In Northern England, a Striking Resort to Profanity
By Davy Lane
Bootle is the only parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom in which the Monster Raving Loony Party—clowns in glam-rock attire with fruity-colored hair who canvas under the “Vote for Insanity” banner—surpassed a bona fide national party in a Parliamentary election. So what would the clearly open-minded Bootle voters make of U.S. billionaire Donald J. Trump and his “anti-establishment” campaign in the U.S. presidential election? I went to Bootle to find out.
Bootle sprawls to the north of Liverpool, much like the Bronx in New York. The area’s docks were a prime target for the Luftwaffe, and it was the most bombed borough in Britain during World War II. Today, two conspicuous, low-cost German supermarkets stand like watchtowers at opposite corners of Bootle’s main shopping district. Bookmakers, boozers, and a large bus depot are the next most obvious pieces of real estate. The Liverpool-Leeds canal cuts through the town, a reminder of when Bootle was a vital accessory to British wealth and power.
I first approached two grossly overweight women holding hands, with their respective cold spare hands each tightly gripping extra-large Subway sodas. They were gothic, pierced, and frighteningly friendly, but frankly, neither gave a damn about politics. They will probably never know how much Michael Bloomberg cares about them.
He’s a total shitbag, that fella
In a bookie’s, Chris Saunders, 73, was watching the roulette wheel spin. This was Trump territory. Saunders possessed a scraggly beard and a protruding, yellow front tooth. He stared at me with a gimlet eye and responded to my Trump enquiry in classic, cryptic Liverpudlian fashion. “A good fire is worth two bankruptcies,” he said. I had never heard the expression before.
Doreen Woods, 78, was sitting alone like Eleanor Rigby in an area of plastic tables and chairs in the Strand shopping center. She had a hot coffee for company. Her blue rinse was in full effect. “He’s a complete dickhead,” were her first words. As I bid farewell, she said there needs to be fewer immigrants. In the Jawbone Tavern, founded 1820, on Litherland Road, a regular—who the barmaid called Kenny—told me, “He’s a total shitbag, that fella.” Kenny declined further comment. From those who had actually heard of Trump—a little over half of all folks approached—there was a striking resort to profanity.
In the iconic Yates’s Wine Lodge, it was refreshing to meet two civilized, well-spoken ladies, Julie Wojcik, 49, and her mother, Joyce, 73, who were lunching over a bottle of white wine. Julie was quickest to the draw. “Trump is the biggest joke since Reagan,” she said. Her advice to American voters considering Trump? “DON’T, and write that in capital letters.” Joyce was for Hillary.
A man named Arthur grabbed my ear on the way out of Yates’s, telling me, “We’ve got our own problems. We don’t care about their problems.” He then turned his attention to the bartender and ordered two more Budweisers. Ordering drinks in twos is a classic Liverpool tradition.
On Monday, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a fascinating Michael Goldfarb documentary, “Trump and the Politics of Paranoia.” The next night a sobering one-hour documentary, hosted by Matt Frei of Channel 4 News, “The Mad World of Donald Trump” would air on prime time British TV. It included an allegation of rape by Trump’s first wife, Ivana, an allegation that was repeated in the British red-top tabloids. While once he may have indeed been a concern only for the cognoscenti debating in Parliament, Trump is now increasingly seeping into the consciousness of both the British elite and the general public, including, one presumes, the good people of Bootle.
Lebanon: The Problem With Fanatics
By Alex Dziadosz
For many Syrian refugees, the intricacies of the Republican nomination process are about as fascinating as the rules for calculating global cricket rankings are for your average Iowan. But Donald J. Trump would not be Donald J. Trump if he did not possess an exceptional power to grab headlines, even in a region where the names Rubio, Cruz, and Carson, are unlikely to provoke more than a confused shrug (Bush, for obvious reasons, enjoys more renown).
Given that Trump has managed this feat largely by stoking fear of Muslims in general, and Syrians in particular, it’s not surprising that reactions in the Lebanese capital Beirut—home to thousands of Syrian refugees—have typically spanned the emotional range between flummoxed and disgusted.
