A view from a New Zealander in Texas.
My career switch from politics to marketing always intrigues people and folks always want to know more about my political thoughts than my thoughts on the newest Austin startup. “So what do you think about what’s happening with our politics?” a woman I had just met at a tech networking event asked me right away.
There’s sort of an unwritten rule to not talk about politics in the American professional setting especially at networking events and I’m always slightly terrified given I’m in Texas. But in the heart of liberal and weird Austin, it’s hard to come by a Trump supporter especially when speaking with women.
As we started talking about the strangeness of this election, she said something that really struck me. Referring to Trump, she said, “he is just so mean”.
Americans are generally viewed by the rest of the world as obnoxious in their overt patriotism, gun obsession, and puritanical expectations of Christian family values but they are also seen as friendly and nice. Her comment struck me because I don’t think Trump sees his meanness as an unfavorable characteristic. His brash, uncensored, politically incorrect ways of speaking is usually described as “telling it like it is”.
His supporters view him as a business-savvy outsider who will disrupt politics and usher in strong and unafraid leadership. But I think deep down a lot of Americans see through that veneer of strength. Mean people are not strong people. Mean people are bullies who are insecure and ungracious. But even if Trump were to lose the election, his campaign will have a lasting effect.
I think the blue liberal bubble of Austin generally shields me from the rest of the state that is no doubt going to vote for Trump. But folks who support Trump are a minority here and in a city which is fairly diverse it is hard to justify being a Trump supporter. Since he clinched the nomination, I’ve only seen one Trump-Pence bumper sticker.
So when I read about the anger that’s at his rallies spilling into classrooms and vandalisms of Mosques, it is hard to imagine that America would put up with it. Yet just last week three men (one of whom is already identified as a Trump supporter) were arrested in a plot of blow up a mosque and apartment building mostly occupied by Somali immigrants. If this had been the reverse the wall-to-wall coverage would have never ended but it’s already largely forgotten and most people I spoke to didn’t even know it had happened.
On the one hand, I find myself strangely comforted in Austin. I don’t think Trump will win but I, like many others are worried that this is not the end of him. Trump pushed Obama’s birtherism story for five years and only reluctantly admitted that Obama was born in the US this year.
I do not believe his attacks on Hillary Clinton will stop and he will continue to try to embarrass her. Last night he already said that she shouldn’t have been even allowed to run. He has already said he might not accept the results of the election and I think he will continue to paint her as illegitimate like he did with Obama.
As I’ve previously written, the Trump phenomenon is a direct result of the acrimonious relationship between the President and the GOP, particularly the Tea Party faction of the party. Trump’s candidacy is painted as an insider versus outsider phenomenon, with many viewing him as an anti-establishment candidate - yet he is the GOP nominee and is supported by 75 percent of Republican voters.
Republican party officials and elected politicians seem afraid of their own base that it is likely they will continue to block every Clinton initiative as they did with Obama. They have failed to provide leadership at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment, racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ sentiment is high and slowly becoming normalized. With no real leadership from the GOP and Trump fuelling the hate against Clinton, post-election America looks just as contentious as it is now.