Brian, the guy who sells wire animals in front of our neighborhood supermarket in Cape Town, South Africa, had a message for me – his American customer: “Please don’t vote for Trump!” Brian is from Zimbabwe and knows a thing or two about corrupt and brutal presidents who have angry, violent supporters ready to do their bidding.
He was relieved when I assured him that I was going home soon to work to elect Clinton and defeat Trump.
As wonderful as our seven weeks have been here in our second home, I suffered from extreme FOMO – clearly not for the record heat and humidity but for the election season going on too far away.
Even with a six-hour time difference, I tried valiantly to watch the party conventions in July. I imposed on friends with satellite TV to catch some of CNN International. I struggled with our inadequate wifi and suffered through repeated, endless buffering to watch the major speeches from both conventions, finally figuring out that C-Span radio online offered the easiest way to keep up although annoying my husband who couldn’t figure out why I was still awake after midnight. Meanwhile, my Facebook feed was filled with photos of friends and colleagues grimacing in Cleveland and partying in Philly.
I doubt that there was a huge audience here in Cape Town for the convention coverage. The newspapers had very little. But interest in the American election is high!
From the very first day here in early July, when the carpenter working at our building asked what we thought of Trump, everyone who hears our accents offers an opinion or seeks ours. When we told the carpenter how we felt about the then-presumptive Republican candidate, he calmly told us not to worry because “Trump can’t possibly win.”
That was also the opinion of the man who filled our gas tank at the Shell station on the N2, and the street vendor selling souvenirs in the Simonstown harbor. Our reluctance to share their absolute certainty led to some interesting discussions about the U.S. election system and the “angry” backlash, a phenomenon that played a role in the surprising results in the August 3 South African municipal elections, too.
Even our more conservative business friendly acquaintance who would ordinarily favor any U.S. Republican candidate was appalled when he heard about some of what Trump was saying and doing.
Somehow many people here understand what’s at stake in this presidential election – not just for the U.S. but for the world. They cringe at Trump’s arrogance and belligerent hate speech. They know what happens when racist demagogues take the reins of power backed up by angry, violent followers (this is South Africa after all).
In their way, like Brian, they are imploring Americans to reject Trump, even those who refuse to believe that Trump has a chance of winning.
Make no mistake: the world is watching, waiting, and worrying about whether Trump will prevail in November. That’s the message I’m taking home from South Africa.