Overseas Election Watch

One of the strangest things about living abroad is missing holidays and events that would be momentous in the United States, but fade to blips by the time they are transmitted 10,000 miles. Having already missed most of the build-up to the election, it still made me feel very far from home yesterday missing out on all of the excitement.

Reid, who is much more interested in and informed on such matters, had been in Thaba-Tseka with Jamie the week before the election and was a little devastated at the prospect of spending election day without phone or electricity. Will, Ellen, and I, however, were determined to participate as well as we could, so spent the night at Nthabeleng’s in order to have access to a TV. We set our alarm to wake us at intervals through the night to check the news—we saw at 2:30 that Obama was ahead and had taken Pennsylvania. After a few more hours on the couches we woke up at 5:30 to watch the final results.

Watching the South African coverage was frustrating in terms of getting the full picture, but pretty entertaining in other ways. The reporters, with a shockingly open bias, often threw in comments like, “Ok, Jim, now back to you in Atlanta, where we will hear more about what some of the right wing loonies think about the election.“ Not a lot of pretense of objectivity. We caught flashes of MSNBC live in DC, monitoring minute by minute results and interviewing top politicians, but the South African television story bounced between Chicago, where they interviewed people like Obama’s barber, and Johannesburg, where the reporter hobnobbed with diplomats at a mansion, every now and then offering nuggets of political insight standing between cardboard cutouts of the two candidates placed on a lawn. Fascinating to see an American election from another angle!


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