An Expat’s View of American Politics: Presidential Edition

Oh yes, the presidential election year. When you’re a news and political junkie like me, it’s like the Olympics and college football season for your brain. You go through all the physical reactions of watching sports; you pace, you scream at the television or radio. You scream for joy and then you turn off the TV, in disgust and frustration, only to return because you can’t get enough. In my case, I wonder why I do it to myself every election cycle. The only difference in 2012 is I’m doing the yelling and screaming in a small, one room apartment in South Korea, (I think all my neighbors are scared of me now) instead of in my car driving home from work and listening to NPR.

Campaign poster with a TARDIS in the middle of Obama's "O" logo, captioned "Time Lords for Obama."
This is the kind of political ad I like seeing.

I Approved This Message

One would think that the actual physical distance when an American lives overseas would provide a bit of emotional distance in a run up to a major political event and many ways it does just that. As I have mentioned before on this site, living on the other side of the world does wonders for giving you a bird’s eye view of the political battle as opposed to getting lost among the proverbial trees. It also gives me the wonderful ability to weed out news, people and views that give me a migraine. Of course, I still come across news that can send me into a rage like the video that Mother Jones released of Mitt Romney at a private fundraising event, where he disparaged 47 percent of the U.S. population or the fact that Governor Rick Scott is purging voter rolls in my home state of Florida. However, this information is filtered through news sources, websites and commentators who share my political leanings. I follow blogs on Tumblr that are liberal, feminist and frankly widely hilarious in their commentary. I have either defriended or hidden people on Facebook who I deeply disagree with politically and whose postings could devolve into a comment war with people I’ve never met. I am not subjected to the incessant political ads on TV (my mother was complaining she was already sick of them back in July) and I don’t have to roll my eyes at an obnoxious bumper sticker on the car in front of me as I’m stuck in traffic.

Seriously, living overseas is awesome sometimes.

The downside of course is that by living in my nice, me-shaped size bubble in Asia, I run the risk of becoming the same ignorant asshole that I sometimes accuse Republicans of being, with the only difference being I’m wearing Obama socks instead of Romney ones (yes, I do really own a pair of Obama socks bought here in South Korea). Though it’s so much easier just to bask in the awesomeness that made up much of the Democratic National Convention, I forced myself to read transcripts of the speeches of the Republican convention (watching the speeches is too much, sorry). I made myself read the analysis of the various fact-checkers when they pointed out places where the Democrats were less than forthright in their speeches. Most of the time, I don’t expect my mind to be changed, but I’ll never forget what my 11th grade English teacher drilled into my head when we covered argumentative writing, “Know the other side’s argument and try to look at it from their perspective, even if you completely disagree. It helps make your argument stronger.” So I prepare myself for the moment when my something slips through my little bubble and my normal, non-confrontational attitude cannot abide blatant sexism, racism or stupidity and pray I’m not as bad as the other guy at making my arguments.

You Can Never Go Home Again (or Can You?)

“Yeah, but Romney has no chance of winning the election. Right?”

This is a question I hear regularly from a person who is either 1) not an American or 2) doesn’t follow politics very closely. My usual response is a raised eyebrow and a simple, “I’m not so sure about that,” and that’s really the truth. It’s hard to gauge the political climate when you’re halfway across the world, even with keeping up to date with news and commentary. A news item debated and reblogged endlessly on Tumblr may not even cause a blip in the mainstream news media. Mitt Romney’s unbelievable statement at a private fundraiser should have been the lead story for every news outlet, but the lead story soon after on the Today Show was about Kate Middleton’s topless pictures.

So my answer to my friends is a truthful one; I truly don’t know who is going to win in November. I’m praying it’s Obama. I haven’t agreed with everything Obama has done. I’m especially not happy with his continuation of Bush’s education policies and the drone attacks in Afghanistan, but at the the end of the day, I want the guy who won’t ignore 47% percent of the country he is leading. I can also say with confidence that the UK, Ireland and I suspect, the rest of Europe want Obama to win. The British were not well pleased about the statements Romney made in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games and from my conversations and readings, many on the other side of the Atlantic see Romney as a George W. Bush clone.

