Friday, July 25, 2008

Politics as Unusual

As a hopeless US politics junkie, I struggle with the knowledge that I am missing out on so much good election year political coverage while here in Paris. In-depth analysis of the Democratic primary battle, the daily back-and-forth between Obama and McCain, the Sunday morning commentaries...a lot of it has passed me by. Luckily, the French public (and media) is obsessed with this year's presidential race. With all the talk about the elections in the newspapers, on television, and around the dinner table, I've been able to at least partially get my fix.

The conversations have reached a fever-pitch this week with Obama's world tour and today's quick stopover in Paris. If the French are obsessed with the election, they are utterly, completely, unabashedly in love with Obama. As far as they're concerned, he's already the president. I spend a lot of time telling them not to get too excited. Given what's happened during our last two elections, it ain't over 'til it's over. Disappointment has become an old friend. But I get the distinct feeling that my words go in one ear and out the other. It's unfortunate, then, that they probably won't get a chance to hear him speak or see him in person like their counterparts in Berlin did yesterday (the irony of which was not lost on this reporter for L'Humanité). His stop in Paris calls only for a quick meeting with President Sarkozy.

Sometimes I wonder why the French are so excited at the prospect of Obama in the Maison Blanche. I wonder why they'd be so excited about any US presidential candidate, for that matter. What's in it for them? I can understand being interested in the race for curiosity's sake, but people here are engaged on an emotional level that rivals that of many Americans. I mean, I was excited to follow the French presidential election in 2007, but in the end, I didn't really care who won. It's not like the French President is going to come over to the US and start giving me student loan debt relief or anything. On the bright side, their excitement translates into my access to a good amount of campaign trail news. Even better, in Paris you can enjoy all the American election news you want without having to watch one single televised campaign ad. Ahhhh...political zen.


Christine Gilbert said...

What I think is interesting is that Obama is also ACTING like he's already the new president. Going to Afghanistan? Telling Germany he wants more from them? It's an approach that has worked well for him (he edged clinton out at the end by just ignoring her completely), but I REALLY HOPE it doesn't backfire.

Tanya said...

I'm actually watching the press conference with Obama and Sarkozy right now. Very interesting! He's already had to correct a journalist who was acting like he was already the president by saying "I have to remind you that I'm just a candidate for the presidency, not the president" Too funny!

sdg1844 said...

The world is a small place Tanya as I'm sure you know. It may not make sense to you, but when you look at politics and economics, when the US is not doing well, it does have an effect on the nations that do business and have ties with us.

That's why so many European nations are vested in this election. When the US does poorly, so do others.

Tanya said...

I definitely agree with your assessment, sdg1844. What happens in the US for sure has a ripple effect elsewhere. I guess what I'm confused about or what I object to goes deeper than economic and political interconnectedness. Maybe I'm wrong, but I get the feeling that a lot of overseas Obama supporters (or supporters of McCain or other American candidates in the past) don't support them because they are highly informed on the issues and are concerned about economic and political repercussions in their own countries. It's more superficial than that. It's almost pretentious, like "we know what's best for you, USA." If Obama wins, they'll say "Oh, well the Americans finally woke up and did something smart." If he loses they'll say "There go the Americans again, making stupid decisions." We can't win! Either way, we're stupid and they know better.

I tend to agree with a fair number of European political views, but it's the attitude that gets to me. Maybe I'm being too sensitive. What do you think? I'd love to hear a different perspective on this!

sdg1844 said...

Tanya - I see what you are saying. Europe has always had a paternalistic view of us younguns here in the states. :-)

There are many who are clueless and express opinions from on high as if they are so much smarter. Arrogance in aisle one.

However, I don't pay that kind of attitude much attn. I understand your sensitivity, so no need for explanations.

At the end of the day, they don't make choices for us anymore than we do for them. Just tell "em to shove off if they really get to you.

They are no more smarter than anyone else given alot of their own political/socio-economic baggage.


Tanya said...

Whew, glad to hear I'm not going crazy or anything. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!