Crazy, exceptional, scary, revealing, momentous, entertaining – many words have been used to describe this year’s presidential election in the United States. And it can be said without a doubt that the latter of these words best describes the election battle that was indeed entertaining. For the media, the nomination of Donald Trump as Republican candidate for the nation’s highest office has been a lucky strike, as nothing sells better than sensational news. This has been a conventional wisdom ever since Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst revolutionized the newspaper business in the 19th century. So over the past twenty-two months, stories about Trump’s moral trespasses and his controversial ideas for America’s future have kept writers busy and citizens entertained. But as time gets closer to the actual election day next week, it should dawn on many people that this election is not some kind of reality show that makes you laugh but has no consequences for people’s lives once it’s over. Whatever happens in this battle for the White House should be taken seriously and should be looked at with the future of the world in mind.
I have been asked several times by Americans, what Germans think about the election battle. “They must think Americans have lost their minds” is an assumption I have heard. Germans have asked me about my opinion regarding the craziness in America, as I am an American Studies student and have close connections to the United States. My answer to all of them mostly ended up being: “We cannot really understand it, as the German and the American cultures are much more different from each other than people think they are.” It is sort of a diplomatic answer, coming from someone who has been exposed to both cultures for longer time periods and who knows about the different ideological and historical foundations both countries are built on. In fact, many Germans cannot at all understand how someone like Donald Trump could become the Republican presidential nominee. Just like me, they wonder what kind of people would think that he could lead America, and the world, into a positive direction. But to relativize this statement, most of us Germans also do not understand how people in our own country can sympathize with groups like Pegida, the anti-Islam movement that has gained momentum last year, or a political party like the rightist AFD that has been able to win seats in many state parliaments recently. Just like citizens in every other country in the world, we Germans do not understand everything that’s going on.
Since I have been asked about my opinion so often and the developments in the United States do frighten me to some extent, I feel the urge to speak my mind in this post.
I have been both surprised and shocked by Donald Trump’s success. Despite my extensive knowledge about the United States’ history and culture, which I have gained through both my academic education and personal experience living in and travelling through this beautiful country, I cannot fully understand that a large proportion of the U.S. citizenry wants an immoral, ruthless businessman turned populist to handle the fortunes of their country. Of course, I can imagine their reasons. Frustration and dissatisfaction with the political establishment, which has allegedly contributed to their declining personal wealth. They are angry and feel left behind in an ever-changing society that has had to adapt to globalization and becomes more and more diverse ethnically and religiously. Their hopes lie in the possibility to turn back time and revitalize an America led by a white majority that dominates the world politically and economically. They want to travel back into the “American” 20th century. Into a time when American goods and the American lifestyle were exported into the world and the United States turned out to be the only remaining superpower at the end of the Cold War. Donald Trump makes such time travel seem possible. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” is evidence of that. Hillary Clinton on the opposite side is seen as the personification of the political establishment that is seemingly living in its own elitist bubble in Washington D.C. and has fallen completely out of touch with “ordinary America.” Additionally, her agenda represents a mere continuation of the “Obama doctrine”, which is seen as the root of all evil. By cheering and voting for Trump, the ones who feel left behind want to punish Clinton and her peers. They want to protest against a perceived post-democratic system dominated by special interests and Wall Street.
If I imagine myself in their shoes, I understand why they are frustrated and want to make their voices heard. I understand that they are looking for people to blame. And even if I cannot agree with many of their opinions on political and social issues, I accept them. It is the base of democracy that everyone can have an opinion and is allowed to stand in for their beliefs and cast their vote accordingly. However, I’ve also got news for these people: Time travel is not (yet) possible! If Donald Trump is elected, things won’t just change over night into what they were twenty or thirty years ago. The world has changed and just as we have had to adapt to these changes, our politics will have to adapt accordingly. Trying to solve twenty-first century problems with twentieth-century solutions simply will not work. And that isn’t even what “the Donald” really wants to do. In fact, no one really knows what a Donald Trump presidency will look like, as his policy descriptions have been more than vague. Instead, America will have a leader, who not only lacks political experience, but who also lacks a precise plan, not to mention the potential threat he poses to international cooperation and peace. People intending to vote for Trump should ask themselves the following questions: Do you really want “the Donald” to decide on American foreign policy? Do you want him anywhere close to the nuclear launch codes? Strengthening the American economy by cutting taxes is one thing, but deciding on matters that could impact the whole world is another. It is not the right time in history to use your right to vote as a tool of protest and Donald Trump simply is the wrong guy for the job.
The decision the American people make next Tuesday will determine a lot of things. It will determine if the United States turns its back on people in need, illegal immigrants most of whom have come to the country in search for a better, safer place to live and who are willing to contribute to America’s well-being. The integration of immigrants takes a lot of time, it spans generations. America as a country founded by immigrants, as the ultimate “melting pot” of cultures, should know that. Tuesday’s decision will determine, if America might turn its back on the same international institutions it once helped establish, NATO and the UN. It will determine if America continues to invest in new energy technologies as part of its mission to fight climate change. It will determine the fate of millions of refugees and people affected by wars in countries like Syria and Iraq. It will also determine my own future. I have loved the United States and its people all my life and it has been a dream of mine to move there permanently one day. However, if I’m honest, I’m not so sure if I want to live in a country run by Donald Trump.
These are just some of the reasons why I urge everyone eligible to vote next Tuesday to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even if you do not like her personally and feel resentment towards her, it is necessary that you vote for her in order to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office. Voting for any of the other candidates will only help Trump, as your votes might be the deciding ones Hillary Clinton might lack in the end. The same is true if you decide not to vote at all. This week, I heard a Bernie Sanders supporter state that he will not vote, because he wanted Bernie Sanders to gain the nomination. Exactly this behavior could turn out to be a terrible mistake. Even if Hillary Clinton does not inspire and motivate people to be politically active, the frightful prospect of having a President Trump should! In fact, I believe that if you have the privilege to live in a democracy, you should use your right to vote and see it as a personal duty. Many people have fought or still fight for the same right!
Before I end this very personal post, I want to emphasize that I love the United States and believe in the American people and its judgment. I believe that no one really wants Donald Trump in the White House, if he or she listens to their heart and reflects on his or her hopes and dreams for America and the world. My deep fear, which urged me to write this post, is that people underestimate the scale of the decision they make next week. Voting for Trump would be wrong, voting for a candidate without a chance of winning would be wrong, not voting would be wrong. Instead, voting for Hillary Clinton would be right, persuading people to vote for her would be right, and urging people to make their way to the ballot box would be right!
That being said, what remains is for me to say that I hope you will make the right choice on November 8th: for yourself, for America, and for the world. #imwithher