As a former volunteer for the Obama campaign, I felt as though I was neglecting my political duties by being away from the US during prime election season. But within my first hour on the island of Ireland, I had had my first political discussion. In preparation for Ireland, I had attempted to learn about the different political structures and parties that exist here: I had read about Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and all the in-between parties. However, my cab driver was more interested in discussing Obama’s visit to the island and my thoughts on that other guy, Mitt. I was informed of Obama’s Irish roots in Moneygall in County Offaly and about the historic roots of his “Irish” name, “O’Bama.”
The discussion of U.S. politics continued during the wine reception at UCD orientation, during small class discussions, and around the dinner table with my roommates. I was so excited to engage in talk of U.S. politics – it felt like being home in a way. Every time I’ve been homesick, I find that people’s interest in and connection to the U.S. has brightened my day. Sometimes I even feel more comfortable than at home, since I’m surrounded by “Irish Democrats” who, I find, share my political views.
Though I have not missed any of the candidates’ debates (or the captivating Facebook and Twitter posts regarding Big Bird and binders full of women), I have undoubtedly had a different experience of this presidential race than I would have if I’d remained in the US. After each debate, I’ve had long discussions with Irish classmates – who had also stayed up to watch the debates the night before. Being removed from any US political history gives my international friends a different perspective — more about what is actually said and done by the candidates than about preconceived notions. It’s been refreshing, and has given me many new insights.
I write this the night before the US elects the president. I’m looking forward to celebrating the evening with my Mitchell family and at the US Embassy. I’m even more excited that I get to share the experience with the guest I’m bringing to the Embassy event, an Irish classmate whose passion for US politics demonstrates the longstanding connection between Ireland and America.