Thursday, November 8, 2012

Following the Presidential Race from Afar . . .

I'm sure everybody's news outlet - be it social media, television, radio, newspaper - is filled with post-election analysis.  But rather than a long treatise on who won, what passed, popular vote vs. electoral college, or the reasons behind the results - I thought I would offer my perspective on participating in an U.S presidential election from a foreign country.

The Campaign
I don't know how many times Doug and I expressed our relief to be in Canada during the entire campaign.  It was such a pleasant experience.  The news media covered the presidential candidates (even during the Republican primary) enough that I knew what was going on without feeling like that was the only thing going on in the world.  We didn't have to deal with political ads (unless we watched the Detroit or Cleveland stations), there were no phone calls or junk mail.  I felt informed without being inundated.  I searched online to educate myself about the Michigan proposals we would be voting on, but even some of that was covered by CBC.  We didn't have to suffer through that disgusted phase you reach in September, where you feel like if you hear one more muck-slinging, truth-twisting, overly serious political ad you'll scream.  It was great!

The Absentee Ballot
The absentee ballot process was pretty simple.  Doug and I registered at the township hall, they sent us some paperwork to fill out, we returned it, and voilà - ballot appears in the mailbox (notice that I said ballot - singular - the one downside: Doug's ballot got lost in the mail and by the time we realized it was too late to have another one sent and get it back in time.)  I sat down and started by filling in all the bubbles I was sure about.  There were the usual suspects I didn't know anything about (how do I know who should sit on the Board of Michigan State University - how do you even educate yourself about that?  I tried using the internet, but had little success.)  I immediately sent it back in, feeling all stars-and-stripes-and-fireworks when I was done. 

My ballot

I thought it would be a relief come election day that I wasn't stuck in long lines to cast my ballot, and to some extent it was.  All day on Tuesday I followed my friends on Facebook and Twitter talking about the lines at their polling place.  But the awesome part is people were more happy than frustrated there were lines.  There was so much positive support (at least among the people I follow) about how many people were getting out to vote, there were very few complaints!  After awhile I started to feel a bit like I was missing out on the experience and excitement that is part of casting your vote on election day at your local polling place.  I'm not saying I would be convinced to drive for two hours to stand in line for an hour to cast my vote, but I would count it as a slight downside to the absentee ballot.

Photo my friend Erin took of her polling station in Michigan.

The Threats to Move
If you're from the United States, at one point or another you've heard someone say they're going to move to Canada if things don't go their way (things being an election, the economy, the draft, etc.)  We've all heard it, maybe some have even said it.  The conversation goes a little something like this:

xkcd cartoon

Personally I don't take most of these claims seriously.  I tried to explain it to a few of my friends here when, after Obamacare wasn't repealed, people were threatening to move to Canada (which is hilarious for a whole different set of reasons...)  Here's my theory on why Canada is the go-to escape: 
  • The language is the same (at least in most parts of the country) 
  • It's not that far away 
  • It's been done in the past (draft dodging) 
  • Since there's little to no coverage of Canadian politics in the U.S. you can just assume that Canadians would agree with whatever political leanings you have (because their all so polite - right?) 
The point is, the idea of moving to Canada (or Australia, as I've read is another popular option) when you're disappointed in the U.S. is not a new concept.  So why so much media attention?  (see this, this, this, and here, just for examples)  My theory is that now something you would say among like-minded friends, is something that you Tweet or post on your Facebook wall for the whole world to see.  It's now something tangible that can be counted and recorded (or laughed about at a later date.)

The Results
Just kidding - I promised this wouldn't turn into a political rant or rave about who won and what passed!  If you're curious about my political leanings, I fall into the same category as my father who once told me, "In a room full of liberals I feel like a conservative, and in a room full of conservatives I feel like a liberal."


  1. Heather, I wondered myself why Republicans would pick Canada if they lost since even under our conservative government we have universal health care, pay more for gasoline, etc.. I also like your dads comment about his politics. I'm glad I am not the only one who feels that way.

    1. Dave, I think it just shows the ignorance some people have about foreign politics. I've been here for a year, and I'm still trying to understand the political process. I didn't know that they call elections here, I just assumed there were term limits like in the US.

  2. Dave, I've often wondered that myself! Especially when it comes to universal healthcare... I agree with you Heather! I think many people are ignorant about foreign politics on both sides of the border. Great post! I really enjoyed it!

    1. Being from the U.S. I'm often impressed with what people know about our presidential candidates and politics. When I was brainstorming for this post, I tried to name as many current leaders from democratic countries as I could, and the list was short and embarrassing. Just another example of how we can be ethnocentric without realizing it...