American Election: Views from Across the Pond

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American Election:
Views from Across the Pond

Saturday, 12 November 2016; London, England – I was in London this weekend. While one of our daughters was in class, I was walking through Covent Garden and along Victoria Embankment asking random people what they thought of the U.S. election and its outcome.

“May I ask you a question?” I would inquire with a smile. And the vast majority of people obliged. A few seemed to know quite a lot about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Many appeared to know nearly nothing.

A few conversations were longer than ten minutes; most spanned perhaps two minutes. I’ll sum up the “results” at the end of the post, though I sense that the brief narratives below rather speak for themselves.

Perhaps the funniest exchange is the first one below, though it wasn’t my first engagement, thankfully. I spoke with around fifty people in the span of nearly three hours.

• • •

Me: “May I ask you a question?”

British man: “No, you may not.”

Me: “Well, I already managed one. But have a nice day.”

• • •

A Canadian couple. Perhaps the second longest conversation.

Me: “Might you have any thought on the American election and its outcome?”

Their responses included the following.

• Hahahaha!
• Well, clearly, it is time for change. Perhaps some hope too.
• We’re from Alberta: you know, gas and oil.
• Liberals promise a lot and deliver so little.
• But Hillary, I mean, what were they thinking?
• Trudeau (the Canadian Prime Minister) is a pretty boy who talks well. That is the only good he offers.

Note: Of four Canadians I spoke with, all four were critical of Obama and Clinton. Two were cautiously optimistic about a Trump presidency. Two were cautiously hesitant. Concluding thoughts from each one of them: “Only time will tell.”

• • •

One woman and three men outside a pub drinking pints in the drizzle and darkness of the early evening. All British.

First man: “It’s all a load of bollocks. Nothing changes. My job is shit. None of them do anything for me.” Gulp.

Second man: “I don’t know. Tell us your view first. You’re the American!.”

I noted that I felt we had one candidate I had every reason to distrust and another that I had no good reason to trust.

Second man: “Hahaha! Right, the lesser of two evils. Well, isn’t that always the case.” Then in whispered tones and a slight grin: “I voted exit. I think the establishment always needs a bit of a change. Keeps ’em busy.” [By “exit” here he alludes to the recent

[By “exit” here he alludes to the recent referendum regarding whether the UK should remain within or exit from the European Union. The referendum is known as Brexit and those voting “exit” succeeded by a modest margin.]

Third guy: “Well, you see, you can’t believe these politicians, can ya? You might like what they say, but they never follow through. The whole lot of them are in it for themselves, for the money.”

Woman: “Oh, I just don’t know what to think. I don’t do politics, luv.”

Second guy: “Well, some celebs said they’d leave the country, am I right? Could be dozens or hundreds. Maybe thousands. I guess Trump is creating jobs already!”

All: “Hahahahaha!!!”

And they returned to their pints. Perhaps for the best.

• • •

Two British men.

First man: “Well, if I’m honest, I think it is a good thing. It is time for a change.”

Second man: “Well…”

• • •

Three Italian ladies perhaps in their 40s.

Chattering: “… … … … Trump.”

All: “Hahahaha!”

One of them: “We are from Italy. We don’t know. We don’t care.”

All: “Hahahaha!”

• • •

Three men, in mid- or late-20s, from Greece.

First man: “Oh, I think he could be another Hitler.”

Second and third man: “Why do you say that?! You always say that! You say nothing different about anyone.”

• • •

Two British men.

First: “I mean, it’s Brexit, innit.”

Second: “Innit?! ”

• • •

A British lady, perhaps in her 50s.

“Politics? I just turn off. My head just turns off.”

• • •

Two British men, working class (said they worked maintenance in the large buildings nearby), very friendly.

First man: “Sure mate. Well, I fink we’re less likely to have a nuke drop on me head now. I mean, at least Trumph is someone who can talk to Putin.”

Second man: “Do you find that British people aren’t very informed about American politics?”

Me: “That is a difficult question to answer. I think most are well informed by the BBC, if you consider the BBC to be informed and fair. Some see that as debatable. I don’t think you get the whole picture that way. And you surely none of us is truly informed through your Facebook news feed unless we have very different kinds of friends, perhaps.”

Second man: “Right, well, I just don’t know. I’ve not looked into it, if I’m honest. We’ll just haff to wait and see, won’t we.”

• • •

A couple, highly pierced, tatted up, the girl with hair in dark pink (I think).

Girl: “Oh, well, yea, I have an opinion, as an American.”

Me: “Oh, you’re an American too? Do you live here?”

Girl: “No, just visiting. And I think we just have to hope that it’ll not be as bad as so many people say.”

Guy (British or Italian or South African or Serbian…I could not tell and did not ask): “As with so many things, we just have to wait and see.”

• • •

Two British couples, perhaps in their early 60s.

In concert: “Hahahahaha!!!”

First man, grinning widely: “Well, you’ve got the lesser of two evils, doncha.”

Woman, linked in his arm: “Yea, but the greater evil won.”

First man: “Well, I’m not sure. I mean, Hillary? It would at least be evenly evil, wouldn’t it?”

Second man: “It is all like Brexit, innit. It’s a revolution of the working class, right? I mean, they sit in their offices and pay no mind to those who toil. It’s good to have a revolution now and again, innit.”

Second woman: “It’s all a faaaarce. He’s a showman, right? He’s just better at it than ‘illary.”

• • •

A Family of four.


Man: “I think it’s horrible. I mean, we’ll have to see, mind you. Won’t we? I mean, we just don’t know. But it is horrible.”

Woman: “I just don’t know. I don’t know.” Hanging her head.

• • •

A group of five university-aged British students.

