After moving to Paris in August, I decided to do my part and contacted the local chapter of Democrats Abroad. I wanted to volunteer during this election for two reasons. The first one was somewhat selfish: as much as I wanted to be a part of the Obama campaign, I was not sure if I could handle the divisive nature of elections in the States. In France however, things are much more relaxed. Almost all Americans living in Paris voted for Obama, and practically every French person I have met has not been afraid to voice their strong anti-Romney sentiments. The other reason was more personal: as a women and a recent a college-graduate entering the workforce, I would have felt first hand the affects of Romney’s proposed changes. Lucky for me, Young Democrats Abroad in Paris is headed by George, an enthusiastic French and American citizen, who plans great election night parties.
November 6th arrived and what a great/crazy/exciting/exhausting night that was completely worth it! Because of the time difference, following the results as they were reported meant staying up all night, something many Americans and Parisians were willing to do. George had asked me beforehand if I would be willing to talk to some journalists and reporters at the event as a young democrat living abroad. Little did I know I would be an official representative of the National Democratic Party (not an Obama representative, but still pretty cool). I was briefed on what I could and couldn’t say and what to expect for the journalists, who, I was warned, would be nice, but who are not my friends. There was much more on the “do not say” list including nothing to do with French politics and any personal opinions. My main job was to stress how important the election was internationally and that the 6 million Americans living abroad have the right to vote and play an influential role in the election. The morning of Election Day, I received about 15 emails with short excerpts of Obama’s official position on issues ranging from Afghanistan to healthcare to equal pay for women. At this point I was sufficiently nervous and spent the good part of the day studying up on why Romney had failed to pass the “Commander-in-Chief Test”.
Election night, I talked to multiple journalists and two television channels, but it was all so fast and overwhelming that I am not sure which one was which and if my segment even made it on TV. The coolest part though was talking to the radio. Around 4 in the morning a French radio station that was doing 24-hour news coverage called me to hear about our party and how confident we were that Obama would win. At this point no swing states had been called, so I really wasn’t that confident, and I didn’t know if I was allowed to make predictions. I think more than anything though they had me on because they wanted a cute young American in Paris (yes the word cute was used multiple times to describe me, my responses and my accent). Still, listening to the radio and realizing the next guest, they were introducing was me, a young American celebrating in Paris, was pretty cool.
Around 6 the next morning and after CNN’s projection that Obama would be president for another 4 years, George, another young democrat and I all made our way through the deserted early morning streets of Paris to the American Ambassador’s residence. Although CNN had been confident in their projection; we were all a little worried that in the thirty minutes away from the television something could change. And something did, Romney had officially conceded and spoken at his headquarters. Start the celebration! At the Ambassador’s residence, we had breakfast, watched Obama’s acceptance speech and got to mingle with important people whose names and jobs I don’t know but whose dress and demeanor, along with security everywhere, was more than enough for me to realize that I shouldn’t joke about my hidden weapons while going through the metal detector and being patted down. The cardboard cut-outs of Romney and Obama, followed by a mandatory photo shoot and Facebook post, might have been my favorite part of the morning. The event was filled with American and international press, including a round table discussion with RTL, the news radio station in France, (and yes the radio is still extremely popular and respected here). While none of the embassy workers could say it out right, the breakfast was definitely a celebration, because the outcome of the election meant they would all be keeping their jobs another 4 years. Around 9:30 that morning, I finally made my way home to sleep the rest of the day. The few days since then have been just as great because everyone here is so happy Obama won and there is no need to convince anyone that this is the best outcome, if anything I think I am finally tired of the Romney-bashing, although it does sound better in French. It is weird to be congratulated on the outcome of the election by almost everyone who finds out I am American, mainly because I wonder what our conversations would be like if the results had been different. Luckily for me though, my guy won, and not only can I say that I voted for him, but I can proudly explain in my broken French that I had a little something to do with his win.