“Everyone hates him,” muttered Ahmed Bashir, 23, shaking his head and sighing when he overheard Trump’s name on a crowded commercial street in west Beirut. Trump represented racism and hatred, he said, and seemed to contradict every ideal America claimed to stand for, most obviously with his call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., which made the front page of many Arabic newspapers. “Arabs and Muslims aren’t all the same. There are a lot of Muslims in America, Muslims who have accomplished a lot there,” Bashir said. “I think if he’s even nominated, it’ll be a huge mistake for America.”
For Syrians fleeing five years of carnage and destruction, the suggestion they should be denied refuge because of their religious or national identity is as absurd as it is terrifying. Trump’s depiction of Syrians in America as a potential “Trojan horse” looks especially bizarre from Lebanon, a country of about four million people that has taken in well over one million refugees. The U.S., a country of about 320 million, has accepted just a few thousand.
Zeina, a 30-year-old Syrian living in Beirut, said Trump’s stances were “ridiculous and ugly,” and his proposals “racist, ignorant, and inhumane.”
“I think he doesn’t understand what’s going on and he doesn’t care enough to read about it,” she said. “He’s addressing fanatics like himself. Hopefully there aren’t many of them out there.”
The similarity of Trump’s exclusionary, militant tone with that of the jihadist groups wreaking havoc on the once-peaceful Syrian uprising have not been overlooked. “ISIS claims responsibility for Donald Trump,” read a headline in the online satirical site Khabaristan Times in September. In December, the Arabic-language website al-Araby al-Jadeed ran a cartoon showing Trump’s signature hairstyle merging with the long beard of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS). “Death, destruction and terrible things in people’s hair,” it said.
What the image captured was the sense, shared by many here, that their rhetoric is not just similar, but interwoven. Trump’s statements drown out moderate voices and erode trust among people in the Middle East, just as Baghdadi’s do in the West.
“This Trump is a model of stupidity,” one Syrian who managed to claim asylum in America said recently by email. “It’ll be a huge disaster if he wins these elections—a disaster first for America, and then for everyone else.”
Colombia: You Don’t Mess With Beauty Pageants, Soccer, or My Aunts
By Pablo Medina Uribe
Victories for Colombians are scarce, and we’ll take as many as we can get. When Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya won the IndyCar about a decade and a half ago, the country took the streets to celebrate as if we had collectively won that obscure American motorsport. When The Embrace of the Serpent became the first-ever Colombian movie to be nominated for an Oscar a few days ago, Colombians flocked to theaters to celebrate the artsy film’s achievement. It is not often that we get to see Colombians succeeding abroad, and so we squeeze the victories of our compatriots to the very last drop.
And Donald Trump, that snake, has already messed with our two favorite sources of vicarious living through the success of others: soccer and beauty pageants. Miss Universe is not a novelty spectacle, but a proper competition in Colombia. The media lines up a series of experts and pundits who analyze contestants for weeks and give their informed predictions. Colombia always stands a chance, but always loses (and often to Venezuela, our loved/hated neighbors). Yet, in 2014, we won! I mean, Paulina Vega, Miss Colombia, won.
That idiot Trump is going to take away our happiness!
In 2015, Trump decided to start spewing his racist and xenophobic remarks in his quest to conquer U.S. election coverage. Miss Vega was asked to renounce her crown in protest against statements Trump—then part-owner of Miss Universe—was making about Latin Americans. She didn’t, but one of my aunts, a consummate beauty pageant expert, complained, “That idiot Trump is going to take away our happiness!” She was angry then, and even angrier when Bogotá retired its bid to host last year’s pageant in protest against the Donald.
If that wasn’t enough, last year reports started to emerge in Colombian media that Trump (the “controversial candidate to the U.S. presidency,” they said) wanted to buy Medellín’s Atlético Nacional, arguably the country’s most popular soccer team, and certainly the most successful one.
