Yale newspapers and magazines recently turned to international students to find out our perspective on the U.S. presidential campaign. After all, it’s easy to run out of fun material over the course of a 1.5 years long presidential campaign. We are supposed to have a fresh outside perspective.
When I started my freshman year, the presidential campaign was already going on, so I have been exposed to it as much as most Americans. After I found out I had to pay taxes in the US, I have been obsessively following the tax policies of both candidates. Like most foreign Yalies I know, I watched presidential and vice-presidential debates. So much for the fresh perspective.
So I asked the real outsiders — my friends who live outside the US.
The vast majority of my Russian and Ukrainian friends and acquaintances — the younger crowd — would vote for Barack Obama if they could. But in general, the older Russians get, the more they like McCain. An average Russian man hardly lives to be 60, so a 72-year old candidate is an inspiring role model to many. “I wish my husband was so lively” — my friend’s grandmother said of her 72-y.o. husband. “What foreign policies? I don’t care what those capitalists are doing.”
I quizzed my 20-something Obama-favoring friends on their rationale. In a surprising correlation with their college majors, they explained what aspects of the democratic candidate’s tax, education, healthcare, and foreign policies they favored to those of McCain. And then something else came up: Obama is oh-so-glamorous (“a он ничего такой, очень гламурненький”).
Russia is all about glamour. What is known as ostentatious in other countries, is every-day wear in Russia. Mini skirts and high heels are equally worn to class, work and parties. Some restaurants have special side tables for the It Bags. Several haute couture brands have more boutiques in Moscow than in London or NYC. Books that teach girls how to marry an oligarch are bestsellers. And politics has been becoming more glamorous, too.
Our President’s recent video blog post (and yes, he has one!) spurred demand for the stylish Mac laptops: he clearly prefers them to the good ol’ PCs. He was even spotted playing with his iPhone before they became legally available in Russia. Our ex-President-turned-prime-minister has video of him doing judo all over YouTube (and pictures of him with a naked torso that show off his muscles; he is in a great shape). The Ukrainian prime-minister is known for her hairstyle and fancy outfits as much as for her policies.
No wonder Barack Obama with his tall and slim frame, well-fitting outfits and an elegantly-clad wife is a favorite with Russian women.
To be fair, Sarah Palin is also perceived as glamorous. A stereotypical Russian woman wears stiletto boots and furs in the winter, and Palin gives off an image of someone who could totally pull it off. Her recent $150K worth of a shopping spree is definitely approved by the Russian women (she even managed to do it with someone else’s money, a dream of a stereotypical glamour girl). She is in a great shape and wears fashionable clothes. Her four — or is five? Most Russian women lost track (or lost Track. Ha!) — kids raise some well-waxed Russian eyebrows. But of course, a true glamour girl has a glamorous reason to have kids — “Ah, I get it — she had so many fashionable pregnancy clothes that she wanted to become pregnant again and again to be able to wear them!”
If Barack Obama wins, as most my friends hope, they will take great pleasure in praising his and his wife’s looks at the inauguration and beyond. If that happens, Sarah Palin shouldn’t give up. She should simply move to Alaska’s behemoth neighbor. Her glamorousness guarantees a huge success. After all, we all know she is already an expert on Russia.