Wouldn't Miss It For The World

Why so many expats are coming home to vote on Tuesday.

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"All the Austrians I know are definitely hoping that Obama wins," says Veada Stoff, a native of Los Angeles who has lived in Graz, Austria for the last 31 years. She'll be voting for Obama in Florida. "They fear the Bush economic and international policies will continue if McCain gets elected."

Perhaps now more than ever, Europeans are paying close attention to the U.S. election due to the global economic crisis that began in America on Wall and Main streets. While only 40 percent of Germans own their homes (compared to nearly 70 percent in America) and are traditionally weak consumers, the American culture of debt will directly affect the average European taxpayer, thanks to an interconnected banking system.

"Sometimes I think French people are more informed about the election than some Americans," Tioka says. "They have a better sense of the platforms and the issues."

Meanwhile, we cringe when Americans like Joe the Plumber reach European news; he confirms a stereotype of an ignorant nationalist who has no real understanding of the scope of the issues facing his own country, let alone the world.

I recently read a column in a respected German newspaper about Americans having a peculiar tendency to vote against their economic interests. A political candidate's personality, religion and other emotional aspects, the column pointed out, take over the American voter's priorities and not the issues. When I read such things, I sigh in shameful recognition.

"It's hard being an American abroad," says Veada. "The Bush administration has such a terrible reputation."

While we love the ideals, opportunities and people who make America great, as expatriates, we have a unique perspective of experiencing how our government's arrogance and hypocrisy have damaged America's standing in the world.

"America is still home," Tioka says. "But (in the last eight years) it has been like having an alcoholic relative in the family. You owe up to it but do you really want to spend Thanksgiving with that person?"

The first step toward recovery is admitting there needs to be a change. Like a dedicated family that drops everything to stage an intervention, we are putting aside our lives in Europe to go home, elect Obama and finally get America into rehab.

"This is a historical event none of us thought we would see in our lifetime," Vivian says. "I want to be surrounded by my people when and if it should happen."