What British people really think about the US election
‘Only in America would a reality show star with a toupee have a decent shot at becoming president’
You don’t need us to tell you it’s election time. Every screen in every house across the entire world is telling the story of Clinton v Trump, a battle of two much-derided titans which has played out for months on a global stage.
With all that’s happening in the States, though, it’s easy to forget that it’s been a turbulent year across the pond too. The people of Great Britain voted to leave the European Union in May, with the drama surrounding the “Brexit” decision creating a global media storm.
With that in mind, we thought we’d get some jaded Brits to voice their own opinions on what’s happening in the USA – and to see if they have any advice for undecided Americans.
Josh Kaplan, Guildford
In the UK, we’re used to American politics being, or at least aspiring to be, a theatre of great statesmen battling over high-minded ideals. Arguing in town hall debates and in front of 100 million people over how America can realise the aims of the founding fathers and remain the bastion of western democracy that it has been for the last couple of hundred years.
American elections tend to feel grander, glossier, more stage-managed. And usually that’s a good thing. When Barack Obama hit the campaign trail, he was promising a generation of Americans hope for a better, more fairer society. He inspired a movement.
But this time, it’s a grotesque sideshow, a never-ending tsunami of scandals, gropings, secret meetings in private jets. Trump, a Frankenstein’s monster of garbled Tea Party policies, racist ramblings and frankly vile hair is facing one of the most unashamedly careerist and scandal-ridden politicians America has ever had. It’s a shitshow.
Usually when you look over at the UK during an American election, an elderly MP for somewhere like Chippenham is asking at PMQs :”What does my right honourable friend say to my constituents who have not had their bins collected in three weeks?” You think “Oh, how boring, how village.“
But right now, since the Brexit madness has cooled off a bit, I’d take dull British politics over this flaming car crash any day.
Bella Eckert, Sussex
Many of us have the view that the US election as something to laugh about, to make dubbed videos and memes out of. None of us think it’s really going to happen: could Trump really get elected?
Well, Britain left the EU and no-one really expected that – even the Vote Leave campaign, by the looks of it. I’ve met people – smart people – who want Trump to come in because “an ineffectual leader is less fearful than a dangerous leader” (effectively Trump is a child with a microphone and he won’t actually enact any change because the Houses will block him).
The biggest problem I have is what this is saying to the people. That it’s OK to shun your neighbour through Brexit, and that it’s OK to give power to a man who thinks it’s feasible to “remove Muslims until it’s safe” and say things like “grab her by the pussy”.
We all know this is going to be a joke, and will breathe a sigh of relief if Hillary comes into power, but hopefully it will pave the way for a newer, better candidate next time around.
Bobby Palmer, Hertfordshire
We didn’t know how lucky we were. We complained about having a choice between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, but in hindsight they were nothing more than two relatively inoffensive fops who didn’t know how to treat a dead pig. We’ll happily admit your choice is much, much worse.
Of course, I’ve been told there are alternatives: Kasich? Is he from another party? Of course I know who Ted Cruz is because he admitted his daughter could only say “butter,” and Bernie Sanders because he was a principled old man who was too pure for this world. A bit like Corbyn over here.
Seriously, though. How did you let it get to this? You’ve allowed a reality TV businessman with cheap tan and an even cheaper wig to get within inches of the White House, just because he says he’s going to get rid of some “bad hombres.” Do you think Britain would ever allow itself to get so well and truly fucked, just because of some dodgy promises on immigration?
Actually, don’t answer that.
Roisin Lanigan, Belfast
For lack of a better word I find the whole American election really cringe. You would expect with something that’s so over the top and ridiculous they wouldn’t be so constantly earnest about it, but they are. Everyone really, really cares about something which is now a foregone conclusion.
The whole thing feels like a bigger, better produced, more in-your-face version of British politics, but without the Ed-Miliband-eating-a-bacon-sarnie characters we all know and love. I’m just looking forward to it all being over soon tbh.
Harry Shukman, Oxford
The night of the first presidential debate, I met a Trump supporter named Bob. As Bob foamed about Muslims being as bad as Hitler, his “Infidel” t-shirt straining against his ponderous gut, it struck me his ultra-reactionary attitude wasn’t that far away from the other end of the American election.
Months earlier, at a Bernie Sanders rally in San Francisco, a large bearded man named Michael tried to sell me Bernie-themed rolling papers as his wife breastfed his son, Soul Rebel, who must have been at least four years old. We heard a lot about how the system is rigged, how Hillary’s win in the primaries must have been bogus, and how she’s probably a puppet. “She doesn’t know who she is a puppet for, which is what’s scary,” we’re told. Right.
Hopes of hearing from the reasonable middle ground were raised briefly in the form of Ken Bone – an honest looking man who asked a sincere question at a televised debate. He became a brief internet sensation as Americans admired him for his humility – he prompted a rare moment of policy discussion rather than mudslinging. Maybe there was hope.
But the edifice came crashing down when his bizarre Reddit history was unearthed, and he was found to be a huge fan of pregnant women porn. “Beautiful human submarines,” he called them. November 8 can’t come soon enough.
Grace Vielma, Manchester
Ask any Briton how they feel about the election, their answer will be “only in America.” Only in America would a reality show star with a bad toupee have a decent shot at becoming president. Only in America would a presidential candidate have raised $1.1 billion for their campaign.
We could go on and on, but instead, listen to our advice: don’t make the same mistake we did with Brexit.
Oli Dugmore, Stratford-upon-Avon
What’s happening in America feels quite normal or expected to me. Every piece of their society seems to be so heavily centred on consumerism – so it seems natural that one of their candidates tried and failed to launch a steak brand, and that the other is/was so complicit in corruption that you have to talk about its extent rather than its supposed existence. Then there’s Gary Johnson, a man who Google tells me doesn’t even know what “Aleppo” is.
How can those three be the candidates? That’s the best you’ve got? It’s quite interesting really, and something I’m rather glad not to be a part of. The worry a lot of us, American and not, feel signals to me we should be discussing the role of the President.
The Leader of the Free World™ isn’t such a great prospect when their surname is Trump, Clinton or Johnson. Wait, haven’t we had two of those already?
Matt McDonald, Brighton
The lunacy of the American election has really taken the heat off Britain. We’ve been a global laughing stock since June 24th – over here I believe the Washington Post referred to Brexit as an act of “economic suicide.” Well, who’s laughing now Uncle Sam?
There hasn’t been a vote in living memory with two less enticing candidates. If Hillary stood for the Tory leadership, she probably would have been nudged out by Andrea Leadsom in the first round. And yet she’s got a 92 per cent chance of winning.
What can you say about Donald Trump that hasn’t been said already? His motor-mouthed bigotry makes him better suited to a role hosting Top Gear than being leader of the free world. His vapid Aryan children are fresh out of Village of the Damned. It’s mystifying to see the people of Middle America look at this pinstriped East Coast thunderfuck, thinking “he’s the guy who’ll lower my taxes, help my small business, save our nation. I can trust him.”
I look at him and think “How much state spending goes into deporting 11 million immigrants and building a 2,000-mile wall? What bankruptcies you writing off to square that cheque, Don?”
To all voting Americans, I would say – things are actually pretty great already. Don’t fuck it all up like we did. They say “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” – I’d say this is more a case of “you don’t know what you’ve got till your nation is a scorched post-apocalyptic hellscape.”
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