Friday, August 12, 2016

The challenge of explaining Trump to Europeans

The challenge of explaining Trump to foreigners

I was in Europe during the US  political conventions, but thanks to You Tube, Yahoo News and the online reporting, I still followed the events, speeches, and spins via internet.  I thought only I was glued to the news, but I found so was everyone I encountered in Europe, from taxi drivers, wait staff, relatives, business associates, and friends,  from all corners of Europe, including Sweden, Belgium, Austria, Croatia.

They could not wait to ask me about what I thought of Donald Trump, and with nearly universal angst, asked,” you don’t think he will win, do you? “ A recent Pew poll showed only 9% of Europeans  favorably viewed  Trump (Clinton rated 59% favorable).  Many quoted back to me the most recent polling and wondered how 40% of   Americans could even support him.  Terms I heard were ” he is a clown, but it would be funny if it were not so serious “ , fearing repercussions for their own countries since “whatever happens in the US affects us”.  Another  said “if Trump wins, all of Europe will boycott the USA”. While all were facing similar movements in their own countries of anti immigration, especially alarmed with the flood of Syrian refugee, mass killings by jihadists, or complaining about  their countries’  economic standing,  they seemed to focus on his temperament and ignorance more than they connected him to the ideology of the resurgence of their right wingers.  I did say I thought Trump’s rise had similarities with those movements because of the anti immigration issues and economic malaise he had tapped.  The mood of his base is similar to those who voted for Brexit, the United Kingdom’s popular vote this spring resulting the that country’s exit from the European Union.

So how did I answer? I would make no predictions, though post conventions polls show significant gains for Hillary Clinton.   This election is like none I ever experienced. It has reached the level of irrationality.   Facts and position papers on issues seem not to matter. Utterances  by  Trump are  geared to reflect the preconceived notions of his  ardent base, allowing him to get away with  comments that would have disqualified others in traditional races before. For many, Trump agrees with them so what he says must be true, ignoring independent fact checkers   This race has devolved into   a contest between who is the biggest liar and who has the right temperament.

The other factor causing  minority parties playing an unusual role in this year’s campaign because the nominees of  the two dominating parties are both viewed negatively by so many.. It is not yet settled how many in the GOP would vote for a libertarian and how many Bernie Sanders supporters would vote Green. It is highly likely the person elected President  in November will not have 50 plus 1% of the vote.

 I had a challenge explaining how the electoral college works,  how this differs from European multi party elections, and why third parties could rarely win in the US.  States set their own rules and most award winner take all electoral college votes  to the one with the largest popular vote and they set rules making it difficult to get on the ballot in all 50 states. However, the minor parties  could  still influence the outcome by diverting votes  from either major candidate, splitting off  votes that would have otherwise  gone to that candidate in prior years.

For those who would like an fascinating  analysis of Trump  supporters, read

The following was a much more indepth analysis of Trump supporters.  They may be actually not in economic distress themselves, but worry about their kid's future. They live in neighborhoods which have a record of inhabitants being more unhealthy than others  and they have little contact with immigrants themselves.

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