Did Nacional fans want to be the laughingstock of South America by being owned by a notoriously pragmatic asshole, who would not care about what the team means? No, thanks. Would other fans want a team in the league to be owned by an asshole who happens to be one of the richest people around? No, thanks. Furious fan letters started to pour in.
Finally, Trump’s people said that people at Nacional were “idiots” because they had rejected a “huge” offer for the team. But people at Nacional set the record straight: Trump’s people had never approached them. Using our country’s soccer passion just to get headlines? That doesn’t fly with us. We don’t want anything to do with the skyscraper that Trump’s people are reportedly looking to build in Bogotá. Our capital is in a bitter identity crisis and we don’t need them creating more disruption.
My family was all watching the final minutes of the Miss Universe pageant last year when Steve Harvey mistakenly gave the title to a new Miss Colombia. When the blunder was discovered, a different aunt lamented: “Goddamn Trump!” I reminded her that he was not involved in the pageant anymore. She replied, “I know, but damn him!”
Yes, Indonesia Has a Donald Trump Saga and It’s Weird
By Jon Emont
In December, the Donald Trump saga finally came to a close in Indonesia, the archipelagic nation of 250 million that straddles the Indian and Pacific oceans. Yes, Indonesia had a Donald Trump saga. The story, which is about as weird as you’d expect, goes like this.
In September, Donald Trump held a press conference for his presidential campaign in the Trump Towers in New York City. Towards the end of the conference, Trump pulled a rabbit out of his hat and introduced Setya Novanto, Indonesia’s speaker of the house, in typically grandiose, Trumpian fashion: “The speaker of the House of Indonesia, he’s here to see me. One of the most powerful men and a great man.” Trump continued, “And we will do great things for the United States. Is that correct?” Novanto replied in the affirmative, posing for pictures with female Trump supporters who brandished Trump campaign signs.
Images of this quickly made the news in Indonesia. Voters were unhappy that one of their most prominent representatives was treated as a prop in an American billionaire’s triumphant campaign rally, and by the implication that Novanto had come to “serve” the United States. It then turned out that Novanto was using public funds to visit Donald, even though Novanto had no legitimate reason to be in the U.S.
This turned into a full-blown scandal, dominating Indonesian news coverage for days. Novanto was hauled in front of an ethics hearing and his political party apologized on his behalf. It ended up being the first in a cascade of corruption allegations made against Novanto, who in December vacated his position of Speaker of the House when recordings surfaced of him demanding money from a mining company for the renewal of mining licenses. So for Indonesians struggling with the idea that Trump—the man they knew from Celebrity Apprentice—was a leading candidate for U.S. president, things were made at least a little simpler: Trump was an American version of Novanto, an icky oligarch.
For Arlian Buana, who edits Mojjok.co, an Indonesian satirical magazine, this was the perfect political scandal. “Donald Trump is a ridiculous figure from the other side of the planet,” he says. His magazine took full advantage of the absurdity, running a number of articles about Indonesian politicians meeting with the Donald.
And as you might expect from the world’s most populous majority-Muslim nation, once this scandal drew people’s attention to the candidate, his inflammatory statements further outraged many Indonesians. Hanum Atika, a recent college graduate in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, says that she really didn’t like Trump because he was linked with some of Indonesia’s most corrupt politicians. It was only after the scandal that she heard about comments Trump had made about Muslims. “His idea to forbid Muslims to enter the U.S. is crazy,” she says. “He absolutely shouldn’t do that. He should go off and live in the forest, not run for president of the U.S.!”
Scotland:“He Looks Like an Auld Squirrel”
By Matthew Bremner
“He looks like an auld squirrel crossed wi’ that lion from the Wizard of Oz.”
Little had been said until that point; only the mumble of the TV set broke the pub’s silence. It was a drab, dingy pub, with matted carpets and a morose clientele; the type of establishment that seems to rot in the neglected alleyways and dark basements of cities, the kind of pub that is forever quarter-full with rotten livers and bitterness.
