Hunting for Republicans in Paris
Registering voters on the Champs Elysées.
Republican organizers have claimed, and several newspapers have dutifully reported, that they, too, are seeing an increase in overseas voter turnout, so I went looking for evidence. The Republicans Abroad Web site was a lost cause, a stark contrast to the Democrats Abroad site, which lists hundreds of activities in dozens of countries. In Paris alone, a Democrat can attend, in the next month, casual cafe meet-ups, elegant fund-raising dinners with guests-of-honor like author Diane Johnson (Le Divorce), a screening of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism, and after-midnight parties to watch the presidential debates live.
All I could find on the Republican site was an e-mail address for the chairman of Republicans in France, who didn't reply to my missive. A call to someone listed as serving on the group's executive committee also went unreturned.
The night after Man Ray, I went to an officially bipartisan event at the American University in Paris. About 150 Americans turned up to watch a panel of three journalists discuss the election. CNN's Jim Bitterman kicked things off with an informal poll. First he asked how many people in the room were going to vote for Kerry, and virtually everyone raised a hand. Bitterman then asked who was voting for Bush, and four hands went up. He asked how many in the audience were Republicans voting for Kerry, and about five people raised hands.
Afterward, I spoke with one of the Bush supporters. George Yates is a member of the Republicans Abroad executive committee. A cheerful gray-haired lawyer in a navy blue suit, he could tell me of no upcoming campaign events. Even a Republican Party organizer I met, who resides in Western Europe, told me that this time around she may not vote for Bush.
What ordinary Americans living overseas want to get across is not simply that the United States is running out of allies. (If you counted allies based on majority opinion, rather than government policy, it would have almost none.) What they're also trying to say is that this steady erosion matters. It matters on a practical level, of course, because the citizens of those nominal allies may throw out their pro-U.S. governments, as Spain did earlier this year before abruptly walking out of Iraq. But it also matters on a philosophical level: When you lead the most powerful country in the world, foreigners are to some extent your constituents, whether you like it or not.
Many Americans abroad hope that this election will turn the rising tide of anti-Americanism they cope with from day to day. "The world citizen has lost faith in the U.S. government," Sarem said. "The only string of hope we have now is that they haven't lost their faith in the American people."