Girl #1: “Well, he’s a horrible man, a racist.”

Guy #1: “He’s not a racist. He is trying to make the country more secure.”

Girl #1: “He’s a racist!”

Guy #1: “You just say that because you heard one thing. You’ve not listened further.”

Girl #1: “He is a racist…”

Guy #2: “I don’t like American politics. I don’t like politics. I don’t like politicians.” [At least he didn’t say that he didn’t like Americans.]

All: “Hahahahaha!”

Girl #2: “Are you Canadian?” [I think that is the first time I’ve ever been asked that. Eh? I told him I am an American.] “Oh, well, you sounded Canadian. For me, in my opinion, I think we’ll just have to wait an’ see.”

All: Hahahahaha!!!”

• • •

Young couple in their mid-20s.

Girl: “I think it is all terrible. I mean, the things he says about women, about Mexicans, about blacks, about Muslims, about foreigners.”

Me: “Trump’s wife is from Slovenia. She was a foreigner, though she’s now an American citizen.”

Girl: … … … “I didn’t know that.”

Guy: “But he has no experience. Then again, he has people around ‘im – doesn’t he? – who probably have plenty of experience. But he isn’t guarded in how he speaks, to be sure. Perhaps that is good as he clearly speaks his mind. But his mind…”

Several: “Haha..HIS..haha…MIND…haha!!!”

Girl: “I could never vote for him. Bernie Sanders should have been the candidate…. But Hillary clearly is better than Trump.”

Me: “Did you know that Hillary and the leaders of the Democratic Party colluded behind the scenes to make sure Sanders was not the candidate? It appears they corrupted the process.”

Girl: … … … “I didn’t know that.” … … … “But Bernie should have been on the ticket.”

Me: “And you think Bernie could have beaten Trump?”

Girl: “A.b.s.o.l.u.t.e.l.y!”

Guy: “Trump is an actor, right? I mean, he’s had his own shows. So, who can beat that? Clinton is just uninspiring. And then there are the Wikileaks and her emails.”

Girl: “But there was nothing found in her emails.”

Me: “Well, the FBI determined that Clinton had been careless with classified information. However, there are two email issues here: First, the FBI investigation regarding Hillary’s use of a private server, one through which she mishandled classified information. Second, there are the Wikileaks emails where we glimpse behind the scenes at what Clinton and her team and the DNC are doing and thinking. That’s how we know that they all worked hard to scuttle Sanders in the primaries. The FBI investigation showed that she mishandled classified information. The Wikileaks revelations show that she participated in a corrupted primary process.”

Guy: “Right, that is important. She is corrupt! That much is established. We don’t yet know if Trump is. By the way, I’m half-Australian.”

Girl: “She’s still better than Trump.”

Guy: “Well, it was a race to the bottom, wasn’t it? … And the Democrat won! Hahaha!” [The way he put this was beyond humorous to me! Oh my word, what a funny turn of phrase it was amidst the drizzle.]

Note: This is a truncated version of the longest conversation of the afternoon. It went for perhaps fifteen minutes.

• • •

Two men in their late-20s or early 30s of Asian (not east Asian) descent. I suspect they are Muslims. I failed to ask.

First man: Shakes his head and scowls.

Second man: Smiling very widely, “An opinion? People have opinions. Mine is that politicians say one thing and do another. Right?”

First man: Shakes his head and scowls, nearly begins a couple of sentences.

Second man: “I mean, we all just have to wait and see, right?”

They walked off, one smiling, the other shaking his head.

Note: I couldn’t tell if they knew what I was asking about or who Clinton or Trump were. The one was attempting to be philosophical. The other was vaguely disapproving.

• • •

A middle-aged man on a park bench.

Man: “Sure, what’s your question?”

Me: “Do you have any thoughts on the outcome of the U.S. election?”

Man: “Oh…I don’t discuss politics.”

• • •

There were other conversations, some long and some short. As I mentioned above, I spoke to around fifty people. So, what is the informal, unofficial outcome of this experiment in citizen journalism? Well, if I had to guess:

50% of the respondents thought it was a good thing, that change needs to happen, though most of them also noted that we just don’t know and that only time will tell. Perhaps a third of these people mentioned that it was like Brexit.

35% saw the outcome as very negative, with perhaps half of them saying that you still have to deal with what you get when you do things democratically. There was a lot of what I’d term stiff-upper-lippery and keep-calm-and-carry-on-ness.

15% had no opinion or were unwilling to talk. Can’t really blame them. The drizzle was a bit discouraging. And having some random American man unexpectedly speak into a moment of your life can be off putting.

Frankly, I was surprised that so many thought it was a good outcome, even if chalked it up to a need for change rather than to candidate Trump himself.

Brits obviously love comedy, though some depend on drama. It was an interesting afternoon. A very interesting afternoon.

• • •

Me: “May I ask you a question?”

British man: “No, you may not.”

Me: “Well, I already managed one. But have a nice day.”

1 thought on “American Election: Views from Across the Pond

  1. That was interesting. “…..managed one. Have a nice day.” was priceless! As an American, I was a Hillary voter and felt like Trump could be a Hitler. Many of us think that. He’s so racist and belittling of women. I don’t know how Christians could vote for a man who has suck terrible, gutter language too! His picks for cabinet are interesting….not sure I’d like Medicare privatized. Vets don’t want their benefits to be privatized! My brother in law, who voted for Trump, is a VietNam Vet and said “He better not or there will be riots! And they all know how to shoot (and probably have guns). I’m continually shaking my head and thinking “We’ll see”. Not looking forward to the next 4 years at all. Never have I been afraid after an election, and I began voting in 1972!

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