An International Perspective on Politics | The Washington Center

An International Perspective on Politics

It’s interesting to be in D.C. during this very political election season. Every sentence seems to end with a comment about one of the presidential nominees. Whether it be a conversation about social issues or trade policies, all conversations lead to the presidential race.



And that’s all very interesting, of course, being that I’ve always been more interested in foreign policy than domestic issues. This is the first American presidential race I’ve followed, and I have been more willing to engage in political discussions and learn how people perceive, identify and defend their preferred candidate. I have become very curious about the two political parties, the anomaly of this presidential race (cough, cough, Trump) and the value sets of each political party.


My evening course this summer was called Political Behavior, and we spent much of the class discussing just that—the political behavior of common citizens. We discussed how members of the electorate form an opinion, how polls accurately (or inaccurately) measure public opinion and how the public acquires knowledge. I learned more about the American political system during that class than during any other political science course I’ve taken. The reality is, since a democracy is of and for the people, it’s important to study the people of the democracy.


In my courses, students would actively pitch for their party, exhibiting their loyalty for one of the candidates or the other. And every conversation with friends and colleagues all ended with the same question: So, who are you going to vote for?


That question was very difficult for me to answer, since as a non-US citizen, I don’t have a vote.


I struggled for a while on how to answer this question beyond, “Well, I’m not a citizen here, so I don’t have a vote.” I wanted to engage with the political discussions, but as this was the first presidential race I followed, I didn’t feel as if I had the political sophistication to vouch for one candidate over the other. I didn't think AP U.S. History was enough historical knowledge for me, and I definitely didn’t know the trends of political parties. But most of all, I didn’t feel like I had a right to speak. If I critiqued policies and pushed back on people’s political arguments, I was often given a response along the lines of “but you’re not even a citizen.”


So, what role does the non-electorate play in U.S. politics? While we may not have a direct vote and a direct influence on the elections, we can have an indirect influence. After all, presidents of countries, corporations and organizations all may not have a ballot to cast, but they do have a voice. Having a vote and having a voice are two very different abilities. Yes, the vote may be a more direct impact, but a voice can change votes. With a country as large, influential and powerful as the United States, the country’s election affects everyone in the world to one degree or another. While my civic duties may not include appearing before a voting booth come November 8th, it does include educating myself and engaging in discussions. After all, domestic and foreign politics is politics all the same.


Read Jenny's previous blog posts

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