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An American abroad in an election year



Being an American abroad during a presidential election year often comes with explaining the electoral college; explaining that a presidential nominee could win the popular vote but lose the election due to not receiving 270 electoral votes (as was the case in 2016). Being an American abroad means justifying our two party system; explaining why voting any party aside from Democrat or Republican, at this point in time, is seen as a wasted vote.

Woman holds up sign reading 'Voters decide' Pittsburgh (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Being an American abroad during a presidential election means a lot of phone calls and messages back home. It means connecting with other Americans abroad and discussing our plans to vote, our stresses, our anxieties over US politics and ultimately the worthiness of ever going back.

Depending on where I am abroad, I am either forced to explain the how and the why of Trump or bear witness to the ‘Trump effect’. It has been my experience that there is nothing in between.

After days of counting, we finally have results. And while many weren't keen on the choices we had, it was an objectively historic election. Biden has received more votes than any presidential nominee in American history. His vice presidential running mate, Kamala Harris, will be the first woman and woman of colour to ever hold the position.

There was nothing usual or expected about this election. States like Wisconsin and Michigan that predominantly voted red in 2016 have flipped blue in favor of Biden. Demographics that usually have a low turnout have voted in record numbers. And because of the grassroots work of Stacy Abrams registering 800 thousand plus citizens, even Georgia turned blue.

It has been a long election cycle in which the world witnessed our president publicly challenge our democratic process, insinuating foul play and demanding we stop counting legally placed ballots. He has emblazoned white nationalists, telling them to ‘stand back and stand by’. He’s refused to clearly state that in the event of a loss, that there will be a peaceful transference of power.


'The very closeness of this race likely tells the world everything they probably need to know about our nation.'


It is undeniable that America has inserted itself on the world stage, and while I can recognise the privileges my citizenry has granted, it is often difficult to find the words to explain why America is the way it is without a fair amount of historical context.

Being abroad, I do not have the expectation that people would or should be familiar with American history, but to understand how we find ourselves here, right now, you must.

Political pundits had been analysing the situation and were hesitant to make projections because the results in key states were just too close to call. It was not until late Saturday morning (EST) that several media outlets called the election for Joe Biden, while Trump from his Twitter feed proclaimed he had won the election by ‘a lot’.

While the results are in, it seems there is still much to be foreseen.

The very closeness of this race likely tells the world everything they probably need to know about our nation.

So, until inauguration day we wait with bated breath.



 J O Acholonu J O Acholonu is a professionally trained African American educator committed to decolonizing the canon and curriculum. She has an M.Ed in educational leadership and has  traveled extensively which has not only informed her teaching practices but also her passion for food and exploration. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.

Main image: (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

Topic tags: J O Acholonu, US, America, presidential election, Joe Biden, Donald Trump, politics



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Existing comments

Excellent article. As an educator for more than 25 years in America, I can understand your points and plead that the young girls of this days to look up to K. Harris as a role model. Great writing!!’

Dr. Bibiana Acholonu | 11 November 2020  

It is without question that America has been our closest ally and to be hoped that President elect Biden continues that alliance during the course of his term. What with CCP laying questionable claims in the SCS and building bases in Australia's Antarctic Territory, encroaching on India's border in the Himalaya - buying ports and infrastructure around our coastline, more than ever the alliance is an integral feature of our National Security into the future.

Francis Armstrong | 11 November 2020  

“need to know about our nation.” Which is that while democracy is not dead in America because of political correctness, it is being wounded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYLZL4GZVbA

roy chen yee | 15 November 2020  

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