By: Julia Hall – Staff Writer
On one early morning in a land of green fields, “wrong-way” drivers, and mythical stonework, the last image I expected to flip to in the Irish Times was Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Splattered across the page, indeed, their chummy photograph was inked along with a lengthy article regarding President Barack Obama’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
The astonishing amount of Irish news coverage on the American presidential election is jaw dropping. This high level of coverage is an accurate portrayal of the degree to which not only Irish students, but also the European exchange students attending Maynooth University, comprehend and analyze the ongoing American presidential election campaigns.
The day after the Clinton-Trump debate, an Irish student inquired whether I had watched the debate the previous night. He then began to discuss intricate details of policies and candidates, which completely set me in awe. Slightly embarrassed, I engaged in this conversation without any knowledge or impression of the Irish political system or current political atmosphere.
This simple interaction demanded a more thorough understanding of the European perspective on the current U.S. political system and state. Repeatedly, I was shocked at the level of attention which the international students at Maynooth paid to our political sphere. After several similar encounters to the one following the debate, light was not only shed on the unfolding of the current elections, but also, the national egocentric view that Americans seem to embody was confirmed.
Amidst the upcoming springtime French presidential elections, which apparently are also controversial, a conversation with two French exchange students proved particularly relevant. When questioned about the two major U.S. candidates, they both possessed strong opinions.
“I think it is complicated because there are like these two big candidates. So, it’s not going to be anyone else but them. So, those who say that they won’t vote for any of them or that they will vote for a third party, it is not going to happen, I’m sorry,” Clémentine Fare, a 21-year-old French student stated.
Myriam Poizat, a French student working towards her master’s diploma, bluntly professes, “I’ve seen some speeches, especially Trump’s speeches. If he becomes president, it is going to be s**t, not only for the U.S., but probably for the rest of the world because whether we want it or not, I am not here to criticize the world system, but the US is kind of at the top of the human power chain.”
Fare also expressed much distaste towards Trump, “There is something that is happening right now after the locker room conversation that was out about Trump with Billy, what’s his name again, Billy something, like when he said some really, really bad things about women and about harassment, like grabbing them by the p***y.” In the same thought, Fare expresses, “I think that the Republicans are kind of trying to discredit him, too, because they did not really want him to represent the Republicans.”
Fare continues to relate her interpretation of the American rationalization of supporting Trump, “Some people agree with his ideas, and some normal, healthy people think that he could be a great change for America, not only based on his ideas.” Further she expressed, “I think that there are a lot of people who like Trump, not because of his ideas, but because he speaks his mind. He says not the [absolute] truth, but his truth.”
Further, Fare and Poizat debate the events leading to the selection of Trump as the Republican candidate. Fare speculates, “I also think that some of the people that voted for him did not think it was going to pass, like the Brexit thing.”
Poizat responded, “I know, but you are not going to vote for this guy because you know it is not going to pass. I think what happened in the primary elections was that a lot of young people did not vote and a lot of the old people voted, so that is why it is Clinton and Trump. She believes more young people will turn out to vote in November, “which is a good thing because I think that most of the young people do not want Trump for president.”
Poizat continued, but turned her attention to Clinton, “I do not know anything about Clinton’s programs, so I cannot really say if she would be a good president or not. I do not think she really knows what she wants to do if she becomes president. She seems a bit confused about her ideas, as well.”
Fare and Poizat discussed at great length many of the issues that all the students at UD and beyond are struggling to work through with November edging closer and closer. What mark should I make on my ballot: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
Another question examined was the pros and cons of selecting a third party candidate. As earlier mentioned, Fare expressed that a third party vote most likely would not be a successful option. However, what does choosing either of the two major candidates really mean?
Aletta Bakker, a 23-year-old undergraduate student from the Netherlands, stated, “I do not know a lot about her [Clinton] because, you know, Donald Trump is more in your face, but I do think that he is smarter than he is. I do not know if she would be a good president because of all the scandals with the emails and all of that. I do not think you have a good candidate.” As she states, Bakker seems to reiterate the view that our options for an American president are slim. This begs the question of whether it is better to choose the lesser of two evils or to choose an unlikely winner?
“If someone would cheer for Donald Trump, I would consider, ‘What kind of a person are you?’ but I do not think it is the fault of the American people,” Bakker states. The lack of accusation in this statement may intend to be gracious; however, it also detaches Americans from their vote.
What I learned from talking with these students is that it should be emphasized that the vote we cast does coincide with civic, moral, and social responsibility. We have the privilege of selecting the representatives of our country, not only the president, but also a great deal of other offices. We must vote for elected officials to represent our country in a way that we recognize as compassionate, inventive, and fruitful– one that we are proud to discuss with people from across the world.
Photo Courtesy of ibtimes.co.uk