Democrats Abroad, called to the polls to vote in the Democratic primaries. Salvador Salas
Americans get together for their first Super Tuesday vote in Malaga

Americans get together for their first Super Tuesday vote in Malaga

"These are scary times: American democracy is in danger," they say to explain the Democrats Abroad meeting in Malaga, which is also fuelled by the increase in the number of American residents on the Costa del Sol

Tuesday, 5 March 2024, 17:17


Americans living in Malaga province have been able to vote in their presidential primaries this Tuesday through the new local chapter of Democrats Abroad. The group borrowed the offices of the Spanish Socialist party in the city's Calle Ollerías for Super Tuesday, so called as it is the day on which most states vote for the candidate they prefer to lead the ranks of the Republican and Democratic parties in the presidential elections that will take place, as every four years, on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November - which this year falls on 5th.

Carey Ramos, alma mater and chair of the Malaga Precinct of Democrats Abroad, tells SUR that the group dates back just five months. With this Tuesday's meeting, Malaga joins the five Spanish cities where voting has been taking place for years: Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Alicante and Valencia. Although with one difference: in Malaga the vote is still remote. US nationals went to Calle Ollerías to fill in the ballot paper, but then they had to take a photo of it to send it by email, while in the other five Spanish venues people can vote as if they were in any American district. The Malaga group hopes that the system will be in place here for coming elections.

What motivated them to come together to vote in the first place was that they are growing in numbers. Previously, they say, the favourite Spanish destinations for Americans wanting to retire to Spain were Valencia and Alicante. But now Malaga is more popular and word is spreading. The other big motivation is political, and can be summed up in a phrase with which most of the people who turned out to vote early on Tuesday morning agree: "These are scary times: American democracy is at risk." And it is, they say, because of a possible victory of Donald Trump. Those speaking, of course, are members of or sympathisers with Joe Biden's Democratic Party. But there is no equivalent organisation to Democrats Abroad in the Republican ranks.

Salvador Salas

Most of those voting at ten in the morning - this unusual polling station was open from ten in the morning until two in the afternoon - are retired and have only been in Malaga for a very short time (a few months or a little over a year).

Susan and Steven Isacoff have settled in Malaga after coming here for most of the last few years; he was studying Spanish in Salamanca, then they discovered Marbella first, and then the capital of the Costa del Sol. Eventually they closed their Massachusetts home and moved here.

"We have come to meet people, to vote and to give our support to democracy, which is at risk because of Trump," says Susan to explain their presence in that improvised polling station.

"The truth is that Trump scares me," adds Steven. And Terry Adams, from Virginia, speaks of the risks he sees in the Republican candidate who could be running for a second term: he does not respect constitutional norms or laws and is causing people to lose confidence in institutions. In everyone's mind is the frustrated coup of 6 January 2021, when Trump did not accept the election result, something that many US citizens still maintain to this day.

But Steven expresses a widely shared wish: he would prefer a younger Democratic candidate, although in his favour he claims Biden has a lot of institutional experience and, above all, that "he's not going to do anything crazy".

Terry also points out that he would like to see more choice, more parties: "We need more voices. In practice, only Republicans and Democrats have a chance of winning presidential elections."

There are only two names on the ballot paper of the Americans voting in Malaga: Biden, the current president, and Marianne Williamson, a face not only unknown to Spaniards, but also to the Democratic sympathisers who have settled on the Costa del Sol. In fact, nobody seems to know that almost a month ago she threw in the towel and no longer aspires to run for president. Perhaps rallying around one candidate will strengthen him against his foreseeable adversary, Donald Trump.

Terry is black and when asked if he fears a Trump victory because of his skin colour, he replies that in reality the Republican is a risk for everyone, because he feels that a potential government headed by him will only care about the leader, "when a government has to be about the people, for the people".

"I am voting because my granddaughters are still in the United States. We cannot go back to the past and if Trump wins we will lose many of our rights"

Myriam Juarbe is married to a Galician and settled in Malaga a little over a year ago after 35 years of living in New York. She says her motivation for voting in the primaries is that her granddaughters are in the United States and she wants to defend the rights women have earned: "We can't go back to the past and if Trump wins we could lose many of our rights," she says. Someone mentions how abortion rights are at risk in the United States. "No government is perfect, but I like Biden's because it is more inclusive, there is more diversity, it has many voices, women, people of colour, and it is decent," adds Juarbe.

"Every vote counts. You have to vote, it's very important," says former Florida resident Ethel Kurland. "Republicans and Democrats are very close in the polls. In reality, the election will be decided in half a dozen states; it will be 100,000 votes that tip the balance one way or the other. There is a lot of work to be done between now and November," Ramos adds.

International issues also come up in the conversation. For example, the war in Gaza. There is dissatisfaction among young people about Biden's performance, because he is not seen as being forceful enough against Israel's abuse. But Ethel asks: "What do they think Trump, who is anti-Palestinian, will do? They don't realise how important it is to protect democracy."

Moreover, on foreign policy they chide the Republicans who, in order not to give victory to Biden, are advocating cutting budget support for Ukraine: "At the beginning, all Americans, including Republicans, supported the Ukrainians wholeheartedly, but now they are playing with human lives to play politics against Biden." They also fear the international alliances that Trump, who has shown himself to be sympathetic to Putin or Orban, politicians with authoritarian profiles, might build.

Salvador Salas

But above all, adds Jan Baskin, voting in the primaries "is an opportunity to stay connected to our country" and adds one of the US slogans: "no taxation without representation", which alludes to the fact that US citizens, regardless of where they live, must continue to pay taxes in the United States. And here they suggest that the Democrats should adopt some measures that would give them tax relief. But the reasons they say give them nightmares or keep them awake at night have less to do with this than with larger issues.

"Voting in the primaries is an opportunity to stay connected to our country"

"In Spain there is a more global view of what the implications of the US elections might be, in the US we are more focused on ourselves," Baskin points out: there is Nato, the wars in the world, women's and minority rights. She adds that the media in Spain are more neutral, more even-handed in how they portray the electoral dispute.

But there are some who complain that Biden's lapses immediately fill the news in the United States, something that does not happen, they say, with Trump's lapses, which, according to them, are more and more serious. "Biden is seen as more physically fragile, but mentally he is better than Trump, even though Trump appears stronger," adds Carey Ramos.

The participation of these US citizens in Malaga is not limited to their elections. They meet once a month to plan how to play a part in public life in their new place of residence. And they are already planning to join the LGBT+ march in Torremolinos, organise beach clean-ups and, of course, take part in the demonstration on 8 March, International Women's Day.

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