The U.S. Presidential Election Down Under

politics

I don’t follow sports, but give me an election, and I get myself hyped up like a kid on too many pixie sticks, which I think is akin to how my sports fan friends and family turn on big game days. The competition! The team spirit! The feelings of moral superiority! The mascots! It’s all a lot of drama on which I am easily sold, hence, my love for debate and election watching parties. Sports are more fun in a bar with equally riled up buddies, and so are elections. For the last presidential election, I hosted or attended no less than four parties. I’m talking about parties with games and even hats. So, for my first Presidential election Down Under, I was so happy that some of my American friends were attending a big results-watching party, and that I have a flexible enough schedule to take the day off.

I have always kept my politics off this blog, but there is no way to proceed with this story without acknowledging my preferences. And, in this once-every-four-years instance, I do want to proceed because I see this as an expat story, more than a political one. So, if you’d rather not know who I voted for, if you’re not feeling too happy with the results, or if you don’t want a “spoiler” on who won (hey, maybe you Tivo-ed it?!), please don’t read on.

OK, so…

The Sydney chapter of Democrats Abroad is, I believe, a pretty large and organized group. We’ve attended one or two of their functions before, but I was mostly excited to attend their election watching party with some of my American friends. Everyone managed some time off work, as the election results began rolling in on Wednesday early afternoon here. By the time we arrived at 1pm, the event was in full swing with maybe 150 people in attendance. We were lucky to snag a table and settled in to hyping ourselves up and watching the results. Partner-in-Crime provided a “swing state” map for us to consult, as well as state by state results from the previous three Presidential elections. Baseball fans, you will appreciate how much this nerdy examination of the stats makes things so much more compelling.

Partner-in-Crime and I had already set a time in the early evening past which we did not intend to stay, as we fully expected that the Ohio and Florida (Florida voter here and, once again, aren’t I proud …) vote counts might carry on for days, leaving us with no winner until at least some absurd hour. Until then, we were ever so happy to be among the revelry or pain of the group experience.

Got a kick out of this –
thought this guy looked like he was
with the Secret Service.

The Sydney Dems, most of who seemed to be American, but with some Aussies along, were a pretty diverse looking crowd that crossed a lot of demographics. All were glued to the televisions with a constant crowd at the bar for drinks and pub food. Loud cheers would go up whenever a new state was declared in “our” favor. A cardboard cut out of Obama had a steady stream of people taking photos with him all day. I’m not too proud to tell you that I took a few with photos with the Prez (which should not surprise you, as I’ve already admitted to hosting parties with hats).

After only a few hours, we were shocked to see CNN calling the election. A huge cheer went up through the crowd, but our table really just sat there in disbelief for awhile. We didn’t have any sound on the TV in our corner, so we were completely perplexed at how it could be called with so many states still out. We just kept staring at the TV for another few minutes, dazed, until we finally had to agree that maybe this was really it.

I high tailed it to the bar for a bottle of champagne. Somehow, the champagne made it all seem official, as our confused group was finally up on its feet looking lively. We toasted happily and I determined that it was enough of an occasion that even I could indulge in half a glass.

We found a more comfortable spot in front of a TV with sound and settled in to watch the speeches. In that long stretch between the announcement and first Romney’s speech and then Obama’s speech, we got a kick out of people-watching, pontificating, remembering where we’d been in elections past, and lots and lots of megabytes spent on Facebooking the whole thing. There I was in a pub in Sydney Australia, sharing this election with friends across the world, including many who I have shared election victories and defeats with in the past. I thought a lot about my friends at home and abroad, both those who were happy and those who were quietly less so, and thought about what the next four years might look like for them, for the U.S. and for us.

Right before Obama’s speech.

When Obama finally took the stage, everyone in the room got quiet (as we also did for Romney’s speech – it was an almost completely respectful crowd) and there were many tears and bursts of applause.

After the festivities, we went off to dinner with a couple friends from our party, and it was so surreal to pound back onto the rainy Sydney streets and for the entire election “night” to have gone by and it only be 7pm.

For all my love of voting and elections, I am not a blind optimist, and in my logical mind, I actually believe that we imbue the President with much more symbolic power than he (“he” for now, as I am convinced we’ll have a female President in the next decade) actually possesses. But, the part of me that loves spectacle – the part of me that would go crazy at a sporting event if that were my thing – is grateful to have shared this event with friends and compatriots. I add this to a treasured stack of election night memories that I’ve shared with people across the U.S. and now all the way around the world.

5 thoughts on “The U.S. Presidential Election Down Under

  1. Florida Girl In Sydney

    I so felt this post! Four years ago when Obama won and we obviously were in Sydney- it was so surreal. And we didn’t hook up with any Democratic groups in Sydney, though we are… but it was just plain weird– being in Australia, so far removed and watching the election. Anyway, it was a happy Election day in our house in California this week! And amazing to watch our kids see and understand it all for the first time. Cheers mate.

    1. C. In Oz

      The ’08 election was such a huge event, it must have been strange to be in Australia! This one did not feel as monumental, but it was a real experience to be with other Dems – surprising just how many there are in Sydney.

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