It was bittersweet celebrating the election results alone in a hotel room in Addis. My guy (and girl) won, so I wanted to be with people who were as happy about that as I was. On the other hand, if he hadn’t, that hotel room in Ethiopia, a few thousand miles away from the election epicenter, is the place I would’ve wanted to be most.
That sort of encapsulates how I felt about being in another country during a presidential year. I was happy to be away from the constant election noise, the ceaseless ads, the meaningless arguments, the acrimony. But I missed discussing politics with my politically inclined friends and family. The late night coffee sessions complaining about the latest gaffe (or celebrating it), talking about the issues that matter most to us, predicting the outcomes if the other guy wins.
I (mostly) missed putting in the hard work, knocking on doors, making phone calls to help my guy get re-elected. I missed that camaraderie I was starting to feel with my fellow union members before I left, knowing we were fighting for something real, something worth fighting for.
Now I’m missing the celebration at home. I sat in my hotel room and watched the fuzzy picture of Al Jazeera on my 14-inch TV, waiting for his speech. I felt this overwhelming need to be with people, to hug a stranger standing next to me at an election night party, to be at George Webb’s talking to my dad and sisters about how close it really was, prognosticating about the 2016 election.
But it’s sweet, too, being here, listening to people talk about American politics, some with more knowledge than lots of Americans. Many marvel at the voting process. My friend at the Ethiopian Mapping Agency said he and some friends were debating when Ethiopia will have elections like in America. (His prediction: 40 years.)
He also talked about what he had been hearing from Ethiopian friends in the US, many of whom thought the president didn’t do enough in Africa to curtail human rights violations or press censorship. He didn’t do what he was promised, they said. Hearing that perspective is always enlightening.
Sometimes in the US we forget amid the spats, the long lines, the attempts at vote suppression, problems at the polling places, recounts, etc., that we’re a model democracy for the developing world. I feel an enormous pressure to live up to that somehow, and I know when I go home, I want to be a part of perfecting the system, ensuring our rights and maintaining our legacy as a free and fair democracy.
Some random thoughts about the election (Sorry to get political in the blog, but part of LethiopiaH is Leah, and me likey the politics. This will be the only time, I promise. Peace Corps disclaimer applies.)
- I think Romney is a mostly good guy (aside from all the lying) though out of touch (“I’m friends with NASCAR owners,” anyone?), and I think at another point in time he could’ve been a decent if underwhelming president, but the climate of the GOP is toxic to anyone remotely moderate, and he paid for that by trying to be someone he’s not. Sad, really.
- You can’t expect to win a national election if you can’t even win either of your “home” states. And so much for Ryan energizing the GOP vote in WI. Is the GOP gonna pick that guy to run for prez in four years? Oy.
- I thought Mitt’s concession speech was lackluster. I remember being moved by McCain’s four years ago. Romney just seemed annoyed to me.
- Tammy Baldwin! I couldn’t be happier.
- Bachmann just managed to squeak it out, huh? Disappointing.
- So many good results on ballot initiatives, from MN to ME, WA, CO, MD. Makes we wonder if that god-awful anti-gay WI constitutional amendment from 2006 would have passed in 2012.
- Seriously, Florida, you’ve had 12 years to get your shit together. What is the deal?
- Sadly, I didn’t get to vote. (I know!) My ballot doesn’t come via email anymore, and I didn’t get my ballot in the mail in time to vote before I left to head down south. I found out about the federal ballot thing too late. Thanks, WI, for bailing me out.
- I don’t know if I can ever again get as excited about a candidate as I have been about Obama. Unless Cory Booker runs. Is 2016 too soon? What about a Feingold/Booker ticket? Ok, that might do the trick.
- If your way of winning an election is to STOP people from voting and to gerrymander districts, please stop calling yourself the party of freedom and democracy. It’s pathetic.
- I’m excited to come home next year and get to work putting Scott Walker out of work. 2014!
- And finally, I think both sides need to embrace reality in the next four years.
- Repubs: The world is not going to end, the US isn’t going to become a communist state, and things will definitely not be as bad as you keep saying they will be. Just calm down. And maybe, you know, try to work with the man for a change.
- Dems: Remember that Obama can’t do anything alone. He will not singlehandedly stop climate change, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, armed conflict, and he can’t singlehandedly get the economy pumping again. He’s working with a divided government and an opposition party that wants him to fail, just like (much of) his first term. Cut the guy a little slack.