“Y” I Want to Take Part
For most of my life, I have been interested in politics (one of the many reasons I joined the Foreign Service). I also understood early on the importance of democracy as the basis for economic and social development. My first memory of American politics goes all the way back to 1963, on the sad day when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Since then, I’ve stayed current on American politics and my fascination has only grown. From 2001 to 2008, I had the pleasure of being responsible for Norwegian–U.S. political relations in the Foreign Ministry. Now, thanks to the privilege of serving as the Norwegian ambassador to the U.S., I have the great opportunity to observe firsthand the 2016 American presidential race.
This brought me to the GOP primary in South Carolina last weekend.
I arrived in Charleston, S.C. early on Friday morning and headed straight from the airport to Sen. Ted Cruz’s rally downtown. There, the Texas presidential candidate touched on a wide range of topics from defense to jobs.
Next up was a rally for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who focused much of his time on stage discussing the importance of revitalizing the American Dream.
Then in the evening, I visited businessman Donald Trump’s rally. There was a huge crowd gathered to hear Trump speak of his desire to strengthen American politics, both foreign and domestic.
The next day, I travelled to Colombia, where I attended primary night with Rubio. I really enjoyed being in the middle of the campaign action and experiencing firsthand the votes being counted and announced.
All four events demonstrated impressive levels of public participation and enthusiasm. The atmosphere was good and it was a fun experience.
The primary process is a uniquely American experience. The candidates are scrutinized and vetted in a way that’s just not possible in a much briefer general election. Many voters even meet, or at least see in person, their next president. At its best, the U.S. election process inspires everyone to dream big and reminds us of the most admired American virtues!
“Y” I Went
Attending these types of events is a great opportunity to meet with campaign managers and staffers, reach out to people, connect, and build networks. This is important because it brings us closer to American society and because it’s a great tool in promoting and strengthening Norwegian-American interests.
Back home in Norway, there is strong interest in the primaries, and Norwegians are quite knowledgeable about the various candidates and their positions on issues. Reporters for most of the major Norwegian media outlets file daily reports from the primaries. I met some of them during my visit to South Carolina. We at the Embassy also convey our views and assessments to the Norwegian Government.
“Y” This Interest?
The United States is Norway’s strongest ally. We are both founding members of NATO. The transatlantic relationship is the backbone of our security and defense. The U.S. is our second largest trading partner, and we are working closely on climate issues; the Arctic; the global development agenda, including health and education; and the peace process in Colombia and other areas of conflict – just to highlight a few examples. In addition, I have to mention the more than 5 million Norwegian Americans living in the U.S.
So, who succeeds President Obama is of importance to Norway – with emphasis on the who and not necessarily the party affiliation. It is a main objective of the Norwegian government to further strengthen our close relationship with the United States, and for that to happen we must continue to engage with the next president and the next administration.
After a short visit from our Oil and Energy Minister and Foreign Minister this week, I will be going back to South Carolina this weekend to participate in the Democratic Party’s primary. I’m sure it will be just as exciting as the Republican ones. Then, on March 1, I hope to be able to attend one of the big rallies on Super Tuesday. Where to go, I will decide a bit later. But, if you have a suggestion, please share!