Midterm Elections: View from London

In London on November 3rd, the day after the midterm elections in America, political conversations among expats concentrates mainly on two things: the Tea Party and America’s economy. “With the Tea Party, if we can’t agree on lowering the deficit and taxes, if we can’t do that, then we haven’t done our job,” said Stacy Hilliard, the London-based vice chairman of Republicans Abroad. The group was hosting an event at the Red Lion, a pub near the House of Commons and Downing Street. The mood was upbeat, but understated. More glasses were filled with soft drinks than with beer or wine. “Obama has quadrupled the deficit. He hasn’t done what he said he would do. He’s very pie in the sky. People are suffering the hangover from Obama.”

The full blog post, on London’s reactions to the 2010 US midterm elections, is at INTELLIGENT LIFE. The story also continues here, after the jump.

The 25 or so people who showed up for the group’s post-midterm election meet-up were a mixed bag: registered Republicans living in London, politically engaged local Brits and folks from Germany, Brazil and Venezuela, some of whom have family in America.

Michael Magan, a former White House aid to George W. Bush and a London-based political strategist, celebrated the GOP victories but was wary of assuming they gave momentum to Republicans. “In 2008 Obama came in with a majority in the Senate and the House, but he wasn’t able to parlay that into success,” Magan warned. “The Tea Party is as much a wake-up call to Democrats as Republicans. I would hope that both take that seriously and take a step back.”

Just a few blocks away, members of Democrats Abroad rallied in a room upstairs at the Texas Embassy Cantina, a touristy restaurant near Leicester Square. The atmosphere was more festive, with red, white and blue streamers and balloons, and several people dressed in red or blue outfits. Attendance was higher, and beer and wine flowed a bit more. Bill Barnard, chair of Democrats Abroad, spent the day answering media questions in damage-control mode. Earlier in the day he told a group at the Frontline Club, a London-based journalism hub, that the 2010 midterm elections were “politics as usual”. He repeated this sphinx-like mantra at the Texas Embassy, countering fears that the Democratic Party had taken a big hit.

“The [midterm election] results are not cataclysmic, nor are they great for Republicans,” Barnard averred. “Until the economy recovers, Obama won’t get any credit for what he’s done. Americans are notoriously impatient. This election is not a victory for the GOP. This is voters taking out their frustration and anger.”

Idella Simmons, a Londoner from Chicago who votes in Virginia, sipped white wine and celebrated a new opportunity for Democrats to get things done. “It will be much more difficult for Republicans to be obstructionists,” she said. “They can’t blame things on us anymore, they can’t sit back and say no, no, no. I don’t see this as a big loss.”

Adam Olive, a dual-citizen who grew up in Britain and attended university in Los Angeles, says Democrats need to step up their game. “Democrats need to be more radical,” Olive offered. “We need to have our agenda ready, and put some blame on the Republicans. Neither party is seriously willing to debate the fiscal crisis.”

From across the pond, American elections make for an entertaining spectacle; something to watch and consider without getting one’s hands dirty. Brits and the nearly 140,000 American expats living here are removed enough from the drama to spare little thought over specific ballot measures or whether a governorship goes red or blue. Locals are too preoccupied with cuts to British health services and education and David Cameron’s claim that the East End will be the next Silicon Valley to care whether Christine O’Donnell was a witch.

“This is beyond Americans or GOPs. For me, it’s about the United States, and where America is heading,” said Dr Flor Kent, a Venezuelan with family in Florida who attended the GOP gathering on November 3rd. “If they fail, the entire Western Hemisphere is sinking.”

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