Monday, October 20, 2008

Debate Parties

My friend Sarah recently moved to Kampala with her boyfriend Jon and soon after that she became the organizer of Overseas Voters for Obama – Uganda chapter. When the debates started she started organizing gatherings at their house to watch and she took steps to help us figure out the complicated venture of voting overseas – no matter where our allegiances lie. It turns out that there are two options for us; absentee ballot and federal write-in ballot. We were told that we could do both and they “would not count more than one.” Really, we just assume that this means that our votes won’t be counted at all since the overseas votes are only counted if the quantity would make a difference in the outcome after all the regular votes are counted.

Since the debates were live at about 4am Kampala time, we have a friend, Simon, who has the fastest internet in town apparently, and was able to download clips for viewing at the next available weekend. To no one’s surprise the crowd is nearly 100% liberal, democrat, NGO-working, ex-pat, Obama-supporters. And if this isn’t so, no one has been brave enough to be the voice of opposition. An effort was made for the VP debate to invite some Marines and attempt to diversify the crowd, but none of them could make it.

There is so much preaching to the choir that has gone on at these parties that I feel that I may be getting lulled into the false sense of confidence that I experienced for the past two presidential elections. Next time we’ll try harder to get some McCain supporters but the truth is that they’re relatively hard to find. Conventional wisdom says that most McCain supporters in Uganda and in Africa in general will either be military or missionaries, both of which are pretty big groups here, but not really in Kampala per se.

Ugandans on the other hand, as you can imagine, LOVE Barak Obama. The debate parties have even had several non-Americans turn up who obviously can’t even vote but were sporting Obama t-shirts and wanted to do everything they could to support him. Kenya is a neighboring country and many Africans feel that because of his roots, he will do more to help African than his predecessors. I’m not so sure about this but after some of the current administration’s policies toward Africa and HIV/AIDS specifically, anything would be an improvement*.

We’re planning to have one more debate gathering to watch the most recent debate as well as a post-election day breakfast to watch the results, 8am here is 10pm on the West coast so maps of red states and blue states over scrambled eggs is the plan.

*If you’re curious about this, and you should be, check out PEPFAR – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief – and the controversy surrounding it. I’ll be posting something more about this soon.