Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
MAASTRICHT. Donald Trump has won the US election. Did he pull of a shock at Maastricht University?
Cydney Contreras, an exchange student from the United States, is “in shock. I never thought this would happen. It seems like a joke.” She is a Bernie Sanders supporter and didn’t vote because, as she explained in Observant a few weeks ago, “I cannot vote for someone I do not believe in.” Now she feels sorry for not having voted. “I feel I’m part of the problem. A lot of young people who are Sanders supporters like me, haven’t voted because they didn’t think their vote would matter. It’s like the Brexit. The polls were telling us that Britain would stay in the European Union. Just as they told us that Hillary Clinton would win.” When she phoned her parents Wednesday morning, her mother was crying. “My parents are American citizens but live in Mexico.” They are worried because of all the nasty things Trump said about Mexico. “They are trying to figure out what to do next.” She stays silent for a while. Then: “How do we explain ourselves to other countries? I feel ashamed.”
“Oh, I’m not sure if I want to talk to you. I’m in shock,” says Roberta Haar, an American national teaching at UCM, whose area of research includes investigating U.S. foreign policy. It’s 10:00 o’clock Wednesday morning. “Some friends and colleagues texted me their condolences.” An hour later she sends the following comment: “Last night walking back to my car after my presentation to a large crowd at SBE, I wondered whether the conversation that I just had with two Trump supporters was a premonition, a foreshadowing of the night to come. Passion for Trump was certainly evident and the whole experience felt very unsettling. This morning, knowing the final result, I can only repeat the warning that I gave both audiences at UCM and SBE yesterday evening: when party professionals ignore the prevailing attitudes of the electorate, they do so at their peril. Both parties ignored the electorate. Now we must wait and see how the Republican Party deals with a president that ran on a platform that bluntly opposed its party professionals on a whole range of key policy topics.”
“We recognise that today is an impactful one for America. Remember that CES is your home away from home, so feel free to drop by for a coffee and a chat if you want to today.” Wednesday morning, the staff of Center for European Studies at Maastricht University sent this quote to their students’ private Facebook group. Among them there are a lot of Americans studying in Maastricht for a semester.
Nathalie Ummels, International Relations Officer: “In the private CES ambassadors’ Facebook group [American students who are promoting their programmes on their own campus] we read messages like ‘Take us back please’ and ‘I’ve never been so disappointed by my country’. As CES, we don’t take sides in political issues, but we do emphatise that it’s an impactful day for everyone.”
Dutch Nathalie Ummels lived in Vermont for some years, as her husband is an American citizen. She actually met Bernie Sanders, a former candidate for the presidential election, as he was still a member of the House of Representatives from Vermont. “I’m a big fan of him. He is a man who actually goes to people and talks to them about their struggles. We had already decided to move to the Netherlands, because of the affordable health insurance, the safety net, job perspectives, et cetera. But when I asked what he would say or do in our situation he told me: “Stay and fight.” He is what the country needs. I don’t think we understand how poor some Americans are, that you have to have two or three jobs to pay the bills, that you have to invest to make sure you have a pension, that the roads are literally crumbling. When Bernie lost the Democratic primaries, Hillary was never able to secure the progressive left. My personal opinion? Trump came in on an anti-establishment vote. He is unknown, unpredictable, an outsider. I think he’s unfit to lead. But keep in mind that, just like the Wilders voters, not all of them are uneducated racists.”
As Ummels scrolls through her Facebook timeline, she concludes: “There’s fear. Especially for my female, minority and LGBTQ friends it’s very scary. We all woke up to a new reality that will not only impact the U.S., but all of us.”
The thing that shocks her even more than Trump’s victory is “that he literally has the power now. The Republicans maintained their majorities in both chambers of the US Congress. It’s a nationwide shift to the right”.
Wendy Degens, Riki Janssen