Americans in Catalonia have their say

US expats give their views on the race for the White House and what it might mean for the future of their country

Catalonia has seen its fair share of elections in recent times. However, the election currently getting all the attention is halfway across the world. If one thing marks out the US presidential campaign this year, it is that the American electorate is faced with candidates that divide opinion. On the one hand, Democrat Hillary Clinton is on course to become the first female president. On the other, the unlikely Republican Donald Trump promises to shake up the political order.

Most polls show Clinton ahead in the race for the White House, but there are plenty of question marks hanging over the former Secretary of State. Meanwhile, Trump's disregard for convention and straight-talking authenticity appeal to many, but his campaign has been dogged by controversy.

This is the choice facing the 137 million American voters registered to vote on November 8. Among them are many of the more than 6,300 US citizens resident in Catalonia. Living in another country, and another continent, can make one feel detached from political events taking place back home, but it can also provide a different perspective.

What follows are the views on the presidential election from eight US citizens who live and work in Catalonia. A literary critic, a musician, an author, a marketing director, a designer, president of the American Society, a publisher and a teacher, all eight interviewees have different experiences during their time in Catalonia, and they have all watched events unfold in their homeland from the perspective of living in a European country, with its distinct political system and social attitudes.

The eight interviewees are Sam Abrams, Roger Evans, Verne Harnish, Roxanne Huguet, John Maas, Victor Horcasitas, Liz Castro and Jim McCullough. First we asked them to tell us how they see the race for the US presidency. Then, they were asked who they think will win the election and how it might affect the future of their country.

While no one has a crystal ball, Clinton and Trump are long-established public figures, while the election campaign has already gone on for more than a year with full international media coverage. This in itself provides the opportunity to form a broader view, as well as the chance to compare and contrast how the election is seen on both sides of the Atlantic.

1 As a US citizen living in Catalonia, how do you see the American elections?
2 What to you think the result will be and how will this influence the future of the States?

Sam Abrams

Literary critic

1 Unfortunate to say the least. A fair amount of mudslinging goes on during the campaign but this year it has gotten out of hand. This campaign has been a saddening and sickening spectacle for Americans and people all around the world. Clinton and Trump have done nothing but show the weaknesses of democracy in America. I expected Hillary to rise above the sewer where Trump was wallowing, but I was mistaken. Too often she stepped out of sight to let Donald bask in the limelight and indulge his self-destructive bent. From day one she should have made herself heard to convey her ideas with all the conviction and strength possible. Hillary is a remarkable person and stateswoman. She should have banked on that and kept a steady human, moral, intellectual and political course.

2 . I think we will see support for Trump dwindle as his supporters heed the wake-up call. I am certain that Hillary Clinton will win by a considerable majority. I fear that Hillary is not fully aware of the challenges she faces in the near future. From her statements in the thick of the campaign one can see that Clinton is not up to date on all the issues she will have to decide on. Things are now drastically different from what they were several years ago. There are social issues of pressing interest, such as revamping the educational system or lessening racial tensions. There are economic issues that require creative solutions because the whole market system is undergoing an extremely painful transformation. The United States needs a strong leader with great talent. Is that Hillary Clinton? Personally, I feel she is too anchored in the past to stand up to the present.

Roger Evans


1 While I have never been an enthusiast for either of the Clintons, the candidacy of Donald Trump constitutes an emergency for democracy. The direct effects are of course felt by the United States, but they are indirectly harmful abroad as well. I wish I could feel that his defeat will remedy all these unfortunate effects, but a great deal of harm has been done by his legitimizing, in the eyes of vast numbers of his followers, attitudes and behaviour that would have seemed almost impossible in our political life.

2 I'm afraid that some of these effects will be long-lasting. However fanciful his idea that one man could abrogate treaties solemnly ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, the very suggestion of such undependability can strike fear in many worldwide who, as things now stand, depend and have long depended on the faithfulness of the United States to obligations that have been considered almost sacred. That a candidate who neither knows nor believes in the Constitutional protections that have brought about the best aspects of American history can be supported by such a large segment of the population is shocking. It is a very dangerous sign of infirmities in the body politic.

Much as I hope for, and expect, a resounding Clinton electoral victory, I wish that I had firmer confidence that her leadership will be the best possible remedy for the problems created or exacerbated by the Republic's traumatic exposure, day in and day out through media saturation, to the Trump phenomenon.

Verne Harnish

CEO Gazelles and author

1Pure entertainment –you couldn't make it up– a real “House of Cards”. I'm so happy to be away from all the vicious ads. We lived in one of the few counties that actually mattered in choosing our President and so we were constantly barraged with advertising. In turn, if you don't live in one of the 20 small counties that determine who is president, like we do now (in Dade County, Florida) then your vote is a waste. What I think will be interesting is if the American people defy the media and opinion makers and surprise the pundits like the UK citizens did with the Brexit vote and the people of Colombia did re: the peace treaty. The general public is fed up with our professional politicians, big institutions, and biased media.

2 It doesn't matter who the President is with a deadlocked Congress and independent and self-sufficient cities and citizens. We've essentially not had a leader since the last mid-term elections. President Obama has been spending most of his time fulfilling his bucket list of tourist attractions paid for by the American taxpayer. And guess what? It's been the best two years of his presidency ! It's like Spain. We've been without a leader and it's been a good year. We don't need all this administrative overhead anymore. Local leaders matter most.

As for the future of the US –it will be fine, like the rest of the planet. Most indicators that matter (deaths from war, per capita income, poverty rate) have improved significantly over the past 50 years and I don't see that changing.

