Foreigners Sound Off On the US Election

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foreigners
They're thinking exactly what you think they're thinking. Then again, they're not.

Crossing my mind since the inception of our seemingly interminable (November can’t come soon enough!) presidential campaign is a question: How do foreigners view this lunacy? Do they consider it a freak show? Is Donald Trump’s vulgar bombast an affront to their sophisticated sensibilities? Do they hope and pray for a Hillary Clinton victory?

The answers may not be as obvious as you think. Recently, I spoke to several foreigners (two of whom are my cousins) to get their take on our very unique and potentially milestone election. What they had to say was very telling and not at all predictable.

Is Trump “out of the far reaches of the absurd”?

First off, not everyone is staunchly pro-Clinton. In fact, according to Mohamed Saleh, a civil engineer from Egypt who runs Global Citizen Group, an initiative polling non-Americans worldwide on the US presidential election, about 62 percent of Brits support Trump while 38 percent support Clinton. Dubai is the converse: 62 percent for the former Secretary of State, 38 percent for the former real estate mogul and reality TV host. Although not as lopsided as Dubai, the majority polled in Egypt are pro-Clinton (56 percent) while Trump is at 44 percent. India split 50-50 for both candidates.

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When I asked Saleh for his view of why so many of the interviewed Brits are pro-Trump, he offered a response that seemed to mesh with sentiments espoused by the Brexit-loving masses:

Some of the comments I heard are that Trump will be stricter with immigrants especially from Syria… And when the American president pays attention to a specific problem, they will most likely see results, which they think will have an effect on the immigration in the European Union and the UK, too.

As for Dubai and Egypt’s support for Clinton, Saleh said these nations are “more emotional” about the choices before the American public:

They feel that Hillary most likely will not start a new war with a Middle Eastern country and will continue to use diplomacy like President Obama… They think that Trump will be a disaster for them as he will start wars and be very tough with Arab-Americans who live in the US. Plus, people from Egypt are saying that going to the US to work and live will be almost impossible when Trump becomes the president.

Another reliable bête noire for foreigners is the Electoral College. Ed Rossiter, a Hong Kong-based British expat who owns a custom-shirt business, blasted it as an “archaic system, designed for a period when the pony was the fastest mode of communication.”

Rossiter added:

Every developed country evolves its governance systems via public referendums to avoid vested interests abusing power… But the US just looks to have old and tired systems that favor those on the inside.

Ouch.

One of my cousins, a self-described “left-wing, red-haired Brazilian Jew,” was more voluble, erudite and damning in his withering denunciation of the American political system:

Every US election is an embarrassment, right off the bat. The Electoral College is total BS and the death knell of every third party. The two-party system forces upon the American people the least distinguished, blandest contenders, the ones more likely to placate the media-smothered, change-fearing public.

While my left-wing, red-haired Brazilian Jewish cousin considers Clinton to be a “healthcare sellout,” he hopes she wins because“there’s going to be worldwide hell to pay if the American people elect the Ewok-haired, real estate Lyndon LaRouche for the highest office of the Republic.

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My cousin naturally wanted Bernie Sanders on the ticket, not Clinton. “He was my absolute wet dream. Sanders versus Trump would have been the ultimate clear-cut choice: a veritable showdown of good against evil, like Daredevil up against the Kingpin.”

Not all foreigners are rooting for Clinton.

My cousin’s aunt, who lives in Switzerland, is my first cousin. She was more subdued when sounding off about the election. She is not a Trump fan as she sees his candidacy as “a weird anomaly, something out of the far reaches of the absurd.” But she does hope that Clinton “can do half at least of the good that Obama has done” for the US. She, too, wishes that America would swap out its two political party-system and the Electoral College in favor of Switzerland’s model of governing, where the country’s president holds a yearly position in rotation with six high-ranking officials, with the outcome that no political party can hold sway over another. It’s hard to imagine, but interesting to ponder.

“This election is not a brilliant moment in American history,” my cousin noted, somberly. “And Europeans are looking at it all in disbelief.”

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Iris Dorbian
Iris Dorbian is a business and arts journalist whose articles have appeared in a wide number of outlets that include the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Venture Capital Journal, DMNews, Playbill, Backstage, Theatermania, Live Design, Media Industry Newsletter and PR News. From 1999 to 2007, Iris was the editor-in-chief of Stage Directions. She is the author of Great Producers: Visionaries of the American Theater, which was published by Allworth Press in August 2008 and An Epiphany in Lilacs, which will be published by Mazo Publishers in 2017. Her personal essays have been published in Blue Lyra Review, B O D Y, Embodied Effigies, Diverse Voices Quarterly and Gothesque Magazine.