Across Time Zones, Americans Watch and Wait
November 4, 2008 - 6:34 AMAround the world over the next 24 hours, time zone-challenged Americans will be watching, celebrating or commiserating as the results of the 2008 U.S. election roll in.
Estimates of Americans living abroad range from four to seven million, with the State Department estimating around 6.6 million. Among the larger expatriate communities are those in Mexico, Canada, Britain, Israel and Germany, where many Americans have cast absentee or write-in ballots in recent weeks.
The seven-hour period when polls start to close (6 p.m. in Indiana and Kentucky to 1 a.m. in Alaska, eastern U.S. time) coincides with the 11 p.m.-6 a.m. period in Britain, 2 a.m.-9 a.m. in Kenya, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. in China and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. in Australia.
Organizations representing Republican and Democratic supporters around the world are planning through-the-night or daytime functions as the states are “called” and the results come in.
Some are bipartisan events, like one all-night gala in Paris, co-hosted by the U.S. Embassy, Republicans Abroad and Democrats Abroad, complete with entertainment and giant television screens for live feeds. Key French media will cover the event.
Most of the planned functions are partisan.
Chapters of Democrats Abroad are organizing events from Afghanistan to Zambia, ranging from a respectable-sounding evening in staid Brussels, sponsored by the 80-year-old American Club, to music and dancing until dawn in Munich and Madrid.
Amsterdam’s event will include a performance of a political satire, “Bye Bye Bush” after which the city’s Leidseplein Theater becomes the “Democrats Abroad HQ for one wonderful night of entertainment, cocktails, and fun with friends.”
Anticipating a Democratic win, not a small number of “victory parties” are also scheduled, in cities in the Philippines, Canada, Italy and Nepal among others.
Equally confident is the Democrats Abroad chapter in South Korea, which has invited Americans to a daytime event in Seoul to watch “history being made” as Sen. Barack Obama becomes President-Elect Obama.
But in Berlin, supporters of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin are planning a victory event of their own, which they are calling the “November Surprise Election Party.”
“Watch live how the Republican ticket McCain/Palin comes from behind and leaves the liberal elite media in Europe and the United States puzzled,” said organizer Jan Burdinski, the Germany program director for Republicans Abroad. “A special thank you goes to Joe Wurzelbacher [“Joe the Plumber”] who injected the winning strategic theme into the campaign,” he said.
In a message during the campaign to American citizens abroad, McCain called them “unofficial American ambassadors.”
“Not only do Americans abroad vote and pay taxes, they are often the first contact other nationalities have with our country and you experience firsthand the impact that our government’s policies have overseas.”
McCain said as president he would work to improve the image of the U.S. in the world, but added that “image is not everything,” saying he was above all committed to protecting the lives and livelihoods of Americans.
Andy Jackson, an American teacher living in South Korea and a former executive director of the RA chapter in the country, said Tuesday the organization had been working on voter registration over the summer and fall, mainly targeting Americans in the military and business communities.
“From my observation, the military seems to be doing a little bit better at assisting servicemen and women in registering to vote,” he said. “Many more military personnel told our volunteers that they had already registered than in 2004.”
Jackson said Americans in Korea were mostly concerned about the same issues as were those in the U.S., including “taxes, keeping the economy going and winning the war on terror.”
Americans in Korea were also keen to see the free-trade agreement that was signed between the two countries last year implemented, and for strong bilateral ties to be maintained, he said. Obama opposes the trade deal, which awaits legislative approval in both countries; McCain supports it.
“Naturally, the North Korean nuclear issue and North Korean human rights are also important issues to many Americans here,” Jackson added.
Unlike RA, which is not legally connected to the party’s national committee, DA is an official affiliate of the Democratic Party. Last February it carried out a first “global primary,” with members in more than 30 countries voting by mail, fax, online or in person for their preferred candidate.
Obama won almost 66 percent of the votes to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s 33 percent, a result that was more symbolic than meaningful, giving Obama just 2.5 more delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention in the summer, while Clinton received an extra two.