Monday, November 10, 2008

election from down under

Top five questions from Aussies leading up to the US election:

1) What in Gods' name is the Electoral College?
Variations:
-Um . . . do you understand, like, how the voting system, um . . . works? Can you explain it to me?
-So, do you actually get to vote for your candidate directly?
-Why is the Uni ("university") vote so important?
Advanced Variations:
-Why do some states have more votes?
-What are the big states?
-Why on earth do you all care so much about Ohio?!?
Variation Exhibiting Mastery:
-How is that supposed to make any sense at all, and why haven't you gotten rid of it yet?

2) Did you vote? Gosh, I wish I could too . . .
Variations:
-How did you vote?
-Oh, but you don't have mandatory voting over there, do you?

3) What is up with Sarah Palin?!?
Variations:
-Why do so many American's always seem to want a poncer/bohunk/yobbo to be president?
-Surely she's not really that bad, is she? It's got to be exaggerated by biased media sources? Oh. Really? Well then how did she even get to be a governor?!

4) You are voting for Obama, right? Otherwise . . .
Variations:
-So, um, [pause] who do you, um, support? [weighty pause]
-Don't worry, Obama's going to win in a landslide.
-My other American friend says Obama will be assassinated as soon as he's elected. What do you think?
[Answer: I think that's a very insensitive and inappropriate question]
Variation from colleagues, upon visiting my desk:
-Wow, no question about who you're supporting, huh?
or
-Wow, you're . . . like . . . really interested in American politics, huh?
which almost invariably segues immediately into question number five...

5) Oh, you're American?

Erika watched the election results come in on CNN at the home of a fellow student. I had a very difficult time focusing at work, but managed to accomplish things nonetheless - turns out you can still write emails even if you're refreshing fivethirtyeight.com at the end of every sentence!

The large flat-screen TV in the Public Affairs department at work - located conveniently right next to my area - was tuned-in to election news all day. Most people paused in their workday to watch John McCain's concession speech, and virtually all productivity ground to a halt when Obama appeared for his acceptance speech.

After work, Erika and I met up with my cousin Matthew at venerable South Melbourne drinking establishment The Maori Chief, where the official election celebration hosted by American Democrats Abroad Australia had been going since 10 AM.

Everyone here is really happy about the result, but most people don't quite seem to get how amazing it actually is because they think Obama's win was virtually inevitable. This could mean one of two things: either it was as close a call as I think and they are naive about how bad things can be in the States, or they're right and I don't give my home country enough credit.

At the moment, I'm actually proud enough of the US to believe it's the latter.

3 comments:

Jane Gillette said...

In answer to the question about how close it was, or rather how close it _felt_, I'd say it felt close, and definitely did not feel like a done deal. It was exciting in the days leading up to the election to have so many people asking each other if they were going to vote (not to tell them who to vote for, just to make sure they would vote!). Personally, I felt cautious optimism/hope, but having been through years of election disappointment I found that election day was not so much nervous excitement, but rather holding my breath and wondering what it would be like if McCain won. My biggest hope was that, no matter what, the vote would be clear and we wouldn't have to wait days to find out the results.

MJ Kramer said...

I think Obama had to win by an overwhelming majority in order for the results to be seen as truly legitimate, and luckily, he did. But it was far from a foregone conclusion over here in the mother country.

After two stolen elections I think we (Obama supporters) were all on the edges of our seats this time.

Here's my favorite TV snippet that about sums it up:

Actor/comedian Richard Belzer on the Tavis Smiley show, Oct. 13, 2008:

"Belzer: Can I just say one more thing?

Tavis: Sure you may.

Belzer: Barack Obama is going to win by a huge, huge -

Tavis: By a landslide?

Belzer: A landslide, beyond corruption. Because they're going to fix things. In certain places, votes are going to be doctored - they can do that. But he's going to win so overwhelmingly it will be beyond corruption, and I think America will breathe a sigh of relief, the rest of the world won't think that we're crazy White warmongers, that we have some humanity."

Lisa Nonken said...

Your pictures are WONDERFUL!!!! And yes, I was biting my nails right up to the end. despite fivethirtyeight giving Obama a 90-something probability of victory. There was still that little sliver of a chance that McCain could have won, and that little sliver kept me up at night! And it was close by the popular vote: McCain won 46%, with 53% for Obama. I know that's a wider margin than presidential elections have seen in a long time, but it still shows that our country is far from being united in support of the ideas and ideals Obama stands for.