Fear and trembling: Reacting to Trump’s election in France

Could it happen to us?

As a student enrolled at an Euro-American campus. All eyes were on a huge screen in a pub, with our classmates, teachers and beer, watching the election of the future leader of the free world.

Concerned with exams coming, essays to write, presentations to prepare, a lot of students didn’t come out. They went to bed, believing that people would vote for Hillary. Not because of political affinities, but rather because they just assumed that there was no other choice.

However, I attended the elections, all night, French time: from 10 pm to 7 am, watching America sink state after state into a new era.

In the beginning we were not worried by Trump’s first win: we knew that Hillary would win California, New York, and assumed that she would win Florida, because there was no other way.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

As the time passed, Florida alternated from blue to red to blue to red, Trump had a lot of states, and even with California, Hillary was way behind.

So we grew anxious but still hopeful: with friends we tried to calculate every combination possible that would allow Hillary to win.
But we knew deep down that he would win, however with a beacon of hope still. And now…

It is way too easy to say that America failed democracy, its principles and its ideals. It did not. It is way too easy to say that Americans are foolish, stupid, unconscious. They are not. It is way too easy to say that Hillary didn’t handle properly her campaign, that she was unpopular, that Bill Clinton ruined her. She handled her campaign pretty well.

As French people what do we know of America? New York through Gossip Girl, Suits, etc; DC through Scandal, and Los Angeles through our favorite celebrities and their Instagram accounts. And all those red states? They never made it to our screens. There is this entire part of the United States we don’t know. They feel despised, forgotten, deliberately.

What did Trump do? He targeted those bitter people, who feel rejected, and introduced himself as the representative of the people, of those people who are outcast. He told them exactly what they wanted hear as a siren, and in the end, they voted for him. Out of passion, not of reason, as my political theory teacher would say.

What about the minorities? Did they feel that their voice wouldn’t count, so they didn’t bother going to the polling stations?

So what next? Brexit, Trump, could it be the expression of a faded dream? A melancholy, an ideal of an exalted past, caused by the fear of a constantly evolving world, alternating from crisis to crisis? Is it the expression of a conservative branch afraid to lose its omnipotence, its power it held thanks to the strength of the number.

We need to be rational, Trump is still accused of sexual assault which could jeopardize his credibility. Plus if Congress managed to block every one of Obama’s bills, it could prove efficient in doing the same for The Donald. What worries me much more is the symbol of this election, and the consequences it could have: setting a precedent for an upsurge of ultra-conservatism.

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So what’s next for the entire world? As a French girl, I am worried about the upcoming elections in 2017, with our local Donald Trump: Marine Le Pen, who tweeted him to congratulate him for his win.

This a cry for France to not cede to the fear of evolution. Change is scary, change is inevitable. And we have known from history that change will eventually come, for better or worse. Either we embrace it and guide it. Or we deny it and it won’t hit us back.

Elections are the citizen act par excellence, so please do vote, please think about the consequences of your actions, think about the country you want your children to live in.

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Columbia University