“This idiot claims Scottish ancestry but wants tae destroy oor countryside wi’ posh golf courses. N’ he keeps saying stupid things aboot Muslims n’ Mexicans.”
The old man making the comment was a regular: always half-drunk, always squinting with clogged eyes, always ignored by those barely conscious around him. But this time, maybe he was talking sense.
He’s racist, ridiculous-looking, and radically un-Scottish
My two friends who had joined me for a drink smiled—they liked the man’s description.
“I suppose he’s right—he’s racist, ridiculous-looking, and radically un-Scottish.”
“Yes, I agree, but we may regret our animosity towards him if he were, God forbid, to become president.”
They were, of course, talking about Donald Trump. He had recently been stripped of his business ambassadorship, an honorary degree from Robert Gordon’s University, and some commentators were pushing to ban him from the U.K.
“It’s hard to get a grip on why a man like this may become U.S. president. Maybe there’s something we’re missing; maybe he’s not as stupid as he seems,” I offered.
“No way. It’s a deservedly ignominious end for a man about as connected to Scotland as a healthy, Mediterranean diet,” replied my friend.
Trump’s story with Scotland is a long and arduous one. His mother was Scottish, a Gaelic speaker born on the remote Isle of Lewis, who moved to America in the 1930s. In 2008, after his first visit to Lewis, he claimed to feel his heritage; of course, this bucolic belonging soon turned to bulldozing as Trump flattened previously protected parts of the Aberdeenshire coast to create a new golf course.
Trump’s snarl stretched across the pub’s wide-screen TV, and those denizens who were sober enough began to make rude comments under their breath. It was, perhaps, the most noise the bar had heard that day. The news report continued to dish the dirt: jobs that didn’t materialize, locals humiliated and bullied, lies about protecting wilderness.
Trump’s actions resulted in various legal confrontations between the government and the Trump empire, which only served to create deeper resentment. So when he made his controversial comments on immigration last December, it was not at all difficult for the new First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to relieve him of his appointments and decry his beliefs. Nor was it too difficult for his old adversary, former First Minister Alex Salmond, to call him a “loser.”
“He is supposedly furious with Scotland. We’ve taken away his titles, called him names, and are considering banning him from our shores,” I said.
“Yeah I know,” my friend replied. “I saw he wrote an op-ed in the Press and Journal, insisting that Scotland should be thanking him for his investments, not pandering to political correctness.”
The news report ended, and the pub fell silent again, resuming its old lugubrious listlessness. We had agreed that Trump’s love affair with Scotland was profit-driven bombast and that his presidency would be worrisome. As we got up to leave, the man at the bar turned to us and, with a consolatory tilt of his head, muttered: “You ken it’s all comedy; this Trump stuff, it’ll no happen.” We considered this for a moment, all of us avoiding the man’s clumsy gaze, until my friend, pausing by the door, replied, “Well, I only hope that it doesn’t turn into a tragedy.”
Uganda: Possibly the One Place Trump’s Ill Repute Isn’t Warranted
By Joseph Hammond
Kampala, like Rome, was originally built on seven hills. This allowed the city to enjoy a cooling breeze off of nearby Lake Victoria during Kampala’s summers. Today, Kampala has expanded in all directions to include some twenty hills and is one of the most rapidly urbanizing areas in Africa. Commuters on boda-boda motorcycle taxis zoom between the hills, often past Marabou storks, some standing five feet tall.
The breeze in the air these days is full of the talk of presidential politics. Uganda is in the midst of its own presidential election, which this year, for the first time ever, included a televised presidential debate. Yoweri Museveni—the country’s dictator, who has ruled the country for 30 years—skipped the debate and is widely expected to win next month’s elections, which will likely be marred by transparency issues.
However, despite the furor over their own election, Donald Trump has twice drawn the attention of the Ugandan media in recent months. In all fairness, he can’t really be blamed for the brouhahas—perhaps a first for the tendentious tycoon. In December, right-wing columnist Ann Coulter said that without a Trump presidency, “The threat facing America right now is we’re about to become Uganda.” The country, having previously been used as shorthand for national disaster, was stung.
