This year’s presidential election in the U.S. is being bitterly contested and despite the struggling economy, both campaigns are spending obscene sums to get their candidate across the line. But then again, you could say that about many U.S. elections.
The election will dominate the news media as three televised debates between the candidates for president and one debate between the candidates for vice-president are scheduled to help voters choose.
An opinion piece in Shenzhen Daily last month expressed the relief that Americans feel at being able to turn down the volume on the election cycle when in a foreign country.
The Nanfang set out to ask a collection of other Americans whether they felt the same, and what other thoughts they had about being on the other side of the world during the election.
Charles Kirtley, 64 (Retired Businessman)
Charles Kirtley is relieved to be outside the country as all of the TV ads are aired and the bickering takes place. Spending by the campaigns on television ads is expected to exceed US$1.1 billion, according to the Associated Press.
He uses the Internet to follow some discussions about the elections but has never been asked to discuss it with his Chinese friends, even though some are interested in Obama personally.
A supporter of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Kirtley intends to submit a postal vote. To encourage Americans who live in China to vote, U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke sent out this letter.
Ray Hecht, 30 (English tutor and freelance author)
Although he considers himself a political junkie, Ray Hecht is relieved not to be in America and is happy following the election on the Internet.
Hecht enjoys hearing other people’s opinions but he seldom gets the chance to discuss the election when in China. A registered Libertarian who now gravitates towards being a moderate Democrat, he doesn’t intend to submit an absentee vote this year.
Recently, Hecht was complimented on his country’s First Lady by several Chinese who had seen Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. As the author of four novels and numerous magazine articles, Hecht appreciates a well-written speech.
Bill Sutherland, 57 (Factory owner)
When asked whether he felt disconnected from the presidential race, Bill Sutherland told The Nanfang that he did.
“I guess I do, but I am happy that I am, so I do nothing to overcome it. Honestly I feel that being disconnected gives me an advantage in making a wise choice,” said Sutherland, a trained accountant and keen historian.
Sutherland, a registered Republican who considers himself an independent, does not watch television, even when in the United States. He says this helps him choose the amount of exposure to the election he wants. He prefers going directly to candidates’ website over hearing what the media have to say about them.
Anthony Avila, 33 (Bar manager)
Life has made Anthony Avila apathetic toward politics. “I vote with my wallet, and the small amount of taxes that I try my best to avoid paying, like any goodAmerican corporation does,” Avila told The Nanfang.
In Avila’s native California, 20-30% of voters vote with absentee ballots, he said.
He says the election would be too much of a distraction, so is unreservedly relieved to not be in the United States now. Of the people he encounters in his job as manager of a Mccawley’s Pub in Guangzhou, the only ones who want to discuss it are Brits.
He is not annoyed by their strong opinions, but amused by them.
Mc Cawley’s Pub may be showing the polls and results on their big screens, said Avila.
Jesse Warren, 32 (Photographer)
Although he misses not being able to go to the polling station on election day, Jesse Warren thinks the level of name-calling involved during election campaigns has reached ridiculous levels, so is relieved to be removed from it.
Warren normally votes Democrat, but he seldom tries to influence other voters now that he is no longer an idealistic youth. He will occasionally go on a conservative forum to amuse himself, but he has no illusions about influencing anybody.
Despite meeting a lot of people through his activities as an event planner, a DJ, and surfer, Warren seldom encounters people who are interested in talking to him about the election.
Alex Hoopes, 26 (Executive Assistant)
Alex Hoopes has already submitted his absentee ballot for Gary Johnson as a way of expressing his support for the dismantling of intrusive “Security” measures, an end to the drug war, and a political process that doesn’t force a two-party system, Hoopes told The Nanfang.
However, he is registered in a state (Texas) that Republican candidate Mitt Romney is almost certain to sweep, so does not expect his vote to influence anything.
When he was younger, Hoopes would sometimes get annoyed by non-Americans who had strong opinions about his country’s politics, but now he appreciates that American politics has much influence around the world.
Hoopes occasionally meets a Chinese who judges him harshly for not voting Obama, but he seldom tries to influence other people’s political opinions.
“There’s plenty of evidence coming out of the social sciences that strong partisans double down when presented with evidence that they’re wrong, and those findings jibe with my experiences. Pretending otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand humanity,” Hoopes told The Nanfang.
U.S. Citizens can start the procedure to register to vote at this website.