5 November 2020

Canberra Democrats put pints on pause and wait nervously for an outcome

| Dominic Giannini
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Biden and Hawke

Democrats Abroad gathered in Civic to watch the American election unfold. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

After the ACT election on 17 October, political junkies turned their eyes to the US for the theatre of the Presidential election. But for a small pocket of Americans gathered around screens at PJ O’Reillys yesterday, it was personal.

Justin Underwood was closely watching results slowly roll in throughout the day.

Mr Underwood set up the ACT division of Democrats Abroad which now has 285 members in the ACT. There are 6000 members Australia-wide.

For Democrats like him, yesterday didn’t unfold as expected. A Biden blowout was on the cards, at least according to national and local polls, and celebrations were expected hours after counting commenced.

As the afternoon wore on, the mood slowly soured and stress began to emanate from the pub in Civic as Donald Trump’s electoral showing was stronger than almost everyone expected.

“Am I allowed to use expletives to describe how I feel? Stressed and tense,” said one attendee.

Election watching

The mood in the pub dimmed from the morning’s jubilation as votes started to roll in. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

It’s a stark contrast to Australian elections.

“There is a lot more identification with one side of politics in America than there is in Australia and as a result, that leads to a lot less compromise,” Mr Underwood said.

“Americans are much more set in their views. How many Australians would be members of political parties here?”

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Around 42 million Americans are registered Democrats and 32 million are registered Republicans, equating to around 22 per cent of Americans identifying with the major two parties.

This compares to around 110,000 Australians who are members of the Liberal or Labor parties – or 0.44 per cent of the population.

One of the main differences with there being no compulsory voting in America is that considerable money is spent trying to get people out to vote, even in Australia where 100,000 Americans reside.

Ritu Clementi and Justin Underwood

Ritu Clementi and Justin Underwood from Democrats Abroad are nervously waiting on a result. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Mr Underwood ran an online and social media campaign here to get Americans to vote.

This includes trying to engage young people and make them more politically active to have their voices heard, former Democrats Abroad Vice-Chair Ritu Clementi said.

“I do a lot to make sure that young women are activists and active,” Ms Clementi said.

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It has been a tense wait for a result, and the suspense could drag on for days still as both Canberrans and Americans nervously wait to see who will become the next President of the United States of America.

In two years’ time, the Canberra-arm of the Democrats will come together to do it all again for the American mid-terms.

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