A few weeks ago, I visited the local senior centre my great grandmother attends, in the outskirts of Buffalo, New York. From here I gained a small insight into how elderly people in the US North East perceive the upcoming election.
It is a fact, seemingly universally acknowledged, that with age comes a shift to the right. It would, therefore, not be surprising to go into a senior centre and to find a general support of Republican or conservative causes, even the the supposedly ‘liberal north-east’ of the USA. Therefore, the Donald Trump advocacy I found when I entered the arts and crafts room of the grey, air conditioned, complex was expected. As a British person abroad I had to accept the Trump movement, a seemingly alien phenomenon, far exaggerated from the familiar small scale populism of UKIP and Nigel Farage. Trump is playing on American nationalism, and it is not shocking that there is no appeal for individuals from other nationalities.
However, I was not faced with a wall of Trump support. While the majority of these individuals were undoubtedly going to vote for him, it was not a wall of positives about the enigmatic orange man. What came first was the hatred of Hillary Clinton. Foremost she was a liar. The controversy surrounding her emails combined with a sense of personal manipulation, in stark contrast to Trump’s heart on sleeve approach. These contributed to the impression that Hillary was in this campaign for her own selfish interests, and would be willing to do anything to get into power. This sat awkwardly with the members of the senior centre. They hold on to the notion of politics as a vocation, and as such, Trump’s wealth served to show why he has no real motivation to enter the political arena.
Following on from this, I was hit by a barrage of claims that Hillary represented the vested interests of Wall Street, Washington lobbyists, and any other establishment group you should want to ascribe to her. Bilderberg, Soros, and Rothschild were all words thrown around by one of the more animated members of the group, seemingly the only member of the group with an internet connection at home. It was amazing to see how, even to the moderate, more reserved members of the group, a multi-billionaire representing the Republican party has managed to become the outsider, anti-establishment figure in a presidential election. The Democrats, in selecting the wife of a former president, have managed to choose one of the few individuals who are closer to the ruling economic clique of the USA than Donald J Trump.
The fact that Hillary was sleeping with Bill served to damn her as a member of the elite, but the fact that she tolerated Bill sleeping with anyone else served to fully condemn her in their eyes. It was at this point that the women in the group became more engaged, slipping away from their other conversations to contribute to the growing discussion. They saw her tolerance of Bill’s infidelity as unacceptable, a female cuckoldry, leaving her powerless when she was competing for the office of commander in chief. If this woman tolerates this, then she is unfit to lead.
It was at this point that my great aunt intervened to de-escalate the conversation, remembering I was on holiday and not volunteering to run a old folks debating club. For most of the individuals in the senior centre, every election threatens to be their last, but I the impression I was left with was that this one has ignited more passion than usual. There was no sign of the typical conversational compromises such as ‘oh they’re all the same anyway aren’t they’.The speed at which this level of hatred for Hillary emerged, while talking to a visitor from another country, astounded me.
Trump’s constant gaffes, ludicrous promises, and complete lack of support in the Latino and African American groups, would indicate an impending collapse in the polls. However, this sheer hatred and distrust of Hillary shows how Trump could muster more support than expected. Had the Democrats managed to put forward a candidate that commanded personal integrity, and ideological centrism to accommodate lost Republicans, they could decimate Trump. As it stands, there will be a Democratic president, but a tighter competition than there ever should have been. In this election, Hillary hate may figure more than Trump love.