home Opinion An External Interest: Why are we outsiders so fascinated with the American elections?

An External Interest: Why are we outsiders so fascinated with the American elections?

Writes Nathan O’ Connor

As the United States 2020 election slowly drudges to halt amidst discussions of recount and a spectre that is reluctant to leave the White House, we Europeans or even Irish people look at the election with an interest. But – why? If you take one look at Twitter or Instagram, modern American politics is discussed everywhere and the election has only intensified this. I can say for myself that I stayed up for until 5:00am watching some of the election live streams.

America is known as a destination for immigrants amidst the dreams of prosperity, a similar view to its past façade where it was an escape from a troubled land. A large section of my family moved over to Boston in Massachusetts and many people I know also have lots of relatives still living in the US. My friend Daniel is Irish-American, he moved back from America three years ago and believes that us outsiders should focus more on our own internal issues and to that statement: I half agree.

While I pondered this idea in my head during our discussion, I thought “He’s right, we have our own issues and why should an election an ocean away bother me so much and waste my time”. Then Seán chimed in – “Donald Trump is a symbol of the decline in compassion and unity in our world”, he was completely correct. The incumbent President Trump is a divisive figure in our world, which is fully natural for any politician but he isn’t your regular run-of-the-mill political now is he? Whilst we might want to pretend that the U.S isn’t the centre of the Western world, it’s effectively true. The idea that a global leader can hold repugnant allegations around him, can be publicly racist and one who supports blatant and reprehensible tribalism is truly a harrowing one.

I sometimes feel annoyed when I see young Irish people who know extensively more about American politics rather than the mere basics of Irish politics. It’s an interesting sight and definitely an outcome of our ever-connected world. Instagram and Twitter have become the new public forum, where ideas clash and figurative jabs are thrown. I can say at least that I find it good that more and more people are gaining interest in current affairs and modern politics, albeit from a country across the globe.

Donald Trump’s appointment four years ago has sparked new ideas that still float and will continue to float around modern politics, His withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords have thrown a spanner into the works for reduction in emissions and his blaming of fake news has caused a wave of distrust in media outlets which has lead to an increase in popularity of conspiracy theories. One could say this is talking about a distant politician in a foreign land – perhaps you’re overreacting, maybe you should focus more on your own country’s issues? – This is somewhat true but at the same time hypocritical. Donald Trump can be diagnosed as a symptom in the disease of a lack of compassion in politics, when what the world truly needs at this current moment is compassion and unity in the face of adversity. The rise of Trumpian politics is a small lighter that can burn a bridge.

An opposition to the Trump presidency is the main take of those who discuss American politics in Ireland and also Europe. They feel the same thing as I – compassion and understanding is needed and not divisive finger-pointing. Whilst I feel somewhat off about those previously mentioned who pay all their attention to American politics while there are extreme social or economic issues in their own country, it isn’t a totally terrible thing. Compassionate social policy discussions can teach us how to develop our own society and that is what we need. There are homeless people sleeping on our cold and harsh streets, there are asylum seekers living in bedlam and squalor, there are people who have dreams of an escape – something that has to be better than what is.

We, Irish people, need to develop our own thoughts, ideas and responses to the growing social issues in our country whilst also grasping the emergence of unity and compassion as a partner to bring along with us. We’re fascinated by our American neighbours because they show us what can happen to us if we let it happen, tribes can re-emerge and fury can erupt.