Trump had threatened to arrest Robert Mugabe
And Trump drew attention in the region again after Kenya’s The Spectator (not to be confused with the conservative British publication) posted an article online claiming Trump had threatened to arrest Robert Mugabe and Uganda’s Museveni if elected. The story was picked up by regional press in both Zimbabwe and Uganda; however, the pledge eventually turned out to be false.
But before the charges proved spurious, New Vision—Uganda’s state-owned national newspaper—quoted Museveni as saying at a press conference, “I have not heard about Trump and what Trump says is none of my business. I think Mr. Trump has got enough work to do in US. People are dying, being killed by guns. Maybe I could give him some advice on how to have peace in the USA.” (After the original Trump quote proved false, New Vision pulled Museveni’s rebuttal statement.)
Paul Ochen is a night manager at an office building in downtown Kampala. Ochen intermittently plays Ugandan pop music from a phone propped on his desk as he offers his views on the Donald. “I think Donald Trump is someone who says what is on his mind. He doesn’t hide what he feels,” he says. Like many Ugandans, his feelings for the Republican candidate are ambivalent. “I think after the fake Trump quote, people aren’t sure what to make here now of him,” he says. “I think people see him like any other politician: he has some good and some bad.”
In the northern town of Mbale, nestled below the beautiful Mount Elgon, Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, the leader of Uganda’s Jewish community and an opposition candidate in Uganda’s upcoming parliamentary elections, takes a more negative view. “The few who know Trump they think he is a more of comedian than a politician and not really prepared to be a world leader,” he says. The people of Uganda have more pressing issues to consider as the country’s political future is shaped on the hills beside Lake Victoria.
The Donald Trump Malaysia Fan Page Has 16 Likes
By Marco Ferrarese
To Malaysians, Donald Trump is like an orang bunian, the invisible folkloric rainforest spirit that materializes only to fool humans. That’s not surprising, as the nation is currently sitting through the morbid sideshow of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, a suspected murderer, alleged thief of millions in state funds, and the leader of the racist, Malay-dominated Barisan National coalition. To multi-ethnic Malaysians of all skin tones and religions, this man is a much bigger duck to digest than the Donald.
Nevertheless, a Vocativ survey reported that Malaysians seem to make up 44 percent of Trump’s total non-American social media fan base. This popularity could be the work of fraudulent “like farms,” and browsing the busy streets of George Town, the capital of the island of Penang, I tend to agree. Newsstands are as Trump-free as the conversations I overhear in hole-in-the-wall shops and bars. A Malay rickshaw driver—a dying breed of sidewalk dwellers—doesn’t even know who I’m talking about. But I can’t believe that only Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor—secretary-general of Islamic Party United Malay National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s largest political party—commented on Trump’s idea of keeping Muslims out of the U.S.
I just need to step into a shady corner to slide sweaty fingers on my phone and connect to the pan-Malaysian intelligentsia: the Chinese, Malays, Indians, and other enlightened few who make up the more liberal pieces of the country’s multi-ethnic puzzle.
“He’s a fucking joke with an ugly face,” says Dzulhasymi Hakim, 35, a long-haired Malay singer in a Penang hardcore band. His statement jives with the Google search that brings me to a ‘Donald Trump Malaysia Fanpage’ with 16 total likes. Yikes.
The worst media product ever created
Umapagan Ambikaipakan, Malaysian Indian critic at Kuala Lumpur’s independent radio station BFM89.9, thinks that Trump won’t get elected. “Polling so early is much skewed, especially when polling likely Republican voters,” he says, deeply aware of the vagaries of the U.S. electoral system.
Across the nation, from the cities of Ipoh and Johor Bharu to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, which sit at the opposite end of the island of Borneo, the answers are similar.
“He’s a clown, the worst media product ever created, the Big American Bigot.”
“Does he really think he can become president?”
