As an American now living in Ireland, it’s been a year since I last stepped foot on native soil. In that year, Donald Trump emerged from the field of 17 as the first Republican presidential candidate since Dwight Eisenhower to not have previously served as an elected official. And since Eisenhower was a general in WW II, Trump notably is the first GOP candidate to not have had any form of prior government experience since lawyer Wendell Willkie in 1940.
Over on the Democratic side, another first is that Hillary Clinton’s name will forever be highlighted in the record books as the first female candidate (from a major political party) for US President.
With the primaries and both the Republican and Democratic conventions behind us, the heat is really on. Not only because temperatures in the States are record setting this August – but because now with the General Election upon us, America is truly in a first-of-its-kind race for the White House.
I won’t try to demonstrate any broad science that political polls may offer, but during my time back in the States, I’ll try to interview people from as many different walks of life as I can find – to give you who may be living abroad and watching with interest and perhaps trepidation a little insight into the minds of some of the Americans who will be casting a ballot in this historic election.
Jim from New Jersey
I landed yesterday. Sunday. In Philadelphia. Host to the just-ended Democratic Convention, the city’s airport was still brilliant in red, white and blue. Shops were still stocked with convention paraphernalia like glasses, corkscrews and T-shirts sporting Hillary Clinton’s face onto Rosie the Riveter’s muscle-pumping likeness with the straightforward words, “HILLARY 2016.” Or the other T-shirt with Donald Trump’s image and the more snarky slogan, “WE SHALL OVERCOMB.”
I posted a photo of my eight-year-old daughter, Lulu, on Facebook as she held up the Hillary cork screw. It elicited a slew of quips from my Stateside friends: “She should be locked up.” “She sells favors to foreign governments.” Trump didn’t escape either as one friend blasted him for his recent comments that he wanted to “hit DNC speakers.”
The political battle-lines were clear. And I thought I’d landed in the City of Brotherly Love.
Earlier, my American Airlines flight had lifted-off quietly enough from Shannon, Ireland. It didn’t take long, however, to notice that the plane was old and outdated. Among other things, it was lacking, as Lulu quickly pointed out, her expected modern convenience of individual video screens in the seats.
According to our flight attendant, the plane was 35 years old. She apologized in one frustrated breath that the movie projector to the single overhead screen was broken so my daughter couldn’t watch Pan as advertised in the seat-back magazine, that the bathrooms weren’t equipped to handle the er, “needs” of the passengers on a long overseas flight and that there wasn’t even enough trash bin space to hold the used cups and sandwich boxes and other garbage. Instead, the excess refuse was piled high on top of the metal aisle carts.
My seat-mate on the flight from Shannon to Phily was named Jim. He and I agreed that many of the flight attendants’ grumpy demeanors likely stemmed from the expressed consternation they were feeling with the conditions of the aged plane.
Jim was returning to the US after a vacation in Ireland with his wife of almost 50 years and their children and grandchildren.
A New Jersey resident, Jim was a retired operations manager from Wawa, an East Coast convenience store chain. He told me he’d worked his whole life for Wawa.
“It’s named after the wild geese or “wawa” that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow described in the poem Hiawatha,” Jim explained.
He also confided to me that the company had left him with a healthy 401K plan and retirement package. He and his wife were considering taking a National Geographic sponsored world tour for their upcoming 50th anniversary – at 75 thousand dollars a person.
While in Ireland, Jim’s family had toured the Dingle Peninsula, the Jameson whiskey plant and played a lot of golf. They had also stayed at “Donald Trump’s golf course” as Jim described it in Doonbeg, County Clare.
“I noticed the Irish really don’t care for Trump,” Jim said. “Especially in Doonbeg.”
In many ways, as a retired professional who isn’t disenfranchised about losing a manufacturing job, Jim doesn’t fit the easy profile of a Trump supporter. But Jim told me he is planning to vote for Donald Trump as the next American president.
He voted for Trump earlier in the New Jersey primary too.
When I asked him why he chose the Republican candidate over the Democrat, he immediately blamed Hillary Clinton for “messing up Benghazi.”
“She got those soldiers killed,” he flatly stated.
(In fact, none of the four men killed in 2012 in Benghazi were active soldiers. Ambassador Chris Stevens, his information officer and two former CIA operatives died in the attack.)
Jim added that he’s not one to defend Donald on his comments against women, or Muslims like Khizr Khan, the father of the fallen US Army Captain or about calling on Russia to find Clinton’s missing emails.
“I’m just ready to see him shake things up,” he told me simply, when I asked him to give me one reason why he was going to vote for Trump.
He said he doesn’t trust politicians and he’s tired of things as they are.
Like that aged plane with the piled up garbage, Jim is frustrated with what he sees as American problems that are chronic and not getting fixed.
Copyright 2016 Gina London. All Rights Reserved.
I’m so grateful you are reading my essays. I train, consult and speak about leadership, better communications, business and life empowerment. During August, I’ll be writing about my return to the US and the Presidential Elections. Please click ‘Follow’ (at the top of the page) and reach out to me directly to support you or your organization via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and at GinaLondon.com