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United colours of the American elections - in three continents

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"Many temples in South India held prayers for Obama’s victory in the 2008 elections. Haven’t heard of any this time round. Here is one from me, after four encounters on three continents."

Rajeev Bhargava Tani Bhargava
5 November 2012

Large white letters jumped out of the enormous, red 18 by 30 foot advertisement by the freeway. OBAMA SUPPORTS ABORTION AND GAY MARRIAGE. ‘What do you say to that?’ I asked disguising dismay in my brown voice. The taxi driver snorted and explained patiently as if to a cretin, an obviously uninformed tourist, “He does, doesn’t he? It is true. America is going too far down the wrong path. Obama really doesn’t want America to be a powerful nation. He didn’t meet Netanyahu, our only ally in a very dangerous region. He doesn’t attend important security briefings and has clocked in more hours in one term playing golf than Bush did in two. How can America sustain itself - I have friends who were earning $ 75,000 preretirement and now earn $ 65,000 for not working. Obama policies! Healthcare? He paid for support and bought senators for the Bill. He does not allow a pipeline to be built because his friend Buffet owns the…” the voice reached a crescendo. My husband released my wrist that he held in a vice-like grip to prevent me from interrupting this torrent of hate and lies. I had to respond so I said, “Oh!”

On the next taxi ride I could not but ask the black driver, “If you don’t mind, can I ask you a personal question?” “Sure! No problem…” Wonder what he expected? “What do you predict for Obama?” I asked directly. He rushed headlong in the manner of a person who has been waiting to get something off his chest, “The debate was bad. But today’s employment figures are good. VP debate was good. The rich have to dislike him, don’t they?” My husband tightened his grip. “The rich make more money so they must pay higher tax. Its fair, innit? Some guys don’t like fairness! They don’t like healthcare ‘cos they can buy expensive care for themselves. Who cares for the rest! They only want lower taxes for themselves. Greed rules America. That’s why we had the disaster on Wall Street…”. I had to respond so I said, “Oh!” But my innocent view of the world was crashing about my ears. Empirically on the basis of my sample the electorate was divided along racial lines. Was the world all black and white without shades of grey, or brown for that matter. After establishing ones antecedents with the Indian cab driver, I confidently and immediately accosted him about the elections. In classic fence sitting mode he admitted that he was not going to vote because one was as bad as the other. “Oh No!” I said.

In San Marco, we shared a table at a pizzeria with white American tourists. My opening gambit was about their predictions for the imminent elections. “Each vote counts, so I have already voted for Obama. America can’t afford a liar in the White House…” “Can the world?” I interjected. “…I know the debate didn’t go well. Research has shown that 60% of incumbent presidents do badly in first debates. Anyway we are praying in earnest for him!...” The pizza had disappeared by now. I opened my wallet to pay and saw the small blue sticker inside it ‘Vote for the Democrats’ it urged. I flashed it at them. They gasped in joy and said “Oh!”

I met an Indian bureaucrat who spoke passionately of the American elections as if they were happening in India! He asserted that the Republicans have traditionally been good for India. “…While being bad for the rest of the world?” I interrupted. The grip slackened. My husband looked disappointed with my ‘conversation stopper.’ No one in my circle of friends supports anyone but Obama and they clearly understand the import of a  republican victory for peace in the Asian region. 

This article is part of the 'How it looks from here' openDemocracy feature on the 2012 US elections. For more worldwide perspectives on the presidential race, click here.

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