I can’t stop reading articles, watching videos and talking about the U.S. election and Donald Trump.
I wake up in the morning, look at my phone and scan my updates for the latest on the GOP leader’s antics from the night before.
I have watched or listened to all three presidential debates in their entirety. I have laughed my way through the SNL spoofs, too. I read the myriad social media posts on my feeds that preach to the converted and provide me with thousands of reasons to congratulate myself for my disdain of Trump and everything he represents.
I’m pretty sure I’m just one of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Canadians who can’t turn away from this train wreck to the south of us. Even the CBC ran the debates live on its flagship Radio One station. In the last five days alone, the Globe and Mail has posted more than 100 stories mentioning Trump to its online site.
From conversations I’ve had over the last few months with my American friends, I believe I may be more fixated on this election than they are.
It’s been an evolution: what started as pure morbid curiosity, voyeurism and a healthy dose of sanctimoniousness has morphed into astonishment, incredulity and legitimate fear.
My fascination with the 2016 U.S. election goes way beyond concern about our economic welfare, trading relationship and the central question of whether the Trudeaus will ever be invited to the White House for another state dinner.
It comes from a realization that the neighbours I thought I knew so well, the ones whose culture – from television to fashion to music – I have adopted so readily, are in fact utterly foreign to me. I cannot comprehend how people could even consider voting for Trump, no matter they feel about Hillary Clinton. Yet he’s still polling at somewhere around 40 per cent of the popular vote, versus Clinton’s 45.
It’s like realizing someone in your family has been holding back on a big secret and they’re not who you thought they were.
This understanding could easily make me feel more high and mighty about our Canadian ideals and the way we like to think we treat each other in this country – except that we have our own dark secrets here too (case in point, the Truth and Reconciliation findings).
Instead, over the last few weeks, as this campaign descends further down the rabbit hole of nastiness, I find that my judgment of the American people is shifting from condemnation towards curiosity and empathy.
Just what does your life have to look like for you to consider Trump an answer to your problems?
Contrary to what we’d like to believe, Trump isn’t only attractive to under-educated, middle-aged, gun-toting white men. He has tapped into something much more pervasive – and ultimately much more challenging to address – a sense hopelessness for the future that has infected much of the U.S.
Globalization has meant that millions of Americans can no longer count on a reliable standard of living. With nothing to look forward to for themselves or their children, hopelessness is a powerful poison. We’ve witnessed its effect time and again in the Middle East. More recently we watched British citizens vote against their best interests in favour of Brexit. I believe that the Trump phenomenon is another manifestation of this same type of hopelessness.
Like most Canadians, I sincerely hope that Clinton takes the victory on November 8. More important, though, I hope she finds her own empathy for Trump supporters, and that the Democrats use the power of their win to ignite hope and start on the long journey of healing their broken country.