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An American abroad: the presidential election

An American war veteran’s perspective on the presidential election


I am an MBA exchange student from The Ohio State University currently studying at Manchester Business School and this will be the second U.S. presidential election in which I will be outside of the country.

The first election in which I was outside of the U.S. was the 2004 presidential election between George W. Bush and John Kerry. At the time, I was serving in the U.S. Army and deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq.
That was an election I paid very close attention to because of its direct implications on me as a soldier in a combat zone. I vividly remember listening to Eminem’s Mosh, watching Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, reading about the Swift Boat Controversy, and watching then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama address the Democratic National Convention.

Much has happened since then. This election, I am not in the military. I’m a business student. Saddam Hussein has been tried, convicted, and executed and the war in Iraq has been declared over. The war in Afghanistan is still being fought, but it is no longer on the front page. Osama Bin Laden is dead and Barack Obama is the President of the United States. All of these events that seemed at one time to be all consuming are no longer on the top of everyone’s minds.

Today, the hot topic of discussion is the global economy whose centre of gravity has been shifting ever eastward. There is a building sense of frustration with these rising nations, the wealthy, and politicians and despite all of this, Americans continue to believe in the democratic process. Through good times and bad, Americans make their way to the ballot box to influence the future of the nation. I’ve found that many throughout the rest of the world follow American political affairs closer than we follow theirs, but I’ve been surprised at the degree of interest in this election by many of my fellow classmates at Manchester Business School, who have come from all across the world.

Akshay Joshi, the president of the MBA Class of 2013 at MBS and who hails from India, says he follows the U.S. election coverage closely because of the implications it has on the rest of the world. He feels that outsourcing has been given a bad rap in the run up to the election and that there are growing opportunities in various sectors of the U.S. economy such as healthcare that will more than make up for the jobs being outsourced. Joshi says that the “education system in the U.S. is very robust” and asks, “After a certain level, do you want people just to be picking up phones? You should be moving to the next level.”

Joshi would also like to see the candidates discuss their plans to help stabilize the economic situation in Europe. Joshi says, “If you look at it, America is operating in a silo. There needs to be more communication with Europe or there’s going to be a huge imbalance.” He would like to see the United States also share more knowledge with the rest of the world, particularly developing nations such as India that are facing large societal challenges. According to Joshi, “The U.S. has a lot of experience tackling problems and there are a lot of problems that India faces in terms of developing a sustainable infrastructure. It’s not that India doesn’t have experts, but there has to be some support from countries like the U.S.”

Joshi asserts that President Obama has broad support among the MBA community at MBS in spite of the fact that Mitt Romney is the only one of the two candidates with an MBA and a business background. Mr. Joshi agreed that he viewed Obama as a more relatable and international figure among the two candidates and went on to say that Obama is a “safer bet with some kind of history for us to go on.”

One of my fellow exchange students, Jacky Lam, from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has been watching the U.S. Presidential debates over YouTube. He liked President Obama’s performance in the second debate and Mitt Romney’s in the first debate.  Jacky says his family feel that Obama “did nothing” other than “talk good” for the last four years, but that he personally prefers Obama over Romney. Jacky, who works for HSBC Bank in Hong Kong, feels that Romney will be too soft on corporations because of his business background. Jacky has heard the currency manipulation accusations made against China by many in the U.S. and would like both of the candidates to address the issue of quantitative easing, which he believes is artificially raising real estate prices in Asia.

Mr. Joshi was proven right; it was hard to find Romney supporters in the MBS community, though I did find a few people who disliked both candidates or didn’t care at all! It has been a refreshing experience for me to talk to individuals from countries outside of the U.S. and learn how they also have a vested interest in the outcome of the upcoming U.S. Presidential election. Many throughout the world feel like stakeholders in the U.S. political process, which makes sense because of the increasingly globalized world in which we live today. Americans may be voting in their own self-interest, but their votes affect people and nations all over the world and we should certainly keep that in mind at the ballot box.