Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Election fever 2008

you don't have to look too far to see that the US presidential elections have become the most followed political event world wide, but you might not realised that attention to the results of today's votes cast by 130 million Americans has far surpassed that given to any local election where you can actually vote and chose your own MP, PM or President. At a time when the leading months to election day were dominated by bad news in the financial sector and the real economy world wide, whoever is going to end up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next year will have a hell of task at hand and the crazy side to it, he will be having a direct impact on you and me wherever we may be.

It was quite amazing today at work when the conversation, dominated by poll figures and opinions, drifted to “remember where you were when....” the list included the 2000 election, 9/11, the 2004 re-election, princess Diana's death and the 2nd Gulf war. The list was much longer of course, included sports and disaster (natural and man made) but listening to the discussion I started wondering, does every generation feel that they've seen far more and far worse than the generations before or are we build with such short memory that we forget/ignore what happened in the past?

I remember when the results of the 2004 elections were finally announced, people here (in London of course) were hoping against hope that the results would be different, I was at work following the BBC's interactive map showing every state and changing the colours according to results. There were some high points but then the long wait ended with a muted shock that we had to live with another 4 years of Bush administration going astray with war, human rights and the economy.

Now, 4 years down the line, no one here is daring to hope, not that a democratic president will be better than a republican one by default but the need for change is so overwhelming and so essential to all of us this time that we don't want to risk on someone from the same side of the political spectrum as the disaster we've had to live with for 8 years.

Do you know what's funny? I was in Syria at the time of the 2000 elections, no one liked Al Gore, vague memories of Bush Sr being the president behind the start of the peace process in the Middle East resulted in people cheering Bush Jr.'s win!! retrospective evaluation of events would indicate that this was a very bad cheer.

Now, we're so eager to see the “right” president in the White House we're trying not to jinx the results by predicting a clean win for Barack Obama; news agencies keep on reminding us of the undecided votes, of deceiving polls and of the true extent of the appetite for change in the US as many people might say they will vote for a black president but would decide at the last second that while they would like a change, Obama is too much of a change for their taste.

Tonight, the cover of all the evening papers shared one topic, the election in the US were covered in such depth, it pushed the faltering economy and other headline stories to the 2nd pages. You had an election night TV guide advising you of the channels covering the unfolding results (BBC1 and ITV, SKY News and CNN if you're interested) throughout the night till the close of the last polling station at 6am London time. It even included a suggest list of food and snacks suitable for the occasion! Apparently pubs will be full of people who will follow the events of the night with the same excitement as any major sport event, this has been compared to the Cup Final in football.

Now I wonder what we will wake up to tomorrow morning, no matter how the wind blows it will be a slightly different world tomorrow even if it was different for just a few month into the new presidency. Tomorrow we will wake up and either become filled with unreasonable illogical joy resulting from an unsupported hope or be filled with a sensation of doom and gloom that we're heading for even darker times from the ones we live in today.

So will 130m Americans vote in a way that will pull us from the edge or push us further towards it? Well the addicts will stay awake to follow the results hour by hour, the rest of us will wake up tomorrow to hopefully a clear result so we will remember that we where in bed when we opened our eyes to a news update on our mobile or PDA broadcasting the results of the 2008 elections.

Happy elections every one,

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