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Monday, June 21, 2021

Canberra-based US expats watch Presidential election with bated breath

Every four years, members of Democrats Abroad ACT flock to PJ O’Reilly’s to spend the day watching the Presidential Election together, whether it ends in celebration or commiseration. 

It’s a mixed crowd; some are long-term Canberra residents and others are passing through the Territory for work, study or love.

Ainslie resident Nigel Opdyke was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan before he and his parents moved to Australia when he was six months old. 

Mr Opdyke said he visits the United States every couple of years, for one or two months at a time, and has maintained close relationships with his family based in Florida.

Nigel Opyke followed the US election more closely than ever this year.

“We call our grandparents every weekend and we don’t usually talk too much about politics. But this year it’s come up a lot more,” he said.

Mr Opdyke was considering moving to Florida to live with his grandma and help her during the pandemic, however, with Australian border restrictions it became too difficult.

“My grandmother only leaves her house once a week to get groceries, at 6am to avoid the crowds.”

Would he consider moving to the United States if the Trump administration had another term?

“No. Straight up, no.”

Although he didn’t always follow politics closely, Mr Opdyke said he watched an hour-long American news broadcast every day in the lead up to this election.

“My grandparents in Florida got me into watching the PBS NewsHour every evening and I’ve kept that habit. Of course, it plays in the morning here, so every morning my routine is watching PBS NewsHour,” he said.

“I became far more obsessed than I ever thought I would have.

“Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Chapman resident Julie Pham was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin before finding her way to Canberra, where she and her husband Tuan raised their children.

She said she treasured visiting the United States, however, her roots were firmly planted in the ACT.

Julie Pham has been looking forward to this election for four years.

“I miss it very much. I miss my family. But you know there’s a lot of advantages to living in Australia and that’s really been highlighted these past four years,” she said.

“The divisiveness, the violence, the guns. That kind of thing. I have a really hard time seeing that happen to my country.”

Ms Pham was at the same pub four years ago to watch the race between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump.

“It went from very celebratory to very miserable over the course of a couple hours,” she said.

“So for four years I’ve been waiting for this election.”

In the lead-up to the election she monitored politics in the news fastidiously.

“I have quite a few podcasts I follow every single day. When people are out walking, listening to music, I’m listening to American political podcasts. I’m obsessed. It’s driving me mad.”

Although Ms Pham would love to visit her elderly father, she said it depended on Australian borders opening.

“Trips were cancelled this year and I now have a couple of vouchers on Qantas, so it depends when they open up – then I’ll go.

“And when it’s safe. I don’t want to go over when the US is rampaging like that with COVID – I wouldn’t go.”

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