I’m watching election coverage with a few expat friends and colleagues in Nairobi this morning. We’re switching between MSNBC and BBC — where the Brits are having quite a hoot trying to explain the Electoral College. I’ve struggled to explain the same to my Kenyan colleagues. We talk about the US election quite a lot in Nairobi.
The local press has been extolling Mr. Obama’s virtues and offering detailed appraisals of his first term in florid terms that would not be out of place in a Democratic Party convention speech: “Who killed Osama bin Laden, ended the war in Iraq, got the affordable health care act signed, got the credit card consumer registration passed, fought for equal work, equal pay for women and more?” asked one analyst in Kenya’s largest paper, The Nation.
Yet this bullish assessment has been accompanied by puzzlement at how the right wing of the Republican Party has transformed the president’s Kenyan roots into a toxic campaign issue.
Before the 2010 midterm elections, it was common to see placards calling for President Obama to be sent back to his “socialist village in Kenya” at Tea Party rallies.
We were bemused, to say the least. After all, Kenya is anything but a socialist haven. Since independence in 1963, Kenya has been America’s staunchest ally in East Africa.