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US expats in Europe ‘feel the Bern’ and threaten never to return if Trump wins

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Proud Democrats impressed with Bernie Sanders but when voting time comes, supporters overseas say they are sticking with Hillary Clinton

Half a day after the Democratic debate took the stage in Las Vegas last month, TJ Mulloy was searching for the footage on YouTube. When it aired, at 1am, he was already asleep.

Mulloy is an American – a proud Democrat – living in Dublin.

Americans at home might already be experiencing election-fatigue, but unlike them, the 7.5 m of Americans who are living abroad have to make an extra effort to keep up with the race for the White House. Manydo not have access to the talking heads, be they on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. Instead, they rely on YouTube, Twitter and segments of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert or The Nightly Show for their daily politics fix.

For those who miss the political camaraderie and in-person activism, there are other ways to stay connected: there is now an official campaign for Hillary Clinton in London led by Giulia Marchiori Ceresa, who previously worked for Clinton Global Initiative, and an un-official group has formed in support of Bernie Sanders.

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But in Dublin, there are no campaign offices for Democrats. At least, not yet. There is just Mulloy, his laptop and a pull down screen in the Sinatra’s Lounge of Arlington hotel.

There, in comfortable booths, sat more than a dozen members of Dublin’s Democrats Abroad chapter. The drink of choice: Guinness. As Dubliners rushed by outside on their way home from work, the group watched the debate that aired the night before.

While the party was a small intimate gathering, the actual group is much bigger. It consists of returning immigrants, people who went to US to work on a green card or a visa and have since returned to Ireland. Some are students. Other have moved to Ireland to work.

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“It’s a very unique set of people,” said Mulloy, 43, who works as a financial advisor and owns his own brokerage. “It’s a great mix. Irish born, American born, students … You always have that one crazy uncle character”.

Kelly Mahoney, 33, works as an HR manager in Dublin. She concurs: “It’s nice to be able to come out and talk about American politics”. Does she watch all the debates? “All the Democratic ones. I can’t stomach most of the Republican ones, to be honest. But the Democrat ones, always.”

Before moving to Ireland, Mahoney used to work at a startup but got laid off during the recession. She used her severance package to enroll in a Master’s program in Dublin. After arriving on Labor Day 2010, she looked up places to watch football – the American kind – and found an expats group. Two weeks later, she attended her first Democrats Abroad meeting.

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Today, Mahoney is the vice chair. Originally from Massachusetts, she was always interested in politics and is “as blue as blue gets”.

It didn’t take long for Mahoney to make up her mind about the Democratic field this year.

“It’s going to be Hillary. I didn’t vote for her in 2008. She hasn’t done much to change my mind on that, but there isn’t a better candidate. I like O’Malley. I love Bernie Sanders, I think he is great, but I don’t think either of them are going to beat the Republicans,” she said. According to her, Clinton is inevitable.

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Mahoney isn’t alone in liking Sanders but betting on Clinton. On Friday, the Associated Press revealed that the majority of the super delegates it surveyed endorsed the former secretary of state.

In London, “Hillary is inevitable to most foreigners,” said Alyssa Chassman, 23, an American who has lived in London for year and a half and is currently finishing her Master’s in human rights studies.

“I am a Hillary Clinton supporter. I think I align more with Bernie Sanders, but I don’t think he will win and I don’t think it’s his time. I think maybe in 15 years – someone who is a socialist, great, let’s get him in. But I am a Hillary Clinton supporter all the way,” said Chassman over a cup of tea. “And honestly, I don’t know any of the rest of the Democratic candidates, because they are not relevant in my opinion.”

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Before Chassman could even make an effort to learn about Lincoln Chafee or Jim Webb, two of the five Democratic candidates that appeared in the first debate, they had dropped out of the race. It wasn’t long after that that Lawrence Lessig, an internet policy activist and presidential hopeful, also dropped out. And then there were three: Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, Clinton and Sanders.

Other expats, however, are “feeling the Bern”.

Eric Lee, a member of Democrats Abroad in London since 2008, has started a group supporting Bernie Sanders, complete with a Facebook page, Meet-up group and a mailing list. The group is set to meet with Sanders’ brother Larry sanders, who lives in London, on 17 November.

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As with a number of Sander’s events in the US, the interest in the event was larger than expected and the group had to find a larger venue for the upcoming gathering.

“I’m a democratic socialist and grew up in the same political tradition that Bernie represents today. He’s made the entire focus of his campaign to stand up to the billionaire class, as he calls it, and to fight for greater equality and social justice. No other candidate comes close on those issues,” said Lee.

Lee’s efforts have already born fruit. Diana Lozano, 33, lives in London and has joined the group after finding it online.

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“I looked for a London based Bernie group on Meet-up,” she said. “It’s a bit harder to be involved in politics here. You need to more diligent in keeping up with the latest, but the internet make that pretty painless.”

There’s always interest in American elections in London, according to Lee, but Sanders has not been covered much by the global media, making Clinton appear as the inevitable candidate.

“People still do not always know who he is, though Hillary Clintonis a household name. That, however, is changing,” said Lee. “If British people could vote in American elections, Bernie would get a lot of support, as some of his ‘crazy, left-wing ideas’ are quite mainstream here in a country that’s had the National Health Service for some 70 years now.”

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As for Europeans taking an interest in US politics, Chassman says that “most people know a good amount about American political systems”. She says, however, that some political stereotypes persist, especially those about gun ownership. “The gun thing is overwhelming. I get that question all the time: ‘Do you have a gun? Do you know people that own a gun? Do your parents own a gun? They must.’ They don’t own a gun. I don’t own a gun. I have never owned a gun.”

Chassman says Londoners also like to talk about Donald Trump, who is running as Republican. According to her, his campaign furthers negative stereotypes about US politics.

“How could this man get even close to touching the White House? Within all of my American friends here, we are all kind of like … if he wins, we are not going back. It’s a good way to get Americans out of your country. By electing Donald Trump. I am not interested in living in a country where he has jurisdiction over my body, my life, my livelihood, my friends’ livelihood. Not interested.”

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This Saturday will be the first time since the Las Vegas debate that the three remaining Democrats will get a chance to face each other.

Nothing gets the blood pumping like a good debate, and more than 25 chapters of Democrats Abroad have already made plans to watch the second debate.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2015

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