Nope. Not France. Surprise!
When you think about it, it could be anywhere.
On Saturday, I was talking to a mixed-nationality couple who live in Poland (she's Polish, he's not) and the topic turned to politics, specifically to the twin brothers who are Poland's President and Prime Minister.
Both husband and wife displayed a similar combination of emotions; they seemed simultaneously exasperated, embarrassed and a little angry about who's currently running the country:
Wife: "We were so surprised when he [the president] won. I don't know how he got elected. Nobody we know voted for him."
Me: "Hmmmm. That's sort of how we feel about Bush."
And now, with the French having elected Sarkozy, and the Germans Merkel, an so on, and so on, I'm wondering... WTF is going on? Has the whole world (except Italy and Spain) gotten more conservative?
There's more to it than just that. I honestly do hear the same refrain from a number of countries:
Nobody I know voted for him....
So there's another question -- is there some kind of unwritten global political apartheid system at work here? Are we more inclined than in the past to only associate with people who think like we do about politics?
To some extent, we might not be able to avoid it. Demographically, the statisticians tell us that there are geographic voting trends; the precise patterns may differ from country to country, but in many places big-city dwellers often vote differently than small-town or country folk.
In many countries, there are also religious or ethnic trends. Sometimes class is a predictor. At the same time, sociologists have long said that people tend to seek out and associate with other people "like" themselves.
So maybe it adds up to this: Nobody I know voted for him, and I don't understand how anybody could.
And while we sit there wondering how it happened, we (the progressives, you know, "us") have lost control. Someone out there is voting conservative. Lots of someones. And we don't know who they are! But it seems there are more of them than there are of us. Or at least there are enough people who can be swayed by them, who are being swayed, while we ask ourselves how it could possibly happen that so many people could be induced to vote against their own best interests.
And, too often, we say it with some disdain. Who are these people who are voting for them? Which might not be the best way to convince a fence-sitting moderate that "our" side is right.
Nobody I know voted for him....
In my case, it's not technically true. I do know people who voted for Bush. While my circle of friends voted almost entirely for not-Bush, my family is about 50-50. But even then, the pattern holds -- the major-city urbanites in my family tended to vote Democratic, while the small-Southern-city folks and rural dwellers tend to vote GOP. (There are a couple of politically-mixed marriages, as well.)
At any rate, my family tends not to talk politics, because we'd just kill each other. We're a hot-tempered bunch, and we have a tacit agreement that we just avoid subjects that will lead to bloodshed.
So maybe it's just avoidance. Avoidance of conflict? Yes, in my family, it's that. But there's also probably an element of avoidance of the other, even when the other is a blood relative.
Example: My brother-in-law actually refuses to go to parties where he might have to talk to Republicans. Seriously. (He also thinks the GOP should be dismantled and its leaders prosecuted.)
Maybe it's a spiral of silence. We're outnumbered. And getting more so with every election, it seems. (Except in Spain and Italy. Maybe I'll move there, so I can be with more people like me? Heh.)
But I digress. I don't know if this is really happening as much as I think it is, or if it's really new. But here's the real question: If it is happening, if we are increasingly associating with people "like ourselves," people who agree with us, are we -- and in this case, by "we" I mean lefties, liberals, progressives, whatever you want to call us -- are "we" really doing ourselves any favors?
Because we can't change anybody's mind about how they should vote if we don't talk to them, and talk to them with respect. We may know we're right. We may be mystified by how anybody could not realize that. But it seems that some significant chunks of the world are trending in a direction "we" don't like, while "we" are scratching our heads and wondering if 50+ percent of people in [insert name of country here] have lost their collective minds, wondering how anybody could vote for him. Whoever he is.
Maybe we should knock off the head-scratching and start talking to folks, start seeking out the Other and engaging them. Start changing some minds.