Election 2016: The Perspective from Across the Pond
From Scotland, Troy lets us know what foreigners think about the election.
Race, religion, politics. The three things you’re never supposed to talk about.
The last option is the best conversation-starter I’ve had in Europe. Whether it’s in Scotland, Ireland, England, or Holland, everyone has wanted to know an American’s opinion on the 2016 presidential election. Nearly every time I’ve introduced myself as an American, the first thing people want to ask me about is who I support.
So after two and-a-half months of that, everyone wants to know my opinions on the results! I was hoping the questions would end if Hillary Clinton were elected. Of course with Donald Trump’s victory last Tuesday, the topic is sure to begin every conversation I have until I leave.
With the five-hour time difference, the election started at midnight and lasted until approximately 7:30 a.m. A few Americans and I gathered around my wee Kindle and watched CNN’s coverage via the CNN app. As Trump started to accumulate electoral votes and flip Democratic states, we actually started to believe he could win. The foreigners in our flat just sat back and laughed at us. It was all a big joke to them.
Until it wasn’t.
After staying awake for the entire broadcast, I watched Trump give his victory speech. It was surreal. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Clinton was supposed to demolish him; he handed her this election, I thought to myself. I won’t reveal my personal feelings about Trump’s victory, but I was incredibly shocked he won because the odds were stacked against him.
On less than one hour of sleep, I headed to class. My mind was in a completely different place and I didn’t contribute at all. Thoughts about America’s future swirled around my head. Everyone in the room knew I was American so I just prayed that no one looked at me. I knew everyone was laughing inside, just like my Norwegian and Chinese flat mates were the night before.
In my second class, the teacher walked in and told us we weren’t going to debate on our assigned topic for that day. Instead we were going to discuss our thoughts and feelings regarding the previous night’s spectacle. I was so excited because I had thoughts get off my chest so I could make sense of the whole situation.
The seminar group consists of a mixture of American, Scottish, French, and German students. Despite my half-functioning brain I intently listened to what the others had to say because I love hearing international perspectives on the United States. To my surprise, they were freaking out just as much as the Americans were. Now that Trump had won, the election wasn’t a joke anymore. They held the same concerns about Trump that a lot of my friends back home feel right now. My classmates expressed their sorrows to the Americans, knowing we will return home in a month to a country different than the one we left in the beginning of September.
The Scots in my seminar were surprisingly more concerned about the results of the election than I was. To preface this, remember Scotland and Wales, along with England and Northern Ireland, comprise Great Britain. If you recall, Great Britain voted to leave the European Union in a June referendum. However, seeing no logical reason to leave it, the Scots overwhelmingly voted to remain in the E.U. The results of the landmark vote hit hardest in Scotland because the Scots feared their world was crashing down around them, a similar feeling to the one Americans are experiencing at the moment. With a looming “Brexit” and now the election of Donald Trump, the Scots feel alienated. Great Britain will no longer have the support and security provided by the E.U. Furthermore, the greatest ally of Britain just elected a man whom they fear.
The French student was very concerned for her country’s future based on Trump’s election. Germany is France’s strongest ally in Europe, but strong relations with the U.S. are essential to French stability. France is experiencing a down period, therefore it relies upon its allies more than ever for assistance. The student in my class fears if the Trump-led U.S. crumbles, so too will France.
The German didn’t worry much. His country boasts solid ties with the U.S. yes, however Germany is the strongest in Europe already, so he didn’t think a U.S. meltdown would cripple it.
And just like at home, the Americans studying in Glasgow expressed the same fears that my friends, family and colleagues are voicing in the news and on social media.
However, I’m not ready to declare America dead. We’ve been through this before. Trust me, I’m a U.S. history student. Remember Ulysses Grant and Dwight Eisenhower? We’ve had presidents with no prior political experience. Remember Ronald Reagan? Like Trump, he worked in the entertainment industry before launching a political career. Like Trump, Reagan put forth some radical views and policies. But you know what happened during his presidency? The Berlin Wall fell, ending the division of Germany. He played a crucial role in ending the Cold War amid Soviet self-destruction. And “Reaganomics,” most known for its tax cuts (which Trump intends to do), helped spawn an economic boom that lasted nearly two decades. So America shouldn’t think all hope is lost! We’ve been through this before without relinquishing any of our might and I have no reason to believe that will change with a Trump presidency. If you don’t agree, which is completely O.K., you’ll feel safer knowing the Founding Fathers implemented the system of checks and balances to make it impossible for a dictator to rule over America.
Here’s my message to those of you at UAlbany, on social media, and everywhere else: Put on a brave face. Have hope. Be optimistic and give this thing a chance. America is the greatest country on earth for a reason and one man—no matter how radical he may be—can change that. At the end of the day, this is a country FOR the people, BY the people. That’s the beauty of America. Our individual fates are in our own hands, not Donald Trump’s, no matter how big he says they are.
We can’t divide now. That’s exactly what our enemies want us to do.
Come on America, let’s get through this together.