Brits seem to think there are only two candidates for the presidency. When my conversations at Oxford University turn to American politics, 9 times out of 10 I am asked: “Who are you voting for? Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders?”
The European conception of American politics is slightly laughable. While these two presidential candidates seem to incur the most media coverage, I can certainly say that neither will be receiving my vote — a response that shocks most people. Europeans are amazed that our elections are not held until Nov. 2016, yet campaign machinery has been in motion since early 2015. Some people thought our elections already took place and Obama won again because “there is no way that there could be this much media coverage for an event so far away.”
I am amazed how many people I meet abroad see Trump and Sanders as the only two options for American president. Trump is viewed as ridiculous, but probable; Sanders is hailed as a visionary. My primary tutor at Oxford described the conception of the political climate in the U.S. as “very conservative and far more right than any European would feel comfortable with.” Sanders promotes socialistic policies, more like ones found in Europe.
Trump epitomizes what Europeans think American government is like. They see our politicians as loud, gaudy, outrageous, and cocky. Trump fits that stereotype perfectly. No one really knows about any other Republican candidates, like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, or Ben Carson.
Bernie Sanders adheres more to the European way of thinking with his big government ideas and nationalized systems. While discussing American politics with my secondary tutor over a pint, he described Sanders as a “breath of fresh air to the staunch environment of American politics.” Sanders is the candidate many Europeans would like to become President of the United States. However, Trump is the candidate they believe will win and will make for “bloody good entertainment.”
When I inform whoever I am speaking with that I am actually more fiscally conservative and tend to lean more towards the Republican party, they assume that I am voting for Trump — an assumption I quickly correct. However, they think that Trump could win our election for President and they would love to see it happen! It appears that since Trump gets the most coverage, he must be winning.
People seem to be offended that as a young, American female I would dare support a candidate such as Rand Paul or Marco Rubio (even though they have no idea who they are). I quickly defend my views, pointing out how the GOP is not all “old, sexist, racist white men.” I’m certainly not ashamed to be an American; I am quite proud, and being in Europe has only affirmed my love for my own country.
But I do think that the American political system needs to be heavily re-evaluated if we want to be taken seriously. America is a major world power, but we don’t always act like one. Our mud-slinging political races and loud politicians do not give us a respectable image. Two of the most extreme candidates from either side for president are the most well-known internationally. No one focuses on the issues at hand, like America’s debt, but rather on the absurdist claims like the building of a wall between Mexico and the U.S. or free college tuition for all. Trying to convince Europeans that a young, fiscally conservative, American female exists and holds plausible views is way harder than I expected.
When I don’t want to discuss politics, I fake a British accent and talk about rugby.