The Bizarre and Historic US Presidential Election

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Ted Eytan via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Dumpster fire.” “Train wreck.” “Nightmare.” Those are only a few of the choice words that were used to describe the US presidential race between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidate Donald Trump. The long, painful 18 months of campaigning, debate and scandal dominated the headlines not only in the US, but also around the world.

Americans finally went to the polls on November 8, 2016, to put the matter to rest. A majority of people voted for career politician Hillary Clinton, but businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump nabbed the presidency with more electoral votes.

The road to Trump's win has been a strange and surreal one for many people watching the election from afar. His candidacy — and subsequent popularity and victory — has sparked fears that American democracy is in danger. For Iranians who lived through two terms of the populist presidency of Mahmood Ahmadinejad, Trump's habit of discrediting his opponents, his racist and xenophobic message and his misogyny feel familiar.

Cartoon by Mana Neyestani for IranWire.

Cartoon by Mana Neyestani for IranWire.

To Venezuelans, there are similarities to be found between Trump and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Both cultivated an inflammatory presence on traditional and social media to attract audiences in the millions, which one small town in Macedonia is cashing in on, at least in Trump's case.

People from the post-Soviet region see traces of their own countries’ systems in the new US president — no matter who wins. A victory by Hillary Clinton, a longtime politician whose husband served as US president in between the presidencies of George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, might have bolstered the view that US politics is dominated by a handful of powerful families. A win by Trump, on the other hand, could be a blow to liberal Central Asians who point to Western politics as something fundamentally different than their own.

With accusations of voter fraud being tossed around during the primaries and violence occurring at some of Trump's rallies, a Tumblr user named Ragamberi imagined what news coverage would sound like if African media reported the US elections in the same tone that Western media reports on African elections. The results were biting:

Explaining the weekend’s clashes, America experts – based at Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo, Mozambique, Southern Africa – say Illinois has longstanding, deep-seated ethnic and sectarian tensions that are sure to boil over if the Obama regime does not allow UN peacekeepers before the hotly contested polls in November.

The presidential race has given China's propaganda authorities plenty to work with. After the televised debates between Clinton and Trump, organizations affiliated with the Chinese state and the Chinese Communist Party promoted a spoof video of the two candidates. The video, which depicted Clinton and Trump singing love songs to each other, went viral on Chinese social media.

In September, a visit from Trump left Mexicans feeling upset, not only at the candidate but also at their own president, Enrique Peña Nieto, for inviting him. Trump has regularly made disparaging comments toward Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, and launched his campaign with the promise that he would build a wall on the Mexico-US border to stop undocumented immigration — and that Mexico would pay for its construction.

At a time when bilateral relations between Moscow and Washington have become increasingly strained, Russia has figured prominently in the race to the White House. The election has been marred by allegations that Russian authorities hacked the Democratic National Committee and speculation about Trump's fondness for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Diplomatic chest-thumping aside, many ordinary Russians are following the Clinton-Trump political match-up with interest. One Russia blogger, Ilya Varlamov, traveled across the United States to chronicle the presidential race:

Americans have found themselves in such a tricky situation that I’ve even started to feel a little bit sorry for them. Imagine: the presidential elections are fast approaching and there's no one to choose from! It's as if you were given the choice between Zyuganov [the head of the Russian Communist Party] and Zhirinovsky [the head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia]. It's awful to think about, but that's what the Americans have done to themselves.

On one side there's Clinton, the old lady who everyone’s had enough of, who faints every now and then, and who'll die at any moment. On the other side there’s Trump, the delusional clown who has made a show out of the elections, who spews all kinds of bullshit, and who openly mocks everyone. And you ask, who is there to vote for?

The American Dream: A ‘home and life without fear’

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” reads part of a poem engraved on the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The 2016 election cycle saw that sentiment dragged through the mud. As Global Voices contributor Omar Mohammed from Tanzania observed in his post-election piece “America, I Used to Love You“:

…the year I lived in Arizona only served to confirm my admiration for the US. I would say to people, ‘America is the only country I have ever lived in whose diversity was so welcoming that you can be exactly who you are and easily find acceptance in a community of like-minded people.’ I even penned a love letter, waxing lyrical about her greatness.

Then Donald Trump happened.

Trump mounted a large part of his campaign on singling out the “other.” In response to violence like the San Bernadino mass shooting, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — which many legal experts think would be unconstitutional. He claimed he remembered seeing thousands of Muslims in the United States celebrating the 9/11 attacks, which local police say didn't happen.

And he also wouldn't rule out the idea of forcing Muslims in the US to register in a database or carry special ID.

His statements came against a backdrop of increasing hate crimes against Muslim Americans. Surveillance of Muslim communities and places of worship is already the norm; for her part, Clinton didn't give much indication that she would change this reality, either.

Trump has also been accused of racism against black people multiple times throughout his career. He was a vocal supporter of the “birther” movement, which questioned if President Barack Obama was indeed a US citizen. And on the campaign trail, Trump was slow to condemn white supremacists who back his candidacy.

This, at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was highlighting racism in US law enforcement.

While some groups of people were shoved into the spotlight, others were largely forgotten, such as the Native populations of the US. The incendiary presidential race monopolized attention as an indigenous movement to block an incursion on their lands by the Dakota Access Pipeline played out in the country's Midwest.

With a country so divided and inequality so rampant, Global Voices contributor Tori Egherman made a touching plea for unity and equality two months before the November vote:

Now, more than ever, it’s time for the United States to make good on its promise to its citizens and its promise to those seeking refuge. Life. Liberty. Home. We have to make the minorities among us feel safe. That is the very least of our responsibilities.

We have to put aside our own pain and our own past and all that baggage we carry and make the American Dream of home and life without fear real for everyone.

Even though many Global Voices contributors cannot vote in the US, we felt invested in this American presidential race like few elections before. That's why every Wednesday between October 26 and the election, we got together to talk about the latest news coming out of the US elections: our hopes, worries and fears.

You can watch the series below:

Read our complete coverage of the US presidential election: