That, however, does not make me like Obama. The messianic following that Obama has developed is frightening. McCain I think has only one real policy, and that is becoming President of the United States. Him calling Obama a socialist makes me wonder where he has been for the last eight years as his party has increased spending across the board, more than Clinton….oh, and the small issue of nationalizing the banks, which is one of the most socialist steps taken by any president in American history.

For the first and only time in my life I donated money to a political candidate this year, so it isn’t as if I’m totally detached. But I in no way can justify casting a vote for the lesser of two evils. I don’t see a maverick or change. When people tell me I should vote, it is almost always couched in terms of the other guy being bad, not their guy being good. Arguments about the other guy being bad are not mutually exclusive with each other. I have Republican and Democrat friends, and can go easily between the two worlds. I’m from a conservative part of Wisconsin, but went to a liberal, Liberal Arts college. I can listen to Rush Limbaugh and read the Huffington Post, and filter out the crap from both sources without getting all worked up about it. Politics really just doesn’t do it for me.

That being said, more random thoughts on the election:

*As a traveler, in my own selfish way, who would probably do the most for me? Probably Obama. I am often asked if I get any anti-American feedback from people. The answer is a qualified no. Locals never do, and if anything, being an American is a plus. I did have a few Australians and European travelers who have been snotty, but that’s it. If we elect a black Democrat, it will shut them up, which will make life a bit easier for me.

*From a travel standpoint, the changes to border laws for travelers and mind bogglingly stupid rules at airports have made life difficult. Whatever rule we make tends to be followed by everyone else in lockstep. The US is now going to require citizens of the UK (our biggest ally) to apply for a visa to enter the US. This make no sense and is not necessary. I have no faith that an Obama administration will really change anything, however. Once power has been granted, you almost never see it go away. Those who hate Bush, now that one of theirs is in power, will think that the power is in safe hands, forgetting what all the Republicans have now learned: the power you grant will one day wind up in the hands of your opponents.

*Of the American I have met while traveling, I have met ZERO McCain supporters. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I’m not even leaving one out so I can exaggerate the point.

*Locals I have met have a detached interest in what is happening, but don’t really seem to have any preference. People in Indonesia asked a lot about Obama, because he spent a few years there growing up. It had nothing to do with policies, just having some tenuous link to a candidate was enough. I think the rest of the world is simply fascinated with our process and how complex it is. I never realized how complex it was until I had to explain primaries, party conventions, picking a VP, and the electoral college.

*I am often asked if I can keep up with what is happening. Not only is the answer yes, but it is often hard to get away from it. I have decided that it isn’t so much that Americans are ignorant of the rest of the world, it is that we suffer from the same problems as the rest of the world: a fixation with America.

*Many Europeans I meet, who think that Americans are ignorant with the rest of the world, really don’t know much about the US. Many don’t know the number of states. When I say where I’m from, I always have to add “It’s in the middle, near Canada”. I love shocking people because they assume I don’t know anything about where they are from. I met a man from Melbourne last night at a bar. I asked him if he knew who won the Melbourne Cup (a horse race on a par with the Kentucky Derby which tool place yesterday) and how Australia was doing the Rugby League World Cup. He was stunned :)

This ends my political programming.

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