Cultural Differences: Trump vs. Hillary and Protest Voting


I have generally avoided posting about the ongoing US primaries. However, with them winding down, it seems as though my facebook feed is populated with nothing else. The information overload and ever shriller tone of impending doom has led even us Europeans to begin discussing this amongst ourselves.

The flavor of internet memes and status updates that are flooding my feed at the moment are of precisely two flavors:

  1. OMG Trump is going to destroy America and the foundations of everything everywhere RUN!!!! SAVE YOURSELF!!!
  2. You Bernie Sanders supporters better all turn up and vote for Hillary in the general election or a Trump presidency is going to be ALL YOUR FAULT

While I understand where both of these sentiments are coming from, I find the European perspectives on the US election cycle to be also quite interesting, as they are clearly formed from a very different cultural and political context. There is some pondering, and a bit of disagreement, as to which of these two presidencies would really be worse for America. Undoubtedly there are Americans amongst you who could not give a flying squirrel shit about what a bunch of Italians, Greeks, Serbs and Germans have to say about the whole affair, but to those of you who are curious, I elaborate below the fold.

Let me make one thing clear: The people who argue in favor of letting Trump win the general election are not doing so from a place of appreciation for Trump’s message. The people I associate with are all quite appalled at his fascist message, and amused by his buffoonery. I am confident that everyone who has entered in this discussion with me would have voted for Bernie Sanders if they were in the States. However, while his chances are still mathematically possible, they are at this stage highly improbable, so the discussion now revolves around the presumptive Trump vs. Hillary match-up. Voting for Trump, or not voting for Hillary, is talked of as a protest vote, which is something that many European countries have done and many people believe in.

The idea of protest voting is one of calculated misery, i.e. paying a short-term price for a potential long-term gain. The principle is to break a broken system which is beyond fixing. Breaking a system always brings with it a significant short term cost to the country, but with the hope that the rebuilt system brings a net benefit to the country in the future, one with fresh faces and new ideas. Whether or not to engage in protest voting depends on how you evaluate the pros and cons of such a decision.

When it comes to Trump, there will undoubtedly be a severe cost to pay. However, it is also unlikely that he will actually build a wall across the US-Mexico border, that he will be able to ban all Muslims from the country, and it is even less likely that he would be elected for a second term. It would be four years of hardship, but his fascist rhetoric is likely to add fuel to the flames that were Bernie Sanders support and turn it into a full blown forest fire. A Trump presidency could pave the way for a real shot at a left wing populist presidency, like an Elisabeth Warren or someone in that vein.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, would also bring a cost to the American economy and foreign policy, though a much smaller one. She is hawkish, but also shrewd. It is likely that she will eye possibilities for buying up Brazilian oil, and probably support the TPP. However, it will be a calculated and mitigated cost. It is very unlikely that she would plunge the US into a war with Iran, or start additional and unnecessary open warfare in the Middle East. Essentially, it will be more of the same. I understand why Bernie supporters are reluctant to throw their vote to Hillary, she is being incredibly condescending towards them and not understanding that she will need to move to the left if she wants their support, but rather she boasts of the millions more votes that she already has, as if the people Bernie inspired to participate in the electoral process matter not at all. She will also likely win a second term, because her bad decisions will probably not resonate with the average American the way that Trump’s will. Confronted with another 8 years of business as usual, it is possible that the fervor that was seen during these primaries for a true left-wing candidate will fizzle out and die. Political revolutions rely on timing as well as purpose, and a Hillary presidency could likely kill the timing on the revolution that the United States so desperately needs. Holding your nose and voting for the lesser of two evils is not always the best choice in the long run.

Given these suppositions, the question becomes this: How much more damage could Trump really accomplish in four years? Is this damage worth it, in the long run?

