It is with relief and horror that we in Britain watch the USA elect their 45th President: a sick satisfaction that the spotlight is no longer on the British public, intermingled with the knowledge that the outcome will nevertheless affect us all. Global and independent news outlets and publications alike have presented us with a persistent stream of content concerning the election: remixes of Donald’s speeches, fact checks, comparisons, and outraged comments. Yet in amongst the black-and-white online portrayal of the battle between the two prominent candidates stand real individuals who are not part of the two clear halves that is expected of them – and will not vote alike to their family or state. After a clear divide between generations in the EU Referendum, there are parallels between American and British youths as we fight to have our voices heard.
Jessica*, in her mid-twenties, grew up in the mid-west in a conservative Christian family. She is quick to point out that her nuclear family is “squarely ‘I’m with her’, or at least ‘never Trump’”, whilst other family members “feel very strongly that the Republican Party is the only party that truly defends freedom of religion for Christians”.
“Trump is… pure poison”
Is that aspect of policy alone enough to sway their votes, then? “Combined with being staunchly pro-life, and [the belief] that Islam is an inherently violent and hateful religion out to destroy us… [They] are probably going to vote Trump,” she admits. The Midwest is considered somewhat crucial in the votes, holding several swing states that could affect the overall result. Being of the same faith as these Republican-voting family members, what has made the decision different for Jessica? “Republicans these days don’t believe climate change is a real issue, don’t seem to care about women, think we shouldn’t accept refugees… Insane platform points make it impossible for me to consider voting for their party in the foreseeable future.” And if Trump wins anyway? “What scares me most is how it will affect children who grow up seeing the rhetoric that Trump uses – it already has – like little girls in hijabs getting bullied on playgrounds. Trump is preying on and stoking the flames of this fear and it is pure poison.”
“They don’t see Trump as that extreme”
Meanwhile, 20-year-old Pippa lives in London but is of dual nationality: her mother is American, and her family is still based in North and South Carolina.
“My grandmother and aunt are strong Trump supporters,” she says. Like Jessica, going against the grain in the elections was an inevitable choice for Pippa. South Carolina has been declared Republican in every election since 1992. “I was never going to vote anything other than Democrat either way and my mum is voting for the first time since she left the United States in the ’80s because she feels strongly that Trump shouldn’t be in power. The decision was very clear cut for me; as a feminist, it was an amazing privilege for me to be able to vote for (hopefully!) the first female president of the US.” Clinton or nothing, then? “If I wasn’t so horrified at the thought of Trump being president I would possibly vote third party. If Bernie had made it as the democrat candidate I’d have loved to have voted for him!”
If Brexit tore families apart, one can only assume differing opinions in the elections are creating divides. “The only family member I’ve directly hashed it out with has been my grandfather,” Jessica tells me. “While we disagreed ultimately, I think I was able to help him understand where I was coming from at least in terms of why I cannot vote for Trump. I hope that whatever happens, we’ll all be mature enough not to say “I told you so”.”
Pippa reveals that family discussion about differing stances has been avoided entirely: “Mostly we’ve dealt with it by not discussing it. They think I’ve been brainwashed by the crazy leftie brits… They don’t see Trump as that extreme.”
“We need hope and healing”
Perhaps voting for the party rather than the candidate is what keeps these families together in some form: individual policies, not the individual. Will America’s future even differ so very much under one rule or the other? “Right now, people just want to yell at each other and not listen,” says Jessica. “We need hope and healing so very badly. I want us to work together and work for one another instead of just for ourselves.” But will that happen? “I want a culture shift that no government has the power to bring about,” she admits.
Therein lies the crux of the problem, and perhaps one with which British young people can identify: a frustrating apparent dead-end in social liberty and growth, brought on not by ourselves but seemingly by the generations above us.
When asked about their hopes for the election night and beyond, both seem unsure. What is Pippa most worried about if Trump wins? “The world coming to an end.” Seems fair. And what does America need most? “To be a safer place for everyone. I have some hope for election night.” Having lived in London through Brexit, as a ‘Remain’ voter, Pippa is perhaps brave to be confident: millions had hope before the EU Referendum too.
It is with weak enthusiasm that these voters look towards tomorrow’s results. While Pippa tries “not to overthink”, Jessica is less optimistic. “I have very little hope. Regardless of who wins I feel we’re in deep trouble.”
On her second year abroad away from the USA, I wonder- is that trouble deep enough trouble to make her stay away for good? “The US will always be home… Even if it gets to a point where it isn’t somewhere I want my kids to grow up.”
*names have been changed