Twelve years ago my political sap had just started rising. I was still at school, and I wasn’t old enough to vote, but Scotland had just established its own Parliament and I was starting to pay attention to what was going on in the world, and starting to have opinions on that. I no longer referred to the debates as ‘boring talking programmes’. I had watched Bill Clinton lie through his teeth about Monica Lewinsky, but I still believed that he was one of the good guys. I didn’t stay up to watch the election results, but over the coming weeks my vocabulary expanded to include terms like hanging chads, Electoral College and Supreme Court.
Eight years ago I was still at university. I had marched against the Iraq War; carried a placard and sat down in the street to sing angry songs about Bush and Cheney. On November 2nd, the student union secured a late license, and I stayed up all night with my friends, watching the results come in. At some point, someone mistakenly announced that Kerry had won Ohio, and we all cheered and jumped up, spilling our pints on each other. When it became clear that Bush was going to be elected again, we all cried, and slunk off home to sleep.
Four years ago, I was pregnant with DorkySon. During the primaries, my computer screen at work had been plastered with post it notes, keeping tallies of super delegates and highlighting key dates. I bought a Scotland for Obama t-shirt, large enough to cover my bump, and sat up all night, snuggled under blankets on the sofa. When Obama won I didn’t stop smiling for days.
This year – tonight – I will go to bed before the polls have even closed. But I care more about the result than I ever have before.
Here is why.
I believe in equality of opportunity. I think your ability to get a good education, to secure a job, to have food on your plate and to access healthcare should not be decided by how much money is in your parents’ bank account when you’re born.
I believe that when you look at how countries across the world have dealt with the economic crash, it is pretty clear that stimulus packages help the recovery, and austerity measures do not.
I believe in women’s rights and LGBT rights. I want my American friends who are women to have easy access to contraception, and if that contraception fails I want them to have a genuine choice about whether they have a child or a safe abortion. I want my American friends who are gay and who are in a partnership with someone they love as deeply as I love DorkyDad to have the opportunity to demonstrate that love by committing to each other in marriage.
I care very deeply about a lot of people who live in America. I care very deeply about a lot of people who live in other parts of the world too, and the results of today’s election will have a profound impact on many of them. I care about the people I met in Palestine who, despite what Mitt Romney thinks, desperately want to achieve peace. I care about the people in Greenland, who stood in front of me and asked why the world isn’t doing more to stop the ground from melting beneath their feet.
Like it or not, the choices of the US President have a bearing on the lives of people way beyond their geographical borders.
My husband is American. My son has an American passport. As he grows up I want him to feel as much American as he does Scottish, and I want that to be something he is proud of.
It is not out of the question that we will one day pack up our life in the UK and move it to the States. If we move to some small, sweet town in America, and DorkySon goes round to play at a friend’s house, I don’t want to be sat at home wondering if his friend’s father has remembered to lock his gun up securely. I want to know that if DorkySon falls over and smacks his chin off the pavement, I can take him to the emergency room to be stitched up rather than having to do a DIY job with superglue because we forgot to renew our health insurance. I want him to have friends with black skin and not feel like that’s an issue. I want him to feel he can practice any religion he likes, while also understanding that he has no right to impose the rules and beliefs of that religion on anyone else. If we are unlucky enough to ever be caught in a hurricane, I want his class teacher to explain how that happened using science, not ideology.
We have seen in the UK what happens when a right wing party is elected on the back of mild dissatisfaction with the more moderate alternative . Compassionate conservative. Vote blue go green. Hug a hoody and kiss a husky. Bullshit. Two years in power and the people that are hurting in this country are the vulnerable ones – the poor, the disabled, the young and the old. Equalities legislation is under threat, women’s rights are under threat, workers’ rights are under threat. All the safety nets provided by the state are being slashed into pieces and sold off to further fill corporate pockets.
The Republicans are the same – with a lot more more money and a lot more power – which means that electing them is an even more scary prospect.
I love America. I’ve been shocked by how much I love America, and how comfortable I have felt there. From the low country of South Carolina, where they queue round the block for Publix fried chicken, to the hipster bars of New York and the pine-covered mountains of Maine, I have never been made to feel anything other than welcome. It’s because I love it that I care so much.
Do I think that Barack Obama can single handedly shape America to be the place that I’ve imagined, where I can see myself making a home one day? Of course not. He has been disappointing and weak on many key issues. There have been times when I have been as angry with him as I was at times with Bush, perhaps even more so because my hopes were so high. He has let the world down by showing no leadership on climate change, or Israeli settlements, or drone strikes – but goodness me he’s better than the alternative. He at least gives the impression that he has thought carefully about a decision before he makes it, sought alternative viewpoints, and tried to take into consideration how it will impact people other than his closest allies.
I don’t think Obama is perfect, but I think he is the only person can help America take faltering, fumbling baby steps towards being a fairer place, and right now I’ll settle for that.
Please, America. Please make the right decision today.