If Bush is any indication, the answer is that there is a lot of damage a US president can do in four years. Whether or not it would be worth it, not just to the American people but to the world, given how influential the States can be on the global economy and warfare, is where the debate amongst us resides. Some think that Trump is a load of hot air, and would probably be an ineffective president more than an outright disastrous one. Others are worried about who he would pick for his cabinet, seeing many familiar faces from the Bush years, and say they would vote for Hillary and cross their fingers that the Democratic Party learns its lesson from this primary and moves further left in future. I find myself somewhere in the middle. I don’t think that the Democratic establishment has learned a damned thing, and will just take the message that a Hillary win means people are fine with their center-right business-as-usual ways. On the other hand, I fear four years of Trump deeply, and I am not so convinced that he will be as ineffective as some people hope.

Would the cost of four years of Trump be worth a true political revolution in the near future? He is so unpredictable, so inexperienced and so full of himself that I cannot say for sure one way or the other. I am very glad that I do not vote in the States, and that I will not have to make that decision.

I open the floor to you.

Comments

  1. sonofrojblake says

    it is even less unlikely that he would be elected for a second term

    I think you mean “less likely” or “more unlikely”.

  2. dianne says

    Sorry to be picking on a minor point, but…”Trump and Hillary”? Why are you using Donald’s last name and Clinton’s first name? Do you appreciate it if you are called “Crys” in conferences while your male colleagues are called “Dr. LastName”?

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      It’s an unconscious shortening based on fame. Trump is known here as Trump, few people even know that his first name is Donald, and would have no idea who I was talking about if I said “Donald”. The name Clinton is still very much associated with Bill Clinton, having been President before her, and so she is either referred to as “Hillary” or as “Hillary Clinton”, for clarity. Even she is using “Hillary” far more than “Clinton” in the shortening of her name, in hashtags and social media campaigns and the like, whereas Trump is only ever using the name “Trump” as a slogan.
      When it comes to me, no one has ever referred to me by my first name and my male colleagues by their last name, its usually first names for everyone. Then again, biology tends to be a very informal field, and Dr.LastName is only ever used to refer to an uber famous big shot scientist in the field, one whose reputation precedes them, regardless of their gender. Also I have very few male colleagues, we have 2 new male PhD students which has brought the total number of men in our group of 12 to… 2 (wait our boss is male, so 3 out of 13). Having never been the target of being informally referred to solely because of my gender, I also am less aware of it being a thing, I guess.

  3. dianne says

    However, it is also unlikely that he will actually build a wall across the US-Mexico border, that he will be able to ban all Muslims from the country, and it is even less likely that he would be elected for a second term.

    FWIW, 538 disagrees re the probability of Donald building a wall. They think it highly likely that he will at least try. See http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/

    There is a chance that Congress will block him, but if he wins then it is a mandate to build the damn wall so they may well not. (Remember, there is already a wall, just not high enough to suit Donald, so it’s not like the US is opposed to building walls with Mexico.)

    As for the second term election, why shouldn’t he be reelected? The US loves strong leaders, fences, and walls. We’re talking about the country that elected Dubya and Reagan twice. Both of them were disasters for the economy, egotistical maniacs, and warmongers. So, what’s changed that the US wouldn’t go for another one?

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      The reason many here think it is unlikely that he will be reelected has little to do with his policy or demeanor, but rather because of his anti-establishmentness. Bush W. and Reagan were knee deep in establishment support. It is said that the reason why Bush was the nominee instead of McCain the first time around is because McCain was a little too idealistic at the beginning, whereas Bush was willing to be a puppet, starting his meetings with big donors with “what do you need”. Bush and Reagan also had a “goofy good guy” vibe, a false one, but still there. More than any demeanor though, it is the lack of establishment control over Trump which makes most people here believe that he wont last very long at all.
      As for the wall, the rhetoric behind it seems very much for show. “I’m going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it!” Yea OK, stop throwing your toys out of the sandbox now, everything is gonna be fine. Will he try to make an attempt to build a little extra fencing here and there to placate the masses who voted for him? Maybe, but honestly I don’t think it will go far enough to matter.
      Of course I could be wrong, it is precisely his unpredictability which makes him so scary to consider as a potential US president, and why I’m not so ready to agree with the people who argue “Trump presidency sure lets see what happens”.

