Germany has long been considered a stronghold of support for the Democratic senator from Illinois after 200,000 people turned out in July for a speech by Obama in Berlin, so it came as no surprise when thousands of Germans and US expats celebrated his victory at late-night election parties across the city.
“Tomorrow will be a new day – a day one,” American Obama supporter Laurence Tooth, 24, told The Local as results trickled in long after most people in Germany had gone to bed.
The US Embassy hosted the largest party, with more than 2,000 guests who packed into an amply catered event sponsored by Deutsche Telekom at their offices in the city centre. The soiree had live coverage until 9 am Wednesday morning by German broadcaster ZDF, which announcing state-by-state results.
The crowd, overwhelmingly in support of Democratic candidate Obama, booed softly and shifted nervously as results for the first state, Kentucky, were announced in Republican candidate John McCain’s favour around 1 am. But the mood shifted as Vermont, Pennsylvania, and other East Coast states went to Obama. By 3:30 am polls showed that he would likely be the next president of the United States.
Tooth, an intern at a Berlin non-governmental organization, said he was interested in civil liberties issues, the economy and international relations. “As an American who lives abroad, but still feels connected to the US, I hate that I’m not welcome in places where people don’t understand what has happened to the country,” he said.
Several hundred of the some 100,000 US voters residing in Germany also came out to the less-formal Democrats Abroad event at a 1920’s-era Babylon cinema in Berlin. Tickets to the party sold out early, but those who couldn’t get into the 600-seat theatre showed their support outside at an impromptu party on the street.
McCain supporters were hard to come by in Berlin on Election Night, but there was a small gathering at a traditional conservative gathering spot, the Wahlkreis pub.
Before final results came in, Josh Clapp, a 21-year-old American student from Minnesota told The Local he would be disappointed if McCain wasn’t elected, but seem willing to accept a President Obama. “I don’t think it would be that bad for the country,” he said.
The former chairwoman of the Republicans Abroad group, Sherrie Turnquist, said she had switched parties to support Obama. The 39-year-old African-American New York native said she had made a bet with a German GOP supporter on the outcome of the election.
“If Palin gets one step away from the presidency, we will switch passports,” she quipped.
Though the Americans were the ones with the vote, Germans at the election events seemed just as invested in the election results.
“I hope for an improvement in US-German relations,” a 31-year-old German corporate consultant named Lars said while attending the US Embassy party. “America is the world’s leader, and decides whether we have peace or war, and that effects Germany too.”
Just before 5 am, broadcasters announced to roaring, flag-waving crowds of sleepy supporters across the city that Obama had surpassed the requisite 270 electoral votes to be elected the 44th President of the United States.
As celebrations wound down at the Babylon Theatre, Lauren Stansbury, a 20-year-old student at Berlin’s Free University said she was thrilled with the results. “We’re no longer expatriates,” she told The Local. “This really marks a change of political thought in the US.”
With reporting by Shannon Smith