Special thanks to Amy Kraushaar for this guest blog submission. I met Amy as I was new to Lisbon and she was returning to the US. Once you have Portugal on the heart, it is hard to stay away and Amy is back in her chosen country. Thanks again Amy for your perspective and feel free to look Amy up on LinkedIn should you want to connect with a global marketing and business development expert based in Lisbon, Portugal. Obrigada Amy!
>>>>>>This is my third US Presidential election viewed from abroad. I moved to Portugal in 2003 for love and adventure. The economic crisis and need to work turned me into a European tumbleweed. I experienced the 2004 and 2016 elections from Portugal. I danced at an inaugural ball in 2008 in London. This election feels different.
From my past experience, the US presidential election is duly noted every four years in Europe, mostly as a process curiosity. There is an assumption that America generally has a non-corrupt voting process (hanging chads generated little reaction here), and candidates are party-vetted and governmentally competent. Even George W. Bush, with his foreign policy ignorance and folksy-ness, was presumed capable. There is disbelief at the cost and length of time we spend on elections. But the expansive global media we have easy access to methodically covers US elections in their proper slot: after national and local news, and in Portugal, often post-sports.
This year is different. I’m used to explaining our convoluted election process: electoral college, super delegates, and why the popular vote doesn’t matter. As a liberal, I’m used to fielding cracks about a clearly (to non-Americans) less-qualified/hawkish/unsophisticated candidate. I’m used to diplomatic questions asking who I think will win. I’m not used to silence.
Here’s how it’s different: Europeans see whackos on American TV shows and news. But the Americans they meet abroad – those they think of as the real thing – are generally the alleged elite: multinational employees, students, better-off retirees, those who can afford to escape the American rat race. They’re not used to a live stream of our cultural underbelly — of real-life racists, bigots, blatant corruption-istas, seeming sociopaths, that, until this election, were mostly hidden to the outside world. I knew they existed. They were one of the reasons I escaped.
Trump and his followers typify “the ugly American,” that infamous personae which had faded during two Obama terms. Now, I cringe as our candidate’s appalling actions kick off every news report – daily. I squirm at every incredulous lie recounted, and wince as the foul side of our national identity is laid bare for the world to see.
And I am deeply ashamed. When friends, even taxi drivers, stop asking, “What’s going on? How did this happen? Who do you think will win?” Either they know I have no answers, or are afraid of my reply.
You see, a lot of people in Europe thought America was already pretty great. But when our crazy uncle screams vulgarities on international media 24/7, Europe realizes Trump is our Berlusconi, magnified by 100, with potential access to nuclear codes that can wreck the planet. This is a very different election indeed. I’m not used to having our dark side exposed to the world. Trump has done just this.<<<<<<
Again thank you Amy for the submission and as we get closer to the election, the tension will certainly build. I’m optimistic that the best man, or shall we say woman, will win and that the madman will go back to beauty pageants and reality TV. If not, Amy, can I rent a room in your house????