      • dianne says

        As for the wall, the rhetoric behind it seems very much for show.

        Godwin alert ahead, but…wasn’t that much what they said about Hitler’s anti-semitism? Not that I’m saying that Trump would end up a new version of Hitler. No, he might “only” be a Reagan or Bush.

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          Reagan was terrible. Bush was even worse. But America survived, and rebuilt. Would you go through 1/4 of that again, if in return you had a straight shot at the presidency for an Elisabeth Warren, someone who would actually get money out of politics, regulate Wall Street, address environmental issues, and tackle income inequality? I can’t answer that for you. The strong possibility of another world war is pretty much the only thing that is making me hesitate, though. If I were living in the US, and more disastrous war was off the table… I might be tempted.

          • dianne says

            Reagan was terrible. Bush was even worse. But America survived, and rebuilt

            Well, sort of. Reagan’s policies and the resulting increase in the gini coefficient are certainly part of what has led us to where we are now. Dubya’s two wars are still ongoing. Obama did not end them. And the Iraq War was pretty much the event that allowed Isis to form. Are you sure the US is really rebuilt?

            Would you go through 1/4 of that again, if in return you had a straight shot at the presidency for an Elisabeth Warren

            In principle yes, but…
            1. A Trump presidency would not be 1/4 of that again.
            2. A Trump presidency would NOT lead to a straight shot at the presidency for Warren or anyone remotely like her. Look at history: Reagan and Bush I led to the Dems deciding to swing to the right, which they did with Clinton. Conversely, Obama’s presidency has allowed Sanders to be a real possibility and moved the overton window considerably left. The lesson that would be taken from a Trump presidency would be “We’ve got to get ourselves one of those crazy types. That’s how you win elections!”
            3. The Trump libel law: Trump has seriously proposed a law that would make it illegal for reporters to say “mean” things about him. If that law passed, how likely is it that Trump would lose the 2020 election? Think about Putin or Berlosconi and their control of the media–and their popularity. The US is already 41st in terms of press freedom. How much further down can it go before it’s simply impossible to say anything bad about the person in power? And no, the first amendment will not save us. It will be interpreted by justices that Trump nominates and the Cruz congress confirms.
            4. I’m not the person to ask. I’m not first or even second on the list of people Trump will want to deport and/or kill. I might well be in the third round, but even so, the question is not am I willing to put up with “1/4 of it” but are the most vulnerable willing and able to put up with it? Ask someone who is visibly Hispanic or Islamic whether they think it worth the risk for a Warren presidency that’s never going to happen.

  4. dianne says

    Sorry about posting three times in a row, but just wondering: What are your information sources for US politics?

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      Our sources for information for US politics is very mixed. There is some classic sourcing from CNN and the like, but they tend to fall flat, and so there is also a lot of Glen Greenwald, TYT, and other online semi- or fully-independent sourcing going on. Generally left-leaning, in any case, as they seem to be the ones who factcheck more often. Some of my aforementioned friends have actually started political factchecking websites and businesses of their own, so we will usually go for the websites with a decent track record in that regard.

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          Many of the online sourcing is mixed, as in an American writing for a non-US site, or a non-American writing for a US one, or American expats writing from a distinctly expat perspective. I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t have many sources that are entirely non-US, usually there is some connection to the states from either the journalist or the editor, mostly because I find the entirely non-US stuff I have read (so far) to lack a certain depth and analysis, like they don’t want to speak too much about what is not their culture, and so limit themselves to a CNN style “these people say this, these other people say that, end of story”. This could also possibly be due to how interested (or not) their non-US readership would be in the subject of American primaries. Not to disparage non-US publications of course, I just also happen to not be enough of a news junkie to find the time to read everything and anything on the subject. That’s me though, my friends are much bigger politics fans than myself, and I’m sure they source from all over the place.

