“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
The stakes are high in the 2012 presidential election. Whichever candidate is elected will have a different and tremendous impact on the American people as well as citizens all over the world.
A similar election in Syria or Canada, for example, might have consequences within the country, but won’t necessarily leave a mark internationally. As long as the United States remains the most influential country on the globe—from music and film to foreign policy—our government plays a role in the lives of people everywhere. Americans vote in the upcoming election, but we’re not the only ones with an opinion on the issue.
I cast my first vote four years ago after moving to France. American expatriates had the option of mailing in an absentee ballot or passing by a designated polling station. Mine happened to be in the American Church of Paris, and had makeshift booths like the ones set up around schools, churches and fire stations in King County, complete with “I Voted” stickers. Voting itself was anticlimactic, but it will be hard for me to forget the events that accompanied it later that evening.
Despite the eight-hour time difference, a few American bars around Paris stayed open all night to cover the election live. I arrived with one of my friends more than an hour early to secure a couple of seats, but it was already too late. The streets were packed for more than a block in all directions. People from all nations crowded together with no room to sit, nothing to lean against, and waited for hours in eager anticipation for the votes to be counted. The city erupted with celebration when Barack Obama was announced as the next president of the United States.
This time around, I will also be in France, but American expats are limited to voting by mailing in absentee ballots. I won’t get my sticker, but with the issues at hand, like a pending Iranian nuclear crisis or the future of trade with China, I expect that the after party will be just as impressive and overcrowded with foreigners.
France itself is leaning towards, or nearly falling over on, reelecting President Obama. When the daily newspaper “Direct Matin” surveyed over 1,000 French residents, 67 percent said that they wanted another four years with the democratic candidate, while only 5 percent preferred to see Governor Romney in office, stating that Romney is viewed as a “heartless multimillionaire,” and that France would feel “more heard” when it came to foreign policy with Obama.
Even though the United States are divided down the middle between the two candidates, countries abroad are unanimous about wanting to keep President Obama in the White House. I took to the streets and asked people from a number of diverse nations who they would choose if they were able to vote in the upcoming election, and heard a similar testimony:
“Obama obviously,” exclaimed a woman from Cambodia.
Some had personal reasons for supporting President Obama, like a woman from Indonesia who said, “Obama is very well known in my country since he used to live there. We love him so much.” A woman from Brazil added, “Obama is something different. Right now in Brazil we have our first woman president, and we like that Obama is the first black president in the States. He’s not just a president for the American people, he’s an example for the world.”
Not having much luck with Governor Romney, I asked people to elaborate on why they thought President Obama would be the better pick. A Bulgarian man hoping to become American through the Green Card Lottery said, “I find Obama to be more intelligent. Romney is a bit extreme.”
Later, an African ambassador to France voiced a similar sentiment, saying, “Some of Romney’s policies, especially involving China, are very worrisome.” He added, “I would say that most of Africa would prefer Obama.”
A Canadian said that Obama is a humbler face for America, one that is more considerate of others, and, in turn, earns more respect from the rest of the world.
“From my point of view,” said a surgeon from Egypt, “Obama’s management of the financial crisis was good.”
“I don’t think that the President had enough time to make changes,” said a woman from Chili; a sentiment echoed by an Irishman who reasoned, “You can’t solve the problems that the States had in four years. You probably couldn’t do it in 16.”
A man from Nepal added, “When Obama took over the country, it was a total disaster. With the progress that we’re seeing right now, he should get more time to complete the next part of his plan. Romney would disrupt progress by coming in with a new plan or worse: the old plan.”
My own thoughts are more inline with a Frenchman that I interviewed. He said, “I don’t know if Obama is the right choice, but I know that Romney is the wrong one.”