“Such a street-smart business man. All this news of blocking Muslims from entering the U.S. is just a marketing ploy.”
“The first time I saw him he was Waldo’s father in the Little Rascals movie. Now he’s like Adolf Hitler.”
Fair enough. “Trump’s a good spokesperson and has influenced a lot of Americans,” chimes in Adi Herman, a Malay from Bintulu, the oil-rigging capital of Sarawak in Borneo, “but he has zero knowledge of the real meaning of Islam.”
Veteran musician and writer Antares Maitreya has been living for years with a tribe of orang asli, Malaysia’s aboriginal people. “Humans, ignore these mind games and look at your face in the mirror for an hour,” he advises the American electorate. “You’ll learn much more than keeping up with the news.”
Donald Trump might be afraid of the jihadists, but he’s setting up shop close to Malaysia in ancestral Obamaland: Bali, Indonesia’s only Hindu island. Even if he doesn’t win the presidency, the people of Malaysia may have to reckon with Trump yet.
Mexico City: A Mix of Amused Loathing and Candid Disgust
By William Sprouse
Ever since last June, when Donald Trump—in a speech announcing his candidacy for president of the United States—claimed that the Mexican government was exporting narcotraficantes, rapists, and criminals to its neighbor to the north, the Donald has been met with a mix of amused loathing and candid disgust here in the Mexican capital.
Maria-Eugenia Gutierrez is part of a regular coffee date that meets in a café on the ground floor of the Edificio Condesa, a beautiful century-old building in Mexico City’s cosmopolitan Condesa neighborhood. She suggests the Trump phenomenon had revealed a dormant and not very attractive segment of American society.
“Like people do everywhere, you make generalizations. All gringos are this way. All Chilangos are this way. All Mexicans are narcos—or mariachis,” Gutierrez says. “One thinks the U.S. is a liberal place. But in reality, particularly in the center of the U.S., there are some very narrow minded communities. Lots of moralists and Puritans.”
Gutierrez and her companion, Gonzalo Herrerias, doubted initially that the Trump campaign was serious. But the more incendiary Trump’s comments became, the more his support seemed to rise.
“I think he was doing it to get publicity for his reality show series, and suddenly he found—or the U.S. found—a society that had been living in caves for a while, but suddenly emerged. And they are, excuse the word, but, a bit Nazi,” Herrerias says. “A society that’s been hidden away since the sixties, or a little before, and now it turns out that they’re really angry.”
Last fall, as the world was coming to terms with the realities of Trump’s electoral momentum, Mexican attitudes toward the new demagogue on the northern frontier were frequently lighthearted.
Donald Trump piñatas were selling briskly
At Halloween, latex imprints of the Donald’s squinting visage were a top-selling item at costume shops across the city; according to one report, they trailed only the masks of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, who’d dramatically escaped from prison only a few months earlier. In the border town of Reynosa, Donald Trump piñatas were said to be selling briskly.
But even as some critics derided Trump’s absurdity, other saw cause for more serious concern. Milenio, the major Mexican daily, fretted that the Trump “joke” might metastasize into something more sinister, as the candidate’s outrageous insults toward women and minorities seemed only to enhance his appeal.
Other high-profile critics included Jorge Ramos, an anchor for the Mexican television giant Univision, whom Trump ejected from a press conference in August and who has called the candidate “dangerous.” And Enrique Krauze, the well-known historian and essayist, has said Trump’s claims of criminality among immigrants were not based in statistics, and that the mass deportations Trump has called for would be catastrophic to the U.S. economy. Without doubt, Trump was a right-wing populist, Krauze observed, but perhaps more on the order of the Italian fascists than the German National Socialists.
Down the street from the Edificio Condesa, in the servants’ stairwell behind an old mansion that used to belong to the painter Miguel Covarrubias, Marco Antonio Davila Hernandez, 64, a garbage collector whose route brings him into the Condesa, articulated a view of the global economy that differed fundamentally with Trump’s.