      • dianne says

        I should also mention that one reason I asked is that it seems to me that a lot of people, including you, are giving Trump much more of the benefit of the doubt than he could possibly deserve. For example, the wall. The wall and keeping out immigrants was Trump’s first position. For many months, it was the ONLY thing that he had a written position on in his campaign ad. This is the issue that got Trump the nomination and he is almost certain to make some sort of effort to fulfill his promise. If the wall proves too hard, he’ll do the easy thing and round up and murder hispanic people and Muslims. Really, what reason is there to doubt this?

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          You think that rounding up hispanics and muslims and murdering them would be “easy”, compared to building a wall, given how the US political system and judicial system is set up, and in the age of information? I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you on that one.

          • sonofrojblake says

            he’ll do the easy thing and round up and murder hispanic people and Muslims

            Really, crys, you were a good deal more polite than I think most people would have been in response to that nonsense. Well done.

          • dianne says

            Unfortunately, the only way to really settle this one is emperically, something I’d like to avoid doing. However, I will point out that it’s happened before. Ask George Takei. Or, to use a non-famous example, my grandmother changed her name and denied her ethnicity because her family was at risk of having their property confiscated and being deported to Mexico. It happened fairly frequently in the 1920s. And do I really even need to mention the residential schools and reservations? Who’s going to stop it? How are they going to stop it? Why would they?

          • sonofrojblake says

            Ask George Takei? I can’t, he was rounded up and murdered.

            Oh, hang on, he wasn’t. He was interned, yes, but the US was literally at declared WAR with his country of origin, a war, I might add, that that country started with an unprovoked sneak attack. The UK interned Germans during World War 2, too, and aren’t ashamed of having done so.

          • dianne says

            Um…almost all the people the US put in camps were US citizens of US birth. Including Takei. They weren’t Japanese. His country of origin is the US. True, they didn’t actually get around to active genocide, just took the first step, in that particular case.

            Britain, IIRC, boasts the first use of the term “concentration camp” in the Boer War. Quite the noble history there.

          • sonofrojblake says

            they didn’t actually get around to active genocide, just took the first step

            That’s just silly, sorry. They relocated people of questionable loyalty during a war they hadn’t started. The USA’s technological capability was equal to or greater than that of Nazi Germany – if “active genocide” had been anywhere on the agenda, then they’d surely have gotten round to it some time in the FOUR YEARS they were at war. It is a vile calumny on the government of the US to equate their relocation of people they regarded as an active security risk with the systematic extermination of an ethnic group.

            And yes, Britain invented concentration camps. What of it? I don’t see the relevance to a discussion of Donald Trump’s policies.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    say they would vote for Hillary and cross their fingers that the Democratic Party learns its lesson

    This is like going back to your abusive partner after they’ve been arrested, spent a night in a cell but not been charged, and crossing your fingers they don’t hit you again. What “lesson” has Hillary or the wider Democratic Party learned? You said it yourself:

    she is being incredibly condescending towards [Sanders supporters] and not understanding that she will need to move to the left if she wants their support, but rather she boasts of the millions more votes that she already has, as if the people Bernie inspired to participate in the electoral process matter not at all

    That’s how she is now, before she’s won anything – not even the primary! How condescending and oblivious will she be if she’s effectively proven right by an election win?

    It’s academic, in any case. Trump has already started softening and moderating his message from the ludicrous rhetoric he judged necessary to secure the nomination. He’s been busy these last ten months making the entire Republican party look foolish, and hasn’t yet fully turned both barrels in the direction of the Democrats. I assume this is probably in part because he doesn’t have to – the very fact that he’s already the nominee at this stage, well ahead of the convention, makes him look like a winner, while the very fact that the Democrats are still arguing amongst themselves makes them both look like losers in comparison.

    I’d love to believe that the average American votes on the basis of rational, logical analysis of the candidates’ positions on the policies of importance to them, but every bit of evidence reality presents is that people (even intelligent people, let alone the kind of dolts that make up most of the electorate) make important decisions irrationally, and maybe rationalise the decision to themselves afterwards. Hillary is trying to appeal to the electorate rationally. Trump is appealing irrationally. It’s no surprise Trump just keeps on getting more and more popular. As to who would be better or worse for the country, I have no way to tell.

