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February 21, 2019

My biggest fear over US presidential polls

US Presidential elections
US Presidential elections

Some Kenyan voters took offence in February 2013, when US Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson warned them over the presidential election, saying “choices have consequences”.

Carson was just repeating a mere truism that all parents and teachers should impart to children, which is everything we think and say and do has consequences for ourselves and for others.

Following the penultimate US presidential debate last weekend, some Kenyans, myself included, in a moment of pure schadenfreude (revelling in another’s misfortune), felt it was apt to remind our American friends of the phrase on social media. 

Looking at the “sudden rush” by members of the Republican Party to condemn Donald Trump after hearing tapes of him boasting of his sexual assaults on women, one wonders where these same people’s minds were when their man was being a racist, a xenophobe, a religious bigot, etc. Did their ears only just suddenly unblock?

For me, the most frightening thing about the US presidential election is that Trump might yet win. This despite the critical views of outsiders and our friends in America itself, including the arm-chair and bar-stool voters who talk up a storm but never quite make it to the polling booth.

I worry that most Americans who vote will be like James Firos, a 68-year-old US voter interviewed by the USA Today newspaper and who said: “I hate to say it, but I would vote for Donald Trump. Not because I support him, I don’t like how he affronts and denigrates people. I don’t like that. But I would vote for Trump only because I see the better possibilities of economic policy coming forward. Not much appeals to me about Donald Trump, except for the fact that I understand the phenomenon from Donald Trump in what he is doing is actually poking his finger in the eyes of both parties and the ruling class and the elites. In Washington DC, I know for a fact that you cannot distinguish between the right and the left because they’re all in bed together. This collusion, K Street, J Street, money simply passes back and forth between them and enriches them. And I, being a labour union officer for 23 years, and I came out of the blue collar. We are not doing things to make things better for the working class. And I take a real affront to that, because those are the people that I resonate, connect, and grew up with.”

At the end of the day, just as the world learned when the US elected George W Bush over Al Gore or when UK voters plumbed for Brexit, or even how US officials saw the eventual Kenyan presidential choice in 2013 — the chattering classes may think one thing, but like it or not, the voter on the ground sees it quite differently.

Poll of the day