LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Since U.S. news plays prominently around the world, the question I am asked most often right now is what I think will happen in the U. S. presidential elections. Specifically, people wonder what I think of Donald Trump.
Those of you who know me know I am a liberal Democrat. For those of you who don’t, I am a liberal Democrat.
In one online poll, my views aligned 86 percent with Bernie Sanders, 68 percent with Hillary Clinton, and 30 percent or less with all the Republican candidates, although Ohio Gov. John Kasich scored the highest.
So to say I am appalled by the candidacy of Donald Trump is an understatement. Embarrassed is a better word.
In case you’re wondering, the whole world is watching, and most are as baffled and horrified as the 85 percent of sane Americans who are not currently voting for Trump.
Members of the British Parliament, who considered banning him from entering the UK, have called him stupid, dangerous, and a fool who utters poisonous words.
German newspaper Der Spiegel called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. The French newspaper Liberation called Trump a nightmare turned reality. A professor of international relations at the University of Zurich described Trump as an elephant in a china shop who would provoke new conflicts.
A common theme among my circle of friends and colleagues is that they never imagined we could do any worse than former President George W. Bush — until this happened. Now, they seriously think we’ve lost our minds.
A Peruvian friend living in Lima summarized Trump in much the same way that a growing chorus of American voices has.
“He is an asshole,” my friend said. “It will be devastating for the U.S. having him as a president. I know it reflects the protest of many citizens when he talks without filter about many issues, voicing his rage as the one of many. But politics is about more than that. ”
A coworker from France offered a comparison to European politics.
“The problem is he sometimes has a point, but we can never figure out what he thinks. The rest of the times he is just outrageous — he’s more of a brand than a person,” my colleague said. “But from my French point of view, he’s dangerous. He sounds like the far right Populist Party, which we in Europe consider step one to fascism.”
A friend from Israel was more cynical: “I think Trump never realized he would go this far, and for him this is another conquest rather than a race for the presidency.”
Others just shake their heads and look at their shoes, silent in their absence of comment.
As the #NeverTrump movement has ramped up in the states, I even got a marriage proposal last week from a disheartened American who can’t imagine living in the country under a future President Trump.
The most important element here is credibility. If Trump gets elected, the rest of the world will be laughing at Americans, moving us from the superpower of the world to the laughingstock of the world, eroding all the gains we’ve made while President Obama has been in office, especially in foreign relations.
It would be like South Korea electing a President Psy. (You know, of Gangnam Style fame.)
Or if David Hasselhoff became prime minister of Germany. (They do love him there).
Or if Justin Bieber ran for prime minister of Canada 20 years from now. (Let’s make that 30 years from now, just to be safe.)
But I’m really not kidding — that’s how absurd Donald Trump as a presidential contender appears to the rest of the world.
Still, hidden among the incredulity, I find small pieces of sympathy in this political circus. One Scottish friend told me: “I know he’s crazy, but I have to say, I kinda agree with some of the things he says. They make sense. I can see why people like him.”
She was a few beers in at the time so I’m going to give her a pass on this one, but I was alarmed and disheartened by her comment. How are otherwise rational and educated people buying into this madness?
For the first time ever, I liked a political post made by one of my (few) Republican friends this past week. Actually, I liked not only one post but three posts by three different Republicans. The common theme? Each one condemned Trump and encouraged their fellow Republicans to boycott Trump and instead vote for Sen. Marco Rubio in the Super Tuesday primary. Although I don’t support Rubio — and although xenophobic bible salesman Sen. Ted Cruz actually won my home state of Oklahoma — I noticed I was not the only Democrat who crossed party lines to agree with their friends’ calls to boycott Trump.
I would not have predicted that the mutual hatred of Trump would unite the deeply philosophically divided Republicans and Democrats, but if that’s what it takes, then let’s go.
We don’t have much time left, and the whole world is watching.