    One last thing, though – by far the funniest thing about the whole affair from my (UK) perspective is the spectacle of our Prime Minister’s discomfort. Months ago, presumably judging Trump to be a joke candidate, and from a position of relative power he announced that the “no Muslims” policy was, quote “divisive, stupid and wrong”. It is hilarious to seem him now horrified that the man he insulted – a man who is well known for remembering and punishing insults – is now the Republican candidate and looks like having a better than even chance of being the next President. If Trump does win, it won’t be good for the UK, I fear.

  6. johnson catman says

    I believe that a Trump presidency would damage the rights of everyone for a long time. The republicans in congress now are stonewalling a Supreme Court nominee simply because Obama is the one who nominated him. If Trump wins and gets to pick the next SCOTUS judge (and possibly even more), the republicans would use heavy pressure on him to appoint conservative judges, which would in turn tip the scales in favor of repressive laws. These judges would serve for decades, damaging the rights of everyone, including minorities and women. That is as much of a reason to vote against Trump as any other, even if you do not particularly like Clinton.

    • sonofrojblake says

      the republicans would use heavy pressure on him

      Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaahahahaaa.

      Sure. ‘Cos Trump responds so well to heavy pressure from the Republican establishment…

    • dianne says

      Why would you think that they would need to pressure him? Chances are, though, he’d go for one of his crazy friends as the nominee and we’d get someone who is not only conservative, but also doesn’t know the law.

  7. johnson catman says

    My apologies to those outside the US. When I said “the rights of everyone”, I should have said “the rights of everyone in the US”.

  8. Vivec says

    I refuse to buy into all this Trump fearmongering. Like, yes, I think he’d be an awful president, but I managed to survive eight years of Dubya, and the US managed to survive Dubya, Bush Sr, and Reagan. I think we can handle a blustering reality tv mogul.

    In regards to the wall, the production of a wall anything near the specifications he wants would be prohibitively expensive and take far more than four years to build. Logistically, it’s doubtful he’s going to go along with that.

    In regards to the libel law, not a chance in hell. Free speech issues are generally one of the few situations conservatives are generally willing to agree with liberals about.

  9. dianne says

    Free speech issues are generally one of the few situations conservatives are generally willing to agree with liberals about.

    Totally! That’s why the Patriot Act was laughed right out of court. And why the US doesn’t have any program to listen into phone calls/read emails going to and from the US to other countries (hi guyz!) And why the US is reliably ranked number 1 in freedom of the press by Reporters Without Borders. Yep, there’s never been a law violating the principle of free speech in the US ever. The alien and sedition acts were a figment of my imagination and even if they existed, it’s never happened again. We’re completely safe.

    • Vivec says

      If you think the patriot act and “the first amendment literally no longer exists” are of comparable severity, or that the latter would be just as easy to pass as the former, I don’t know what to tell you. I sincerely disagree with you, though.

  10. says

    The thing that bothers me about protest votes is not the risk of a Trump presidency (which I rate as low), but what it signals about all those millenials voting for Bernie. Is it really about democratic socialism, or is it just about Hillary? I will be especially disappointed if those people vote for say, the third party libertarian candidate.

    In a trump presidency, I most worry about: a) the Supreme Court, b) the global economy when Trump threatens not to pay out treasury bonds, c) how it would transform the Republican party when they are forced to defend Trump, and d) everything related to immigration policy. Some of my friends worry about thermonuclear war, but I don’t know enough to speak to that.

    • sonofrojblake says

      is it just about Hillary? I will be especially disappointed if those people vote for say, the third party libertarian candidate

      Are you so certain they won’t vote Trump?

    • says

      I don’t think that voting against Hillary is in any way disappointing. It’s encouraging to see that the next generation of americans actually cares to learn about the problems that interventionism causes around the world, and that they’re willing to take whatever steps necessary to stop it.

