By Karel Dejonghe
Elections are quite possibly the most basic and important elements of democracies all over the world. Elections in the United States are quite possibly the most important elections in the world. People everywhere are looking towards the big nation across the ocean (for me it is). I have always been very interested in what happens across the big pond, and this year it is no different. As part of my education as a political scientist, and later as I specialized in international politics and relations, my interests in American Politics have grown through the years. But it is only in the last two years that my understanding of the system has really grown. Now, by staying in Boston for a prolonged period of time, I have the perfect onset to test my knowledge on what happened earlier this week.
Normally it would be hard for me to follow the presidential debates due to the time difference. But thanks to the opportunity to study at Northeastern I was able to watch the debates live. I watched them all with great interest but I was kind of disappointed. (As I have read online and heard from my fellow students, I was not the only one who felt that way). I feel the debates lacked some essentials. Not all topics were covered, and when they did the candidates never elaborated on the policies they were going to undertake. This is quite essential for a student in public policy. The reasons why these debates were mediocre at best have already been extensively covered by various newspapers, blogs and television shows. Nevertheless, I am grateful to reside in the United States during these glorious times for democracy.
As an unknowing European, I had expected that the election would be expressed more openly. This is how we perceive it from the media and movies. But, in Boston, I find that’s not really the case. Maybe it’s just because of the strangeness of these elections were negative campaigning and scandals have reached unknown heights that people want to distance themselves from it. This is a sad statement to make, because people should be proud of the democratic processes of their country. It remains to be seen if the election in about four years will be of the same caliber.
What happened Tuesday night was something the majority of people did not see coming. During the day people from back home kept asking me how things were going here, which shows again how much everybody else is preoccupied with how these elections unfold. After class, I went to Scholars downtown with fellow students to follow the elections. I was kind of disappointed about how few people were on the streets or in public places to watch the results. As the evening grew late and the chances of the Democratic candidate lessened, more and more people started leaving. It was not exactly what I expected of witnessing the elections in the U.S. People back home were still following the results pouring in or were getting out of bed early to watch the ending, while constantly asking me for details. When Donald Trump won Florida, it became clear that he was to be the 45th president of the United States of America. I guess a lot of people were struck by this because I saw a couple of people crying. In the meantime, most of the Europeans I know back home were expressing that they wanted to know what effects this could have on our continent. What the future holds we cannot say. But what we do know is that these elections have repercussions for the entire world. So, I hope this was the right choice.
Karel Dejonghe is a Belgian graduate student at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. He is currently enrolled in the Master of Public Policy as part of a semester abroad experience, which is an addition to his graduate studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium. Karel has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science and a Graduate Diploma in International Politics. He has traveled all over the world, and this time it’s the U.S. You can mostly find Karel watching a sports game at the Marino Center or at a bar. Karel can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or Twitter.