Russell Shorto

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Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Election, Seen from Amsterdam

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

While people were voting in the U.S., I was on a panel in Amsterdam that was part of the city’s huge American election extravaganza. First, I doubt that other foreign cities go to such lengths: every TV network, the country’s top politicians, thousands of people, a rock concert vibe. Second, the panel was meant to talk about the election and the American melting pot. I was the only American: the others were three Dutch journalists and a Ugandan who talked about how he looks at Obama as an older brother who sometimes disappoints but of whom he is still proud. One of the panelists, the very smart Dutch writer Paul Scheffer, zeroed in on how Obama is black but not “black,” not part of the African American experience, and how he can thus represent in a way few other people could the melting pot ideal. He can be a model for black people, but also for recent immigrants. Obama continues to have an intruguingly powerful hold on Europeans, and I would say on a lot of people outside the U.S. His reelection–and the fact that the same coalitions that elected him in the first place did so again–reinforces that. The … Continue reading


What Nate Silver Doesn’t Know

Saturday, November 3, 2012

One of the most reliable polls on the presidential race is also one of the least studied. It takes place not in Ohio, but in Paris. Harry’s Bar has picked nearly every winner since it started polling its customers in 1924. Only twice did the Harry’s poll get it wrong: it picked Gerald Ford to beat Jimmy Carter in 1976, and picked John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004. Harry’s only polls Americans, and the bartender asks for passports. The bar–which invented the Bloody Mary–has created drinks in honor of the candidates. The Obama cocktail contains fruit liqueurs and beer. The Romney is an absinthe cocktail. Obama’s winning 69% of the vote so far.