      That in the process they are also supporting the very humanistic ideals of democratic socialism is the cherry on top, and then some.

      • says

        Are you so certain they won’t vote Trump?

        Protest voting makes the most sense when you vote against the mainstream candidate on “your” side in favor of a third party candidate who more closely represents your views. Protest voting arguably has some value, as it incentivizes mainstream candidates to better please people far from the center.

        Voting for the other mainstream candidate isn’t protest voting, it’s just voting.

  11. says

    Latin America has had a long history of US interventions, consistently purging out leftist, socialist, democratically elected governments in favor of multinational corporations and right wing dictatorships.

    Hillary Clinton is just the new face of the very old ways of american imperialism. Disappointingly, a lot of democrats I’ve talked to would rather pretend that she’s just the innocent victim of right-wing slander.

    Right now, the Mexican Energy Reform, probably the most controversial piece of legislation in recent history was passed unanimously, handing the mexican national resources over to american corporations, destroying one of the last bastions of socialism in my country and undermining a corporation (PEMEX) that provides one third of the mexican government budget.

    As it turns out, Hillary Clinton wrote it.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-horn/exclusive-hillary-clinton_b_7963596.html

    Leaving aside the anger and the humiliation of having a woman I don’t like, don’t agree with and didn’t even get the right to vote for, writing the laws that rule my life, that is far from the worst she’s done.

    She supported the military coup that’s left Honduras in ruins, and helped legitimize the phony government that the coup put in it’s place.
    She also sent the honduran child refugees back into the “murder capital of the world”, to the mess she helped create. And by her own admission she did it to “send a message”.
    She’s been consistently in favor of interventionism, be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and so on.
    She sold weapons to the misogynistic theocracy of Saudi Arabia.
    She gives uncritical support of Netanyahu’s crusade to wipe out the palestinians.
    She’s been stubborn in her idea of installing a No-Fly zone over Syria, which would:
    1) Endanger american soldiers for no good reason.
    2) Escalate into an international conflict when Putin inevitably flies a russian plane over Syria just to mess with her.

    She’s shown herself to be in favor of war, in the pocket of corporate interests, uninterested in the plight of child refugees, women, latin americans, palestinians and homosexuals unless she can use them as cannon fodder for her political purposes.

    Despite having been called a “rapist and criminal”, as a mexican I’d rather have Trump’s wall than Clinton’s bullshit.

  12. lorn says

    “The idea of protest voting is one of calculated misery, i.e. paying a short-term price for a potential long-term gain. The principle is to break a broken system which is beyond fixing. Breaking a system always brings with it a significant short term cost to the country, but with the hope that the rebuilt system brings a net benefit to the country in the future, one with fresh faces and new ideas. ”

    Except for the “protest voting” part that is pretty much how the neocons thought about invading Iraq to fix the middle east. Slightly different application, less if you contemplate Clausewitz’s claim that ‘war is politics by other means’, but clearly the same idea.

    While I think invading Iraq was foolish it may be too early to know if the project worked in a strategic sense. It did indeed shake up the region. It may take another twenty years before we have any idea what the long term result was. Another fifty years to confirm.

  13. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    I’m in the middle of an experiment on protest voting, in Croatia.

    Instead of voting for one of the two largest parties, a lot of people voted for a third option – a coalition of non-affiliated politicians. With no one having the majority, everything ended up depending on this non-party. They spent almost 2 months waffling about, one day coalitioning with the (center)left party, the same evening with the more right-wing party. In the end , they decided on the right wing party.
    There have been no moves of any import from the parliament since its first session. Nothing. In the last three sittings, there wasn’t a quorum when it came time to vote. The right wingers aren’t quite as open about their more harmful tendencies as they were before the election, but they are certainly working on chaning the climate in the country for the worse.
    It’s obviously different when it comes to presidential election, and there’s certainly no comparison between Croatia and US… but I’m not very optimistic about breaking the system to remake it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *