Italians respond to Election 2008

Jordan McCord
November 13, 2008

The ballots have been cast, history has been made: Obama is the president-elect. The Democratic Party takes over again after eight years, and Americans find themselves on the brink of a new administration.


Cambiamento. Change. For Italians, the word goes hand in hand with the mention of Barack Obama. But what does this ‘change' mean for Italians? And what do they hope to gain from a new president in another country?


‘It was a great thing, I couldn't believe it was possible. It was time to change, and I think Americans chose the right person,' Roberta Mugelli said.


Professor Federico Romero of the University of Florence said that what many Italians are looking for is a change in foreign policy. ‘A lot of people would certainly be happy with a less unilateral and belligerent foreign policy, including more dialogue with allies as well as other regimes, from Iran to Russia, and less "either with us or against us" polarization,' he said.


Romero also pointed out that today's global issues are undoubtedly relevant in Italy. He said that many would appreciate U.S. leadership on issues such as ‘global warming and restructuring of financial norms and institutions.'


For some, domestic policy in the U.S. is irrelevant. ‘I'm just for foreign policy, I don't know what's going on inside America,' Marco Pintucci said. This surface-level attention to American politics seems to be a trend, as many Italians completely dismissed McCain, not even interested in familiarizing themselves with his potential policies. ‘He is just a name,' Niccolò Usberti said. ‘If there is an Italian who is interested in America, he is for Obama.'


Not everyone agrees with Usberti, however. Florentine Lorenzo Bigalli knows the U.S. well: he is married to an American. He supported McCain because of the courageous and heroic way he has served his country. However, though his man did not win, Bigalli said he believes that Obama will lead the country well-as it always has been, regardless of the individual in the White House.


Regarding McCain's choice of running mate, Mugelli echoed the sentiments of many when she said she believed McCain made a big mistake by choosing Sarah Palin. ‘Italian women don't like Sarah Palin because she could not portray clear ideas.'


As are many Americans, Italians are drawn to the idea of a young and energetic president. Though many believe themselves to be more politically minded than Americans, Usberti said, ‘we need to wake up in some ways because some young people are not interested in politics in Italy. Right now we don't care so much and we need an example of a young politician like Obama.'


Part of Italians' keen interest in Obama could be attributed to the way he invokes a contrast of feelings to the current political leader of Italy, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. According to Massimillano Innocenti, ‘in Italy, in the political class, there are lots of thieves; people work for politicians instead of politicians working for people. Obama is a really good stepping stone for America, his mind is open, and I hope he will change foreign policy.'


Although most unconditionally supported Obama, this is not to say they are without fears or doubts about the president-elect. ‘Before I judge, I would like to see what he will do,' Innocenti said. And although Mugelli thinks that ‘the color of his skin has positive meaning, even for Italians,' she worries about Obama's safety. ‘I'm afraid for his life because after 9/11 anything can happen,' she said. ‘But, his aesthetic figure, the way he talks, smiles and debates has a way of making you feel secure.'


It is daunting to think about what lies ahead for Obama, America, Italy and the rest of the world. However, it's good to know that positive political thoughts have reemerged on this side of the Atlantic, too. 



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