US Politics from a European Lens

Written by Joy Yang

As a current exchange student from America in France as part of Stern’s International Business Exchange program, small talk with both local and exchange students all inevitably leads to the question, “So, where are you from?” Yet, before the words, “the United States,” even leaves my mouth, I already know the question that will follow: “So what do you think of Trump?”

When I first arrived in France, I was surprised by how many of the European students I met kept up with U.S. politics. Trump, who often headlines both American and European news, was a topic of conversation that most just couldn’t refrain from. Almost every student I met had an opinion on the issue, and they were keen on letting me know.

“For most of us,” Moritz Krn, a fourth-year German exchange student at HEC Paris explained, “we really dislike Trump. We see him as a joke.”

Moritz’s sentiment towards Trump isn’t that far off from that of many other Europeans. According to Forbes, in a survey given to 60,000 people across 14 EU countries, less than 4% of Europeans said that they trusted Donald Trump. This makes the percentage of Europeans that trust Trump even lower than the percentage of Americans who do, which is already at a mere 18%.

However, Moritz made sure to point out that there was a clear distinction between Trump and the American people. “We love America, but not Trump. I think that in general, Americans are just very friendly people, so I don’t believe that Trump reflects the views of everyone in America. I’m just still a bit baffled at how he was elected president.”

For other European students, Trump’s bizarre and embarrassing dictations allow them to feel a sense of schadenfreude towards a country that has, as Filippo Piccinini, a second-year master’s exchange student from Italy called it, “a superiority complex.”

“Trump embodies the stereotype that Europeans often think of when they think of America,” Filippo explained. “America often operates to serve its own self-interest, without considering the impact that it will have on the other countries around the world. It has this sense of superiority and entitlement, which is why seeing Trump making a fool of himself as the president of the United States is so entertaining.”

However, others believe that the rise of Trump stems directly from America’s flawed election system. Katha Gehr, a nursing student from Germany stated, “I don’t understand why the US only has a two-party system. In Germany, we have a multi-party system. Anyone can vote for a party that represents their views.” Unlike the U.S., where two major parties control the government, Germany currently has seven different parties with seats in the parliament. Not only does this ensure that a diverse range of opinions are represented, it prevents extreme bilateralism where one single party ends up creating all the laws or making all the governmental decisions.

Even with Europe being halfway across the world from America, it seems that there is at least one thing people from both places have in common. With every tweet, every news article posted, and every breaking news update, all eyes are on Trump. 

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