Saturday, February 2, 2008

Election Fever

Here's one surprise about our move to England: I talk more about U.S. politics here than I did while living in Washington D.C.

Part of it is this is a pretty fascinating primary race, for both parties, but it's also that Europe is fascinated with and wary of what happens next at the White House. There's a general sense America has dragged down Europe with the Iraq war, particularly hurting England as Tony Blair followed Bush almost blindly. So whereever I go, the minute someone hears my accent, they start asking about who will be the next president, who will be the Democrat (Editor's note--I've corrected my initial use of "demoncrat" and deny it was a Freudian slip!) nominee, what's obama really like, etc.

Take this week's trip to the Netherlands (report coming soon). At the Maastricht airport Sunday, a Finnish couple who gave me a ride into town asked about whether Mccain was for real this time. I stopped in a cafe for dinner Tuesday--next thing I'm chatting about whether Obama had enough experience or was just charming. On my flight back to London, the British man next to me distracted himself from our rough approach to the airport by talking U.S. elections.

People back home have asked whether folks here follow the election--well, it's often front-page news in the UK, especially the Hilary-Barack battle. The land of Margaret Thatcher is curious if we will elect a woman and even more curious, given what they perceive about our divisive racial politics, whether we could elect a black man.

Just this week one of the national papers did a two day U.S. election special--one day the paper had a massive wallchart depicting the U.S. state map, with info such as the number of electoral votes, who they voted for in 2004, their primary date, etc. The next day the paper had a small book explaining U.S. elections and giving trivia. In fact, a German colleague walked into my office this morning reading the pamphlet with great interest--it had a list of all the losers of president elections and he was curious how many I recalled from the past 50 years. Not many, I sadly realized.--JT

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