“In my opinion, he’s wrong. Because the Mexicans who are over there [in the U.S.] are the ones that do everything,” he says. “The ones who do the sowing, the harvesting: if it weren’t for them, what would America be?”
Kosovo: You Don’t Support Trump on Bill Clinton Boulevard
By Valerie Plesch
Here in Europe’s youngest nation, where American flags often fly next to the Albanian and Kosovo flags and streets are named after Bill Clinton and other American leaders, people are left wondering how Donald Trump became so popular.
“I don’t understand a lot about American politics but I think the human rights that America promotes do not match or connect with Trump’s thoughts,” says Nadire Dobratiqi, a 22-year-old philosophy student at the University of Prishtina in the country’s capital. “He is controversial about Muslims—how they can’t enter America—and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Though about 90 percent of Kosovo’s tiny population of 1.8 million identify themselves as Muslim, Kosovo considers itself as a secular nation. Still, Trump’s inflammatory comments don’t sit well with most. “He will never become president,” says Violeta Boraku, 55, while walking through the center of Pristina on the famed Mother Teresa Boulevard. “I don’t like what he has said recently about not letting Muslims come into America.”
For some, his divisive statements bring to mind the region’s recent bloody history. “This whole notion of kicking out the Muslims or having them wear special tags: this is reminiscent of the Krakow ghetto and the Warsaw and Prague ghetto,” says Igor Zlatojev, 26, a Serb living and working in Pristina. “We, in the Balkans, we know the troubles of the ethnic hatred and apartheid systems better than anyone else. So even in Serbia, I think we are dumbfounded, really. How can a democratic country that has had people like George Washington, like Abraham Lincoln, how can the people really allow this to become part of the dominant narrative?”
He is referring to the military conflicts that broke out during the dissolution of Yugoslavia; Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in 2008, almost a decade after 78 days of NATO air strikes—supported by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton—drove Serb forces from its southern province. While this means the nation will most likely support whomever becomes the next president, people are still rooting for another Clinton, as many in Kosovo still equate the country’s freedom from Serbia with Bill.
When asked if Kosovars would choose Trump over Hillary, Yllka Asimi, 27, doesn’t hesitate. “Nah, there’s no chance,” she says. “We’re pro-Clintons.”
Ukraine: “We Will Start Missing Bush.”
By Olga Kovalenko
Rain mixes with snow and melts into a substance resembling muddy oatmeal under the feet of passers-by in Kyiv this morning. People grumble about bad roads, the flu epidemic, the soaring rate of the U.S. dollar, and prices rising every day on practically everything. The U.S. presidential election campaign is hardly on their minds these days, although its most extravagant candidate is already becoming a familiar figure. “Really, I don’t care about Trump. He’s a Democrat, right?” Liza, a young mother says. “I don’t know much about him, but he’s a populist and his haircut is awful,” says a young man named Artem. “If he becomes president, we will start missing Bush.”
“I know about Trump from the Daily Show only, so what can I think about him, really?” says Anastasia, an activist too busy with the rights of women and problems of war veterans to think about the U.S. candidate. The election campaign is followed by Ukrainian TV and newspapers, but not too closely; just enough to give an idea of what’s going on in America.
When the war in Ukraine started and the country was looking for support in the West, the U.S. was a big hope for Ukrainians. It was an equally big disappointment when it declined to get involved militarily in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. “If there was Bush instead of Obama, we would have got more support,” my opinionated dad said at the time, adding, “Though if they gave us arms, we would have probably killed each other straight away. Besides, the economy is far better leverage.” For many people like him, Donald Trump is a representative of a radical Republican party that calls for more military involvement in the world, which can be a help or a danger to people in the disputed areas.
For many others, he is also a successful businessman deserving respect and even admiration. And, they ask, if an actor can become a governor, as Arnold Schwarzenegger did, why can’t a businessman become president?
