First Lady Michelle Obama waves to the crowd at the Johnson Center, George Mason University on Friday, Sept. 16.
I am a French student who chose to come to study close to Washington DC for what I thought would be one of the most interesting elections in the history of Uncle Sam’s country.
I was wrong. ‘Interesting’ is way too soft a term to describe what I’ve been witnessing so far…
My political adventures began on September 15 when First Lady Michelle Obama came to campus to campaign for Hillary Clinton – for the first time. After standing in line for three and a half hours, I was finally able to have a glimpse of “Michelle.” It was short…but intense. An incredible fervor surrounded the event. French politicians often only gather a little enthusiasm, but she – along with the other speakers – was welcomed as a real star. And that was only the beginning of my political experience in the US.
The political activity progressively grew on campus. First, “register to vote” people gradually multiplied around campus. Trying to stop every single student that comes across them, they are running a race against the clock, trying to register as many people as possible before October 17. As I noticed most people ignored them, I realized the extent of the problem here in the U.S. The American political system is plagued with low turnouts and we are now facing an election where getting people to go to the polls could make a huge difference. France is also confronted with abstention but automatic voter registration helps us increase turnouts.
I also have the opportunity to continuously take part in the political life of the university. After attending an engaging Democrat meeting, I was able to watch the first Presidential debate with other students before analyzing the first two debates in class. All of this helps me with familiarizing the issues and it allows me to hear student views and opinions. They all seem to be trying to make sense of this election, without much success.
From my European standpoint, I am not really surprised. In the past few years, a number of European elections have clearly pointed at a rejection of the “system” and at a growth of extremism. It is not only happening in the US. But it is precisely because it is taking place here that it seems so important and frightening for us Europeans. French media are obsessed with US elections, while here the French Presidential campaign that is about to start is of little interest, even though we have our female version of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen.
Victoria David is a French exchange student at George Mason University. She is also an intern with The Connection Newspapers.