There are elements to the re-election of Barack Obama that will inevitably affect everyone differently. His supporters are elated, his detractors are angry and confused, and those who have dedicated the last two years of their life to covering this campaign are just plain tired. However in each of these cases you could actually reach out and touch the campaign, as a voter, a journalist or just a plain old non-voting citizen.
But there literally millions of people across the world who were just as anxious about the results of the presidential election as Americans but they couldn’t vote, volunteer or place phone calls. All they could do is wait to see if America decided to screw up the world again. I was in one of those places, and here’s how the American election looked from my vantage point.
I spent election night in Doha, Qatar, doing election analysis for an international news outlet. Even though Qatar has the highest per capita income of any country in the world, Doha is the site for the 2022 World Cup and Janet Jackson is going to be marrying a Qatari man here next summer in a 200 million dollar wedding, most Americans know little or nothing about Qatar, but the Qataris know about America. As a rule I loathe the ubiquitous “So I was talking to my cabbie and HE said…” analyses that often emanatefrom Washington D.C. spawned pundits. It always strikes me as a lazy way filter your beliefs through an “authentic person” when you have no way empirical way to justify your opinions. However just about everyone I met in the city had an opinion about the American election, and when polls show that just about everybody in every other country on Earth would vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney I expected most of those opinions to be positive.
Despite my usual professional misgivings I actually asked a cab driver what he thought of the American election and he said that he “Loved” Barack Obama, he went on and on about how Obama was “nicer” than Mitt Romney and that he was better for the economy all over the world. In the end I thought maybe he was just trying to get a good tip, so I just widened my range. From a cab ride, to the mall food court, to my hotel lobby, I spoke to just about everyone who wasn’t eating or talking on a cell phone and asked them what they thought of the U.S. election. Here’s a pretty good sample of what I heard.
From a middle – aged New Zealander on business: ‘That Obama, he’s kind of a liar right? Seems like he’s always got something slick to say. I think the other guy, Romney would be better doncha’ think?”
By the end of the day I felt like I had a pretty good idea about how the international mind saw the election of 2012 from my ‘canvassing’. Everyone in Doha seemed lukewarm or disappointed in Obama, even if there wasn’t much passion for Romney. In other words, they were just like the American electorate. But all of that seemed to change later in the evening. Standing in a room with journalists from all over the world watching a big map of America turn from 50 shades of gray, to red, then blue, then finally watched the last of the yellows turn blue, and Obama was declared the winner of the election. I was in a room with Kiwis, Aussies, Brits, Lebanese, French, Italian and Kuwaiti journalists and the moment Obama’s re-election became official I could sense a change in the room. No one wanted to break the wall of objectivity but slowly you could hear a smattering of slow claps in different corners of the room.
Like at the end of an 80’s teen flick when everyone finally admits they really wanted Anthony Michael Hall to win prom king too. Murmurs turned to little titters of laughter as people went about their business checking double checking the results on different networks. A Dominican woman came up and randomly fist-bumped me. I saw a couple of British guys hugging each other as they looked at the screen announcing Obama as the 44th president of the United States. Almost no one would admit it out loud, but they were happy, and even a little bit relieved that Barack Obama had been re-elected. They all knew that their home countries were all going to be affected by how many Americans decided to get up off the couch and vote for a return to the Bush era or keep on the current disappointing but decidedly less reckless path.
I can’t remember having a greater appreciation for American democracy than when I had to watch other people sweat through our election knowing they had no control or influence on the outcome. More importantly congratulations to everyone out there that voted the way the world wanted the U.S. to vote. Most Americans may not be able to locate Qatar on a map, (let alone Mexico or Canada) but it’s nice to know that every once in awhile whether we realize it or not, Americans actually do something that benefits the rest of the world. Good Luck Barack, the rest of the world is still counting on you.