Every day I wake up and after hitting ‘sleep mode’ on my phone alarm several times, I check my text alerts and then briefly skim through the news. For the last year or so, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where the US election wasn’t covered abroad. Before the two candidates and even before the primary season – that featured an apathetic surgeon and that other guy no one remembers– began, the media was hyping the US election. And honestly, I’m tired. I’m tired of the yelling, the chaos, and the circus.
But with that said, I know the frenzied mood won’t go away when the new President is announced on November 9th. In anticipation of the long haul, I feel the need to air my own dirty laundry about the elections before Americans exercise their right to vote.
Witnessing electoral-geddon 2016
As this would be my first electoral experience abroad, I originally decided to subscribe to both New York Times and BBC World News. It would take only two weeks for me to grow tired of all the coverage, with the exception of occasional John Oliver clips. Over a year into the media bonanza, my weariness continues but it’s taken on a new form. I find myself wondering what would happen if something as shock-worthy as Brexit would come into fruition?
How would I feel about my birth country? If anyone heard my American accent, would I deny it and say I’m Canadian or be very vague and claim ‘North American’? Would I just hang my head in shame and count down the days until I can get my Dutch citizenship? Or would I continue on and hope that the damage caused is limited to four years and inflicts minimal harm due to the good ol’ checks and balances system?
Being 24 hours shy of the election, I find myself very anxious. After having traveled to the States, my anxiety has only increased. I come from Florida, a globally notorious swing state that’s completely divided between progressive ideals and an ideology that borders on 1860s southern philosophy. The Trump signs dotting the various lawns and the Uber immigrant cab drivers expressing doubt over Hillary have not put my mind at ease.
What does the rest of the world think?
While Netherlands is not representative of all of Europe, I have enough Dutch and European expat friends to feel comfortable stating that the question I’m most confronted with when it comes to this election is:
Why does everyone hate Hillary?
The question I never receive in the Netherlands, is how could a guy like Trump get this far? Europeans understand that Europe has it’s own problems, cough cough EU cough cough Brexit cough cough Geert Wilders cough cough Marine Le Pen cough cough enough coughing.
Most people can see how moderate beliefs are decreasing, giving way to complete irrationalism. To put it simply, there’s a lot of crazy crap in the world and so there’s a wave of upheaval spreading across the West where people are literally sick to death of the establishment. Unfortunately the loudest “anti-establishment” parties happen to also feature prominent figures that are damaging to moderate and progressive ideals.
And that’s my response, “people are sick of the establishment.” Hillary is a perfect representation of the establishment, one that is difficult to trust and plays its cards too closely to its chest, never knowing whether your best interests are actually at heart.
However, what I would like to ask in turn to my American counterparts is:
Does Trump really represent the opposite?
Isn’t he a perfect example of the decreasing middle class and the rise of the elite? His conglomerate of Trump towers, golden toilets, white supremacy, tax evasions, and hiring and firing that’s led to job loss, is nothing to admire. If Hillary is a symbolic representation of the current political system, then Trump is a symbolic representation of the 1% elite. Both represent the dissatisfaction of America all while promising to change it.
In the end, no one is satisfied.
Voting for Clinton but understanding voters for Trump
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I’m voting for Clinton; ask me and I’ll tell you I’ve voted for Clinton. But the more I speak with other American expats, the more I understand why Trump could potentially win.
Living abroad has expanded my American bubble. Every day, I am witness to the importance of immigration integration, combating climate change, and access to inexpensive or free education and socialized medicine. I see a bigger picture than my 9 to 5 job and what’s just outside my doorstep. I have a passport and I have access to global friends, events and opinions.
Many Americans do not. Many Americans don’t travel outside of the States because many don’t have the vacation days or the money, or even a passport. And I can’t fault them for being isolated; the country and its systems were built for isolation.
What many Americans do experience is job loss due to declining industries, a cultural revolution that has no precedence, and a faceless terror that has threated America since 9/11. They also experience mass media and the effect that it can have on swaying opinions and educating the public. And they are witness to a campaign that oftentimes crosses the line between nationalism and propaganda. They are scared; they see the cracks in a deeply flawed, yet new country and just want to rebuild it to the standard set by a 1950s American Dream advertising campaign. How can we totally fault them?
What it’s like to experience the US election from abroad
Soon we’ll have a victor and in a matter of hours, I can’t begin to tell you how I’ll feel and whether I’ll be drinking in the pub trying to wash down my tears or drinking to hide my somber victory, knowing the fractures will continue to widen in a nation that’s always been divided.
….Cheers. Drinks on me.