Dispatches From the Democratic National Convention
Entry 16: The Democrats Abroad delegation will happily show you their papers.
Illustration by Robert Neubecker.
John and Dave,
If you’re looking for people who can talk about how they’re better off today than they were four years ago, I recommend you pay a visit to the Democrats Abroad delegation, which is located just off the convention floor between Florida and Kansas.
These are Americans who live overseas, but are mostly registered to vote at their last domestic address. They are expats but renounce the term because some people think it means they used to be patriotic. The Democratic National Committee, unlike Republicans, treats them like a state or territory. This year, the Democrats Abroad delegation represents Americans living on five continents.
“Like many of us, we can see more than anyone how Barack Obama has improved our reputation abroad. It’s a particular difference between 2008 and now,” says Vicki Hansen Thackray, an Iowa native who lives in Luxembourg and serves as Democrats Abroad’s international vice chair. “It’s part of the reason we’re so ardent.”
Democrats Abroad made a surprisingly high-profile cameo in American domestic politics during the 2008 primary season when Obama emerged with a net gain of two delegates over Hillary Clinton from the group’s virtual seven-delegate primary. This year the delegation’s votes are a formality, but they say they are able to share ground-level testimony to Obama’s ability to deliver change.
“Before 2008, when we traveled abroad we wouldn’t tell people we were American,” said Kenneth E. Sherman, a former Democratic committee man in Buffalo who now lives in Ontario with dual citizenship. He was elected Democrats Abroad’s international chair in 2008, propelled by a campaign speech in which he waved his American passport. The point, Sherman recalled, was that during the Bush years he had been ashamed to show it to border authorities, presenting a Canadian document instead. Now, he said, “I am proud to carry my US passport again.”
Thackray expressed modest disapproval of her fellow delegate. She had never felt ashamed to be American, she said, but the four years of Obama had indeed brought an appreciable improvement to her quality of life in Luxembourg. “People want to sit next to me at the dinner table again,” she said.
Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.