Election-Year Drama: These Americans Are Crazy

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Living In The US During Election Year: These Americans Are Crazy

In April 2015, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy. Just three months later, I entered a chance to join her for dinner on the campaign trail. At the time I was just curious, and wanted to see how the Democrats use email marketing to promote their candidate. Today I can tell that they are pretty efficient: since July 3, 2015 I have received 927 emails from Hillary for America! But what does the presidential election look like in my every day life?

927 Hillary for America emails since July 2015

From the 10 seconds I spent analysing the 927 emails – and, by the way I almost read all of them – it appears that 100% are appeals for donations to the Democratic campaign. Some of them also give new poll results, or introduce famous people who support Hillary, or offer merchandising items like cars’ stickers, t-shirts, and caps.

To be honest, if I hadn’t written last year an article for a French web magazine, as well as two posts for this blog about the crazy American campaign, I would have probably unsubscribed months ago!

Just yesterday, I received six emails, six more on September 9, and seven on August 31. The closer we are getting to election day, the more emails I get.

I am aghast at the money spent on the campaign trail

According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Trump and Clinton have raised $992 million as of 08/22/2016.

My goodness, that’s a lot of money!

To understand my astonishment, you have to consider my origins. Born and raised in France, I moved to Germany after college and lived there for 20 years. In 2013, I moved to the States, where I live now. Campaign finance is strictly regulated in France and Germany.

In France, all forms of paid advertising are prohibited during the three months preceding the election. Instead, political ads are aired free of charge on an equal basis for all candidates. Campaign donations and expenditures are capped.

In France, political ads are aired free of charge on an equal basis for all candidates  Tweet This!

In Germany, political parties receive government funds and are subject to some disclosure requirements. State and local laws limit campaign billboards to a few weeks before the election, and they also limit campaign radio and TV advertising to a few spots in the month preceding the election.

In Germany, political parties receive government funds  Tweet This!

This election has amazing engagement from people like you and me

During my days off at the Eastern Shore, I had two surprising experiences. I already told you about almost shopping at a gun shop. But I had more fun getting into the Talbot County Democratic Headquarters in Easton, MD.

This was my first time being so close to politics. During my childhood in France, my family never engaged in supporting a party, and we didn’t know anybody doing political stuff. I had the same experience when I was living in Germany. In both these countries, I have never seen pins on a jacket, stickers on a car, or advertising displays in neighbors’ front yards favoring a candidate or party.

Funnily enough, the County Headquarters of the Democratic and Republican parties are side by side on Dover Street in Easton. When I stepped out of the Democratic HQ, I went straight to their neighbor, trying to get the whole picture. Unfortunately, I found the doors closed.

At the Democratic Headquarters, I had an amazing chat with Judy Wixted, who took plenty of time to give me insights into the role of local committees and how they support the nominated candidate. More interesting to me was the story of the woman behind the Democratic supporter organization.

These Americans are crazy
Judy Wixted, elected volunteer – Talbot County Democratic Central Committee

Now retired, Judy has worked in real estate building management after finishing her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University. Years later, she became a trainer at WeightWatchers. Through all these years, Judy felt passionate about politics and serving others. I could literally feel her passion during our chat.

Judy’s job is to get more people to vote, obviously for the presidential election and even more importantly for Talbot’s County Senate and Congress. As an elected volunteer, she organizes campaign events and grassroots actions like door-to-door canvassing.

Before my talk with her, I had a feeling that Donald Trump had a real chance of being elected. Now, I’m not so sure. After it happened six days in a row, Judy stopped counting the Republicans coming to the democratic headquarters, saying they wouldn’t support Trump. Music to my ears!

A Final Word

The American political system and visible engagement by very normal people are a little disturbing for a French-German expat. In Europe, I would be afraid to share my political opinion so openly.

These Americans are crazy

This is obviously not so easy in Easton either. The car featured above belongs to Kirstie, a yoga and art teacher who lived in Boston before moving back to her family’s house. I met her on the street the day I visited Easton.

What she told me was also disturbing. People who disagreed with her liberal attitude were not afraid of telling her. She sounded like she had a hard time coming back to Easton after years spent in bigger cities.

Finally, I can’t stop thinking that the funds raised by Clinton and Trump would be better invested in improving the American infrastructure. Since many roads and bridges are in pretty bad shape, everybody driving a car would benefit from pavement repairs. Raising a single tax of $3 per person would do the job.

Granted, this is certainly a very European way to look at the presidential campaign. But, these Americans are just crazy…

 

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