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Leaning Left or Leaning Right…Getting Ready to Vote Absentee

Tomorrow night’s Campaign Kickoff sponsored by Democrats Abroad at the American University of Paris is already complet — full, so don’t bother trying to get a seat…or of course, you can always take your chances and hope for SRO. Clearly, the U.S. election is heating up and gearing up for the big day — Tuesday, November 6, 2012.


19-9-12 obama 201219-9-12 republicans-abroad by France24Republicans Abroad19-9-12 obama-romney

If you are living here or elsewhere abroad, and wish to cast your ballot, be sure to register to vote absentee — you must request your ballot every election year from now on as the law has changed. To register, visit Vote From Abroad or for assistance, email Democrats Abroad at [email protected].
Republicans Abroad is a smaller and less active group here in France. It’s a funny thing about Expats — they tend to lean to the left in their politics. In an article in late August in the New York Times, Brian Knowlton analyzes the Expat factor in the upcoming election. He questioned, “So, how might Americans overseas be expected to vote this year? Is the conventional wisdom correct that the overseas military leans right and civilians abroad lean left? Might expats again play a crucial role in a close election?” And he goes on further to note, “The common caricature is that expats tend to be affluent, or military-linked, and thus conservative; or unpatriotic malcontents, and thus left-leaning. The actual picture is more complicated.”

As it turns out, in her survey of more than 800 Americans living overseas, Judith Murray found that Expats tend to be highly educated (89% with a Bachelor’s degree or higher), married (60%), white (90%) and older. They were not the “leisurely, disaffected rich.” And the largest single professional group were those in education (22%).

I am not surprised. Our Expat community has a very similar profile, so it’s no wonder the left has a larger, stronger following. In addition, with France’s politics more left than the U.S.’s left ever would dream of being, even if you started out on the right, after living here a while, you’d end up on the left!

We all rather joke about it. Not that François Hollande’s socialist ideas are everything we ever dreamed of (far from it in my capitalist opinion), but when you spend any real time reaping the rewards of leftist policies, it’s tough to go back to living a life of ‘every man for himself.’ It seems to happen as a natural progression as one learns more about how this society views the rights of all, rich or poor.

For example, yesterday I picked up a prescription of antibiotics. Ten capsules cost 1.65€ with my Carte Vitale (social security card). I laughed when the pharmacist told me the price — but of course, she didn’t understand what was so funny. I had to explain — “Do you know how much this would have cost in the United States? Maybe 10 times or maybe more!” Great health care at a bargain price is clearly one of those benefits we would never want to give up and we’re praying that France’s economy will be able to continue to provide it.

Another benefit that is sure to spoil you, particularly if you have children, is the level of the quality of education, free of charge through university. While I have often complained that the methodology of teaching in France is not in line with our American idea of teaching ‘resourcefulness,’ ‘optimism,’ or that old adage, ‘you can be anyone you want to be,’ at least not only is it available to everyone at high levels, but it’s seriously academic and produces a high-school graduate equivalent to the level of a U.S. graduate of a junior college.

Then, there are all those holidays and vacation days of which the French take full advantage while we Americans living in France still haven’t learned to succumb to without guilt. French workers are entitled to five weeks paid vacation (plus two weeks of Réduction du Temps de Travail [RTT, in English: Reduction of Working Time] for the employees that choose to work 39 hours per week instead of 35), plus about 10 national holidays (usually not paid with the exception of the 1st of May — Labor Day). For public employees and some companies like Orange, the total is nine paid vacation weeks (five weeks of vacation plus four weeks of RTT). Holy cow! And we marvel when they shut their businesses a full four weeks in August wondering how they can ‘afford’ to take so much time away from ‘earning money.’

But you see, they can. They don’t have the same need to earn as much…and as you can see, one can get very spoiled indeed.

So, after a while, those who started out on the right tend to lean a little more to the left as each year passes living on, in and among the left. I warn you, all you politically right people out there, who have been happy on the right all these years: living in France is bound to ruin you!

A la prochaine…

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australasiaP.S. Aussies (and Kiwis), we have not forgotten you! Australian property consultant, Sarah Potter, and I (lowly American) will be co-hosting a special Meetup of the “Aussie-Francophile Property Network” on October 1st here in Paris where we will be discussing “How to Manage Your Paris Rental Apartment from Long Distance.” You need not be Australian or New Zealander to attend — but we do hope to provide a forum for our Australasia friends. Monday, October 1, 6 to 7:30 p.m. at La Pierre du Marais. Visit  Aussie-Francophile Property Network for more information and to join our network!


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