“Frankly, he is unpleasant as a person, but he is a stunning politician,” says Ksenia, who works in public relations. “His statements are daring and racist and it’s not what you hear from regular politicians. He stands out. And he reminds me of Zhirinovsky.” Vladimir Zhirinovsky is a Russian politician whose statements are so absurd that if he hadn’t been in politics for decades, he would be dismissed as a clown. His bizarre speeches, in which he’s proposed everything from retaking Alaska to calling for nuclear strikes in Chechnya, are rumored to be a method of testing public opinion. When one mentions Trump in Ukraine, the first image that comes to most people’s minds is the already familiar Zhirinovsky: outrageous, but not stupid.
“I even studied Trump in a master class,” says Vlad, who is involved in politics and security. “Why shouldn’t one admire him? We should take his model of success and use it.”
Canada: Sorry, But We Told You So
By Benson Cowan
There are only a few things that Canadians enjoy more than talking about the weather (it’s been real mild up here this winter, eh) and making the perfect apology (so sorry for relying on this cliché). And one of those things is saying I told you so.
Ever since he threw his Make America Great hat into the presidential ring, Canadians have been warning our American cousins not to underestimate Donald Trump. Don’t dismiss him as a joke, as a passing expression of the electorate’s frustration, as a flash of nicotine-stain-yellow hair in the pan. Just because he seems to be a whole lot of batshit crazy doesn’t mean he won’t get elected.
We—especially those of us who live in Toronto—know that being batshit crazy is no bar to getting elected.
Yeah. I’m talking about Rob Ford.
At first glance, the two men have a lot in common. They are outspoken populists who feed on negativity and discord. They are shameless liars. They are both notionally right-wing but will bend their ideology beyond recognition to pander for votes or defend a crony or just grab a headline. They both have crude but effective political skills and don’t hesitate to attack—or worse, counterattack—with reckless, hyperbolic fury. And they are both members of the elite whose appeal to the white, lumpen, disillusioned, restless middle class runs deep.
You can live to regret waving off the populist clown candidate
In June, when Trump was still polling under 8 percent, Rob Ford himself noted the similarities and predicted success. “They can laugh all they want but Mr. Trump is a very successful man and a very good candidate for president,” he told the Toronto Sun. “Very few thought I would win the mayor’s race in 2010 and they were wrong.”
In August, as Trump’s campaign topped 20 percent, columnist Edward Keenan wrote in the Toronto Star that, “Toronto learned from hard experience that you can live to regret waving off the populist clown candidate.” He also interviewed a political consultant who was a key figure in Ford’s victory as saying Trump “could win this thing” if he “just stayed on message.”
“America,” Keenan wrote, “you’ve been warned.”
In December, with Trump flirting with 40 percent, in a column addressed “Dear Americans,” Toronto columnist Marcus Gee noted that most of the political elite in this city failed to appreciate Ford’s appeal to his base—and the power of that base—until way too late. “Don’t make Toronto’s mistake,” he wrote. “Don’t underestimate Donald Trump.”
Even Canada’s shiny, happy new prime minister has weighed in. In November, he commented to the BBC on “the rise of the anti-politician, whether it was our own Rob Ford in Toronto … or Donald Trump.”
For all of the similarities, there are significant differences. Ford was a career politician with no proven skills outside of bare-knuckle municipal politics. He oozed with desperate, grimy failure. Nor was he terribly bright. And he was only a mayor, a job with very little actual power up here. And, of course, he was a sad, self-destructive, unrepentant glutton whose appetites, addictions, lack of self-control, and denial made him a figure of public ridicule across the globe.
Trump, on the other hand, for all his surface ridiculousness, has a long record of success, of building businesses, of creating and developing a powerful brand. He is smart and ruthless and disciplined. Despite his three marriages and two spectacular divorces, he has a bright, photogenic family that softens his otherwise reptilian mien. And he is running for what is still, even accounting for depreciation, the most powerful job in the world. These differences make him a far more powerful a political force than the one that dragged Toronto down for four miserable years.
And as Trump appears poised to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, and as his poll numbers against Hilary Clinton in the national head-to-head get better, we’d just like to say one thing.
We told you so.
Illustrations by Richard Manders