Canadian flag with superimposed text. "So you're moving to Canada if Obama gets reelected, eh? The country with the socialist healthcare, universally recogized gay marriage, and a 45% atheist population... Yeah, I'm sure you'll fit right in."
Oh Canada, you sound like paradise….

I’m praying Obama wins, not just for the good of my country, but for my future as well. The outcome of the election will be a determining factor of whether I live in the U.S. in the foreseeable future. A close friend and I were having coffee a few weeks ago and we both agreed that if the Romney/Ryan ticket wins, it would be best for us, as women, to not live in the States. Several of my friends and people I know from online message boards are using the election as one of the deciding factors in their decision to continue teaching in South Korea for another year. As for me, I am leaving Korea once my contract is up in February, but I am applying to graduate schools in the U.K. and not in America. Whether or not I return to America after receiving my Master’s degree will be greatly influenced by whether or not Obama wins the election.

Honestly, this makes me sad because I feel like I can’t come home again. I mean of course I can, but if all our collective fears are realized with the Romney presidency, especially as women, becoming an expatriate on a permanent basis may be what’s best. The thought brings on not only sadness, but guilt because I realize that I am incredibly lucky to have the means, education and experience to ride out a potentially disastrous presidency. There are so many others who do not have that opportunity if they wanted to take it.

There is also a big part of that feels I should stay in the U.S. and fight the good fight and there is some merit to that argument. It’s one I think I’ll evaluate if the election swings that way. So all this expatriate can do for now is send in her absentee ballot, yell at her American friends who say they aren’t voting (and pointing out that if everyone who is eligible to vote, voted, President Obama would win by a landslide). Then on Election Day, I’ll be constantly checking my phone for news of the election because as luck would have it, it’ll be in the middle of my teaching day and hopefully I can keep my shouts of joy or my cries of despair in check.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

8 replies on “An Expat’s View of American Politics: Presidential Edition”

I’m pretty sure I’ll be homeless again, not have the ability to feed myself, and having major medical crisis without the ability to have them treated if Romney wins and does half of what he has said he’ll do. I’m terrified, because the supports and services that allow me to live independently (and if I didn’t, that would allow me to get supported living services) could be yanked. It’s possible, depending on my health, that I’d die under Romney’s plans. Actually, terror doesn’t even cover it. Just. Ugh.

=( If Romney wins I’d have to adopt a completely different career (not that its been going swimmingly here as it is). Upside though: I could marry a hot Canadian and have all that wonderful socialized medicine and liberal atmosphere. Hmm, now that I think about it, it might not be such a big sacrifice. Just gotta get used to the cold. And start taking French classes…and currency conversion courses..

Your second to last paragraph makes me kinda sad.

Of course I know things in the world will change if it’s going to be Romney over Obama, but besides that it’s much of a far-from-my-bed show. Yes, maybe we will have to start paying for that stupid JSF again, but he won’t touch our wombs.  But I ‘know’  the people here and Americans on other websites and it just creeps me the frick out to know there is genuine a chance for those women to get turned into second-rate-citizens. In the land of the free and where everything is possible ..

Well, we all know that the U.S. has never truly been the land of the free.

I say that half tongue-in-cheek, but if Romney wins, I will be trying to get into the UK graduate program that is good in my area of study. I do not want to live in a country that is willing to put George W. Bush 2.0 into the presidency so soon after the fact.


The British were not well pleased about the statements Romney made in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympic Games and from my conversations and readings, many on the other side of the Atlantic see Romney as a George W. Bush clone.

The “clone” comment made me think of this: The News Quiz. It’s a radio show, but the BBC help pages suggests people outside the UK should be able listen to it. The comments from 19 minutes in may give an idea of how Romney is viewed here. Which is to say, often with disbelief.


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