On November 6, Americans will choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney for the office of President of the United States. In the weeks leading up to the election, Drunk Monkeys presents reflections from its editors, staff writers, and regular contributors on the choice ahead and what it will mean for the future.
In 2008 I was a student at University College Cork where I studied history and politics. The study of American politics was part of my course so I decided to head across the Atlantic to soak in the presidential race between John Mc Cain and Barack Obama.
I jetted off to Washington D.C on the eve of Election Day. When I got there I expected an air of excitement but instead I found it shrouded in tension. I got the feeling that some people there were worried of another four years of Republican rule while others wondered about this virtually unknown guy called Obama.
On the night of the election as the results started swaying Obama’s way, crowds gathered outside the White House. I went down for a look and found myself joining in with the banter that was happening on Lafayette square.
Ecstasy replaced tension when Obama was eventually declared winner and the party was in full swing. In the days that followed there was a feeling around Washington that something fresh and new was going to replace the stale and tired.
When I left Washington an Asian man was driving the taxi taking me to Dulles airport. Obama was giving a press conference on the radio and the taxi man had it turned up full volume. He was elated that Obama won the election, he spoke about how glad he was to be living and working in what he termed the greatest country in the world. He tripped over his words so excited he was about how things from there on in could only get better.
Within four years anti-American sentiments which took over during the Bush years have dwindled while the image of America as a domineering imperialistic power has shrunk.
In 2011 When Obama visited Ireland for just one day, it turned into an unofficial public holiday. Thousands turned out to listen to him speak in Dublin just after he had visited a small village in the midlands from where his great great-great-great grandfather had immigrated to the states from and where Obama went into a local pub to sink a Guinness.
The last president to visit Ireland was George W. Bush and indeed crowds turned out for him too but instead of cheering they were jeering and calling on the “war lord” to go back home.
Before Obama I remember the anti-U.S feelings which swamped my college, feelings which arose from the anti Iraq war movement. In January 2009 when Obama was being sworn in, the student bar on campus put up a big screen to show it and hung the stars and stripes from every available pole. It seemed like we had fallen back in love with America just as fast as we had fallen out.
We once heralded Obama as the agent for change but now we see the fairy tale president has crashed into the reality of modern living. The war in Iraq is all but gone from the public radar, the war in Afghanistan is a minor news story and the recession in Europe is smothering any optimism which Obama once had us all gripped in.
On this side of the Atlantic support still sways in Obama’s favor but with little of the great prospects of four years ago. America isn’t perfect and neither is Ireland but like any other country in the world it is a work in progress and another four years might just determine that.
Lily Murphy is 24 years old and comes from Cork city, Ireland. She graduated last year from University College Cork with a B.A in history and politics. She can be reached at Lilymurphycork@gmail.com