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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Clogston Abroad: Australia reacts to the presidential election

headshot_mcI was in class in Australia as the final results for the U.S. presidential election were becoming clearer. Those few hours will be burned into my memory forever. I felt extreme despair and sorrow and frustration and was left speechless as I watched the electoral college numbers accumulate under Trump’s name. After I saw the final results, I went to sleep in hopes that it was some kind of awful nightmare I could sleep away but I woke up the next day disappointed. It wasn’t.

And when I went to my internship on Nov. 10, I saw the effects of our election in Sydney, Australia. While I knew that the Australian media portrayed Trump mainly in terms of his radical policy proposals, I failed to realize how high his disapproval rating was in Australia. I saw the confusion on the faces of people in the streets and on the train. I saw the fear of the future on the front cover of the newspaper and the omnipresent shock of it all.

I asked my coworkers how the election made them feel, what they thought about it all, what they thought this meant for their futures and for ours as Americans.

They were stunned at the fact that Trump, a media star and “businessman” at most, would now hold the most powerful office in the United States and arguably the world.

They struggled to understand that a win in the popular vote did not automatically confer a winner. They said the electoral college sounded archaic, unstable and was an inaccurate portrayal of what the public actually wanted.

But this election’s result also brought other concerns for Australians.

What about health care necessary for the Australians on vacation in America? Trump’s platform states that he has every intention of removing Obamacare.

What about the safety of non-white Australians who travel to America — or of any person of color visiting the states? How about any person in America that does not belong to the very specific categories Trump has deemed superior to all the others?

Australians are reeling from how some Americans believed that Trump, with all of his glaring problems, should be elected into office. Some stated that there was a lower voter turnout than they would have expected with such rivaling forces this year. Others also pointed to the intense difficulty of voting in the United States. They wondered if weekday voting during working hours, in addition to many other obstacles such as voter ID laws, skewed the results one way or another. In Australia, everyone is required to turn in a ballot on election day — even if it they are left blank.

It seemed that my Australian coworkers knew just as much, if not more, about the election than the majority of Americans. They knew the platforms of the two main candidates, their respective policies and even which states were swing states.

One coworker expressed that fear was the driving factor in current American politics: fear of losing jobs and fear of quick, radical changes. According to her, these sources of anxiety, amongst others, ran rampant enough to allow Trump to get elected.

And yet, Australia remains hopeful for America. They love seeing so many people uniting and working hard to ensure that democratic ideals and justice are protected in the United States. They believe that while Trump’s election is a huge upset, now people will overcome it like any other challenge Americans have overcome before.

So really, Australians sound like most Californians. They’re at a loss for words as to how to describe what has just happened. They fear for our safety, especially the safety of minorities and all the other citizens whose lives have been endangered by the hateful speech and violence that pervade America.

This gives me hope as an American citizen who was born abroad. It lets me know, as it should you, that even across oceans, people want this hatred and fear to be over just as much as we do.

Written by: Michael Clogston — mlclogston@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.


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