US Expats Mail Votes, Bite Nails, Scream At Each Other

U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton poses with Miami City Ballet founder Toby Lerner Ansin and a Democrats Abroad Thailand T-shirt on Sept. 30 in Miami, Florida. Photo: Democrats Abroad Thailand / Facebook

BANGKOK — As American expats send absentee ballots and cross their fingers for their candidate to win, two partisans weigh in on the leading two candidates while a third explains why he’s voting for neither.

We talked to some openly partisan U.S. expats about who they’re voting for and what that means for both Thailand and the expat community here.

Phil Robertson, 52, who heads Democrats Abroad Thailand, believes the majority of the American expat community will cast their votes for Hillary Clinton.

He thinks most expats vote based on domestic rather than foreign issues.

“The bread and butter issues: economy, jobs, education – U.S. citizens in Thailand want to be part of that. They’re focused on how their vote affects America rather than Thailand,” Robertson said.

He said a line could not be drawn between whoever becomes president and the effect on the American expats in Thailand.

“People don’t normally choose where they live based on who’s the head of state,” he said. “However, some people may choose to run away from America if Trump becomes president,” he said, laughing.

While he won’t give a more precise number than “thousands” for registered Democrat Party supporters in Thailand, he believes they are the most representative of the community.

“There are no Republicans Abroad in Thailand,” said the chairman. 

While there doesn’t appear to be an organized group or effort, one can find Republican Party supporters.

Dayton Kannon, a 43-year-old high school social studies teacher who has lived in Thailand for 15 years, voted for Trump as the “lesser of two evils.” He said he has more integrity.

“Governments need honesty, integrity and a stabilizing influence – like His Majesty the Late King,” Kannon said. “The U.S. doesn’t have anyone like this. Because of the U.S. political system, we have to choose between two lesser evils,” Kannon said.

“When the King saw problems, he was also there, on the scene fixing problems, supervising and managing projects. He was making sure that things were happening, so that there was less corruption,” he said. “When Trump manages building projects, he also makes sure it’s done, and that people are accountable for it. If it’s not done right, they’re fired.”

He said it was about showing the right kind of leadership.

“It’s like when there’s a lazy guard or maid. If you pick up stuff in front of them, then they’ll follow your footsteps and do their job.”

“There’s a 50-50 chance of Trump winning,” the social studies teacher said. “Still, I wish I didn’t have to be discussing and choosing between these two options, but this is what the U.S. political system has led us to. So now, we have to make lemonade with lemons.”

Some US expats, however, have opted to vote for neither Hillary nor Trump.

Daryl Allan Holst, a 44-year-old high school science teacher who has lived in Thailand for 20 years, has opted for conservative independent Evan McMullin.

“I have voted Republican in every presidential race before this one,” Holst said. “I felt I could not vote for Trump because I cannot support having him as the face that represents the United States to the rest of the world.”  Holst considered voting for Clinton, then decided against it. “In the end, I had to leave the Republicans and Democrats behind this time,” he said.

“I say that it is not a waste to choose the best candidate. If no one chooses the third party candidates, it perpetuates this system that gave us two bad choices this time,” Holst said.

Holst believes constituents should consider how their vote affects non-Americans worldwide.

“I feel many Americans think only about their own little world and do not think about how the leader we choose affects the role that The United States has been playing,” he said. “If The United States suddenly says, ‘we only care about ourselves,’ there is going to be a power vacuum left that is open for anyone to fill.”