Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Results Were Not Available At Press Time

How time flies. It seems like just yesterday that I was writing an article for Salt Lake City Weekly about travel expert Rick Steves on the eve of the 2004 election. He was coming to speak in Salt Lake and and our interview naturally went towards things political, and we discussed in depth Europeans attitudes towards Americans and their politics. I found Steves' ideas on the political impact of foreign travel fascinating, and his ominous prediction of how Europeans would view Americans if they re-elected Bush a bit disturbing. But at the time I thought "That would never happen again, would it?"
The fact that I turned in the story on election day before we knew the outcome of the 2004 Presidential Race made his point even more poignant, and after Bush was re-elected, I wondered how the world would respond. I think we all know the unfortunate answer to that question now that we find ourselves deeply mired in the War in Iraq, the economy is edging towards depression, and Bush's approval rating is in the toilet. Basically, we've lost our credibility.

I thought a lot about these things during our recent travels in Europe, and I was reminded of the global impact this election has, and how much our vote means, not only to our lives here in the United States, but to the whole world.
I was first reminded of the global impact of the election when I was talking with my friend Alison who lives in London. She and her family are now trying to sell their fantastic flat in Fulham so they can move back to their native Australia where they can afford a better education for their two children. They have trying and trying to sell, but the market in London is just as bad, if not worse, than many places in the US due to the same issues; irresponsible lending and credit and the downfall of so many financial institutions due to these practices (gee, do you think deregulation works?). Alison said they were going to keep it on the market until the end of October, but after talking to a friend at the park, she realized that the world could change, essentially overnight, after November 4th. Because of this, they've decided not to take it off the market until after the election.
Next, while talking to a very friendly Belgian woman in a children's clothing shop, I was again reminded of the worldwide impact of our vote. I was asking her how the clothing sizes corresponded to US sizes, and once she knew I was American, she wanted to talk about the election. First, she wanted to be sure that I would be home in time to vote. I assured her that I would, and then asked her who she wanted to win the election. She said Obama, as if it was obvious, and I asked her why. She told me that she thought that John McCain was too much like President Bush, and when I asked her how, she had a hard time coming up with an answer. She said it had a lot to do with the look on his face, and then she did a pretty comical grimace that was a dead ringer for President Bush. She said "It's just that they both seem so....arrogant." In my opinion, she pretty much nailed it, and the way that Europeans view Americans and their politics. We talked a bit more about the election and where I live in the US while she beautifully wrapped the clothes I bought for the boys, and then as I waved as I left the shop she called out "Vote for the right person!" with a slightly worried look on her face. It really stopped me in my tracks, and made me feel my responsibility as an American voter.
And this woman's feelings about Obama are par for the course in Europe; walking down the streets in Brussels our friends from the US said they passed storefront after storefront sporting Obama signs. And in watching the BBC World News for over a week, we only saw one image of McCain on a news report, but any other time something about the election was on (which was often) it was all Obama, all the time.
Then, on the last night we were in Belgium, we were walking across the university campus in Leuven at midnight, in the rain, and we passed the poster at the beginning of this post. It is for a party called American Election Night. Can you imagine a bunch of college students in the US getting together to watch the results of an election anywhere else in the world? I had to take a picture to remind myself that if people in a small town in Belgium find in important enough to watch, I need to to do my part by participating in what may be the most important election in world history.
So, here we are, four years later on election day, no one knowing the outcome. Although polls are pointing towards an Obama victory, I learned my lesson in 2004, and I won't believe it 'til I see it. Hopefully we all learned our lesson in 2004, and we make our votes count so we will indeed see the world change, essentially overnight.


the stokes family said...

Its late here. I just checked my email quickly and had a peek at your blog before heading off to bed. Just to emphasise your point, while I was reading your post, a live results show for the US election came on the BBC. They are giving it as much attention as if a general election had just taken place here, with all the graphs. charts and correspondants in every state. Phenomenal isn't it? Ali