USF World brings international perspective to election

While the outlook of U.S. presidential elections varies across the country, panelists representing regions around the world in an event Thursday expressed many similarities among the international community.

Sentiments varied slightly, yet each panel member who spoke representing Latin America, China, Korea, France, Kenya and Israel said people in those places often view Democrats and Republicans as very similar and think Americans are apathetic toward politics. Most said President Barack Obama was the favored candidate.

The event, hosted by USF World and co-sponsored by the USF Chinese Language and Culture Club, was held in the Patel Center for Global Solutions auditorium last Thursday, and drew a large crowd of primarily students.

The representative for Korea, Jongseok Woo, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs, said Koreans often view Republicans and Democrats as fundamentally the same.

We realize there are two parties with differences, but at the same time, for outside of here, American politics is awfully boring, he said. From an outsiders perspective, Democrats and Republicans are almost identical in terms of their ideological perspectives and issues.

Michel Amblard, the panel representative for France and former president of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, said the view of people in France is similar.

In France, and I would suspect for most of Europe, people dont see a huge difference in the Democrats and Republicans, he said. It seems to be more a question of nuance rather than very different policies.

Another commonality between panel representatives was the nearly unanimous support that panelists said their respective locales had for Obama.

At the discussion, when asked which candidate each country or region would support, all panel members said Obama, except Israel representative Chaim Noy, an associate professor in the Department of Communication. He said Israelis, who tend to be more conservative, supported former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney three times as much as Obama yet Palestinians, he said, supported Obama to the same degree.

The people who vote for (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu are the same who would pick Romney and I think that their perception is correct, Noy said. The relations between Netanyahu and Romney are very close on personal grounds. Their ideologies are very close.

John Gathegi, the panel member representing Kenya and a professor in the School of Information, said Kenyas choice was clear.

I think the fact that Obamas father is from Kenya pretty much sums it up, Gatheti said. Political analysts will give you their reasons for liking him, but those are just their justifications for picking Barack Obama.

Eric Shepherd, panel representative for China and Chinese professor, said Chinese people would likely choose Obama.

“He is a known quantity, he said. Thats why they (the Chinese) prefer him. … Mitt Romney is a wild card, an unknown.

Panel members also said other countries often perceive democratic flaws in American politics, from issues with American political attack ads to the Electoral College system.

Shepherd said people in China see Americans as apathetic toward politics.

The frequent comment that keeps coming up about Americans is that they dont participate in this great process thats going on and that these people are wasting the opportunity, he said.

Harry Vanden, a professor in the Department of Government and International Affairs, represented Latin American countries. He said those countries have a particular foreign policy concern that would affect their U.S. presidential choice.

There is growing resentment and dissatisfaction with U.S. policy and that in particular, is the war and drugs, which has been an unmitigated disaster in Latin America, and the Obama administration continues to support it, he said.

Students, such as Blake Williams, a sophomore majoring in political science, said they could see where these foreign views were coming from.

Overall I was not surprised that other countries didnt see us a truly democratic society, he said. I think we are all aware of the issues with the Electoral College and popular vote, but just dont do anything about it. Also, I wasnt surprised that many of the other countries supported Obama.