Roxanne Huguet

Retired marketing director

1The 2016 presidential election is an embarrassment. Instead of citizens engaged in politics for the right reasons, many are tuned in to a reality show fear-mongering against people of colour and minority religions. To elect a candidate with zero political experience, knowledge of world affairs and the constitution is frightening. Trump has tapped into the worst of the American psyche. His followers, mainly white, uneducated, underemployed men, feel they are being left behind. Then there is “Hillary fatigue” with decades of attacks from the GOP. (Still I was disappointed to learn from Wikileaks there was bias by the Democrat National Committee favouring one candidate over the other in the primaries.) Hillary has experience in international affairs, constitutional law and a more level headed temperament. Not all her decisions have been correct (voting for the Iraq War or bailing out the banks) but she admits her mistakes.

2 When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, it seemed impossible he would be the GOP candidate. His remarks against minorities seemed to not harm him. He showed how divided the US has become. Still I think the latest scandals revealing his true misogyny has lost him the support. Hilary looks like she will be the next President. She will have tough challenges uniting a divided country, also in solving economic inequality. She will also have to nominate Supreme Court justices which will have a huge impact on citizens' rights. She must work with world leaders to stop the war in Syria, halt climate change and make the world safer. Yet, President Hillary Clinton will be a more stable choice for America's future.

John Maas

Designer and app inventor

1I don't consider how I view the election as having much to do with where I am, although being outside the US means one does not have it as a constant din. Friends in the US say it is overwhelmingly oppressive.

I see is a gross exaggeration of trends that have been developing for decades. It has become a show in that nobody's talking about policies in the the Society of the Spectacle. Guy Debord's book is essential reading on the subject, although most of it is transpiring on TV, which along with a badly debased education system, is the main reason why this nonsense has such purchase. To quote Debord: “In a world that is really upside down, the true is a moment of the false.”

2I imagine Clinton will “win” but anyone who thinks that it will be the last of Trump and his backers is whistling up a pipe. The show is going to make the Florida hanging chads fiasco look like a walk in the park. Unhappily, the media that helped create the Trump monster are salivating at the prospect of more eyeballs and cash flow.

As there is so much that needs doing in this world, it could be a wake-up call for self-reliance. I mean that when the election is over, people don't sit back and say: “well the government can take care of it.” Most people I know, including myself, were for Sanders so, hopefully, if Clinton wins, we do not allow her to continue business as usual. About 75% of those polled would like to get rid of big money in politics. Do I think that Clinton would be against that? Yes, given the role of big money in her own campaign. Would I like to see a grassroots movement against future wars like in the 60s or for single payer health care? You decide.

Victor Horcasitas

President of the American Society of Barcelona

1In many regards this election is no different than others: citizens are polarized; both party leaders are forcing candidates to espouse extreme positions; the TV press has again failed in its role as “the 4th branch of government” by refusing to filter ridiculous hyperbole. Networks devote almost no time to intelligent policy debate.

As an American in Catalonia, I feel disappointed in both candidates. Trump is ridiculous; Hilary is a horrible campaigner linked to 30 years of unethical behaviour. Last year, I declared on radio and TV shows that this election is a farce, that Donald and Hilary contrived a shameful conspiracy to ensure that Republicans do not win the presidency.

2 Trump cannot expect to win by insulting Hispanics, alienating women, poking fun at disabled reporters, and constantly lying about easily verifiable facts, offering no clear policy on key issues… . He MUST be trying to lose on purpose!

The US's role in the world is at stake. This is critically important as it impacts our ability to be a force for good in geopolitical matters –anti-terrorism, progress in technology, science, art, culture and climate change are at stake. The stability of the dollar is fundamental for global economic stability.

Despite the odious options available, one should NOT underestimate the importance of the White House. The person who wields this power influences the lives of billions. My prediction: Hilary has already won! As a Republican I welcome the revolution Trump presents to my party, to reassess its exclusionary policy and the closed-minded global perspectives by the RNC.

Liz Castro

Writer and publisher

1I have been stunned to see a candidate not only vilify his opponent but also make a mockery of US democracy. He has slandered the press, marginalized journalists, and kept them out of his rallies and press conferences. He is the master of bald-faced lies, but it is his arrogance and disrespect for the system that is most disturbing. In the last debate, his refusal to accept the results of the democratic vote was a turning point. He prefers destroying our democracy to accepting responsibility for his own defeat.

Living in Catalonia, I realize how many people here see American democracy as an ideal. I think that is the case of most Americans as well. We really believe it. We feel that our elected representatives should listen to us. They are and should be accessible. And we value a free press and freedom of expression, the foundations of a strong democracy. Of course it isn't perfect, but the belief that it can keeps us working at it.

2 It may be the very strength of our democracy that has led people to believe it can withstand any candidate. My Trump-supporting cousin says, “if he doesn't work out in four years, we can elect someone else.” I am not so sure. Beginning with Reagan, there has been what seems like a concerted effort to undermine this faith in our system. That has crescendoed until today we have a candidate who doesn't believe the people can properly express their will at the polls, unless they choose him. Thankfully, I believe he will lose, and hopefully to a degree that the Democrats will also win the Senate and a House majority, in order to be able to govern, to ensure progress, and restore some of that lost faith in American democracy.

Jim McCullough

Teacher and APAC member

1 This year's election is the latest step in a downward spiral towards fascism that the US is on. Since the 1980s, major media outlets have been taken over by conservatives with no scruples about broadcasting or publishing innuendos and lies to scandalize and strike fear in the general public. It's almost impossible to get any real news in the US; when you're there, you're exposed to cotton candy for the mind. In politics, the Republicans have moved to the extreