11 things Brits need to know about the American election

It seems everyone has an opinion about Trump v Clinton. Everyone. So, here are a few thoughts for us non-Americans to understand what is going on and perhaps, to give pause for thought before we tell the USA who or what to vote for or what we think of the result.

  1. America is not your country and therefore it is not your place to say which individual is best placed to be the next POTUS. You would hate it if an American started telling you who to vote for – so stop telling them.
  2. To understand America means going to more than Disneyland, New York, Disneyworld, DC, San Fran a Vegas. It is a big ol’ place with many towns that will have never seen someone from your country apart from on the TV. Until you sip a Kentucky bourbon in Kentucky, or been on Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia on the trail of the Lonesome Pine or are able to pin a flag into which state actually is Iowa or Wisconsin, then don’t pretend to understand how almost half of America thinks or should think.
  3. It is only 42 years ago that abortion was legalised, 62 years since school segregation was abolished, 52 years since all partitioning of black and whites came to an end, 0 years since guns were seen as killing machines rather than a right and 83 years since re-legalisation of booze. Stop thinking of it as some historic European country steeped in tradition – it is still a fledgling trying to find an identity.
  4. The country is founded on religious and personal freedom. The people who first popped over to colonise the place were proper God-botherers and neo-liberals. Sure, there has been some change, but for many that is still a massive part of their lives in a country which has the type of geography and meteorology that can even make the most ardent atheist turn to a God on occasion.
  5. Out of the 52 states that form America, the average number an American citizen has visited is eight. 18% of Americans has a passport. This is a nation who loves itself and anyone who can make it great again or give hope to make it great again will gain traction.
  6. You cannot possibly understand the passion and the fervour that surrounds the supporters of a candidate. You think Brexit supporters or SNP independence campaigners or Momentum Corbynites have gusto, then think again. This is raw emotion politics not some scrutiny of detailed worthy policy.
  7. Our sensitivities about race, colour, creed – and the way it is spoken about – are very different to those much of America feels or speaks of. There are many white people fearful of black people, who are fearful of Muslims who are fearful of gay people. And the fear is stirred through religion, division and separation through the sheer size of the country.
  8. English may be what we think the language people in America speak is, but the nuance, emphasis and meaning of much of the vocabulary has evolved away from English English. So don’t think you can understand what is being actually said just because you actually think you understand the words being spoken or written.
  9. In previous elections, people said that they were the first internet elections. They were wrong. This is the first internet election. One that gives candidates the power to bypass the traditional media to reach core constituents without any filter, and one where the constituents can shout back both at their candidate or the opposition candidate. Or fellow supporters. Or the opposition supporters. Or the media. For better or worse, this is real democracy in action and will be seen as a template for 21st century campaigns across the planet.
  10. This election also is the first to give non-American citizens the chance to think that getting involved using social media to influence the outcome of an election – whether Russian or British – is a good thing.
  11. For all the coverage, and all the media hype and all the hysteria, I bet you a tenner you cannot name five polices of either candidate.

So tonight or tomorrow, when you think you can contribute to some understanding into the US political debate then stop. Think again. And move on. Because, it is almost certain you are spouting views that are unfounded, ignorant and offensive to many in their own country. Be relieved or be joyous, but do not think you will add anything to what is already out there in the world already.


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