Spending a week in Europe during Election Week tested my character. As I walked around one of the world’s largest farm shows with a nametag emblazoned with an easy-to-spot American flag, I attracted more personal attention than this journalist received in a decade on the job.
The questions ranged from safe, uncommitted and discrete to outright queries about who did I vote for. I tried stoically not to reveal a clue about who received my vote in my effort to maintain a professional lifetime of objectivity and a week’s worth of smooth international relationship building.
But after a week of repeated questions about “Who got your vote” or “Do you like Trump,” I ended up settling on a series of rote responses:
“Yes, I voted before I left.”
“We did not have the best choices this time.”
“The election is too close to name a winner. We will know more in the morning.”
“Trump won and our country will have to see how he does.”
“I don’t know how to feel until Trump gets into office and does something.”
Nearly every booth or exhibit that I approached elicited a wave of thumb’s up or “Trump, yes!” comments. Then came the battery of questions.
I am impressed — and stunned — over the European interest.
One of the Italian Trade Agency staff assigned to my media delegation tried to explain this interest. Europeans follow closely international news, including American news.
He explained that many Italians favored Trump because many did not like Hillary Clinton’s previous positions on war.
“They are afraid of her,” he said, adding that many believe Clinton “rushes” into war too quickly based on her campaign comments and actions as secretary of state.
They feared that she would lead the world to war, he said.
Hearing this kind of summary while standing overseas was profound for me. The ag community, not just Europeans, around the world watch us.
While I have known since grade school that the U.S. is a dominating economy and is a world leader, I have never heard foreigners state their acknowledgment of this global position. I was at once proud, and uncertain, for the U.S.
I did not know about the rioting until I was on the plane home five days after the election and heard about it from a stylish Parisian woman heading to Florida to be with her American husband.
I was confused at first, surprised that so many citizens would not accept the election results and embarrassed to have been caught off guard by the news.
“Now you know what it’s like for us in Europe. Every election we have to choose between crazies. They are all crazies in government. You learn to be patient between elections. Maybe one day a good one will come along,” the woman said.
I think I’ll make it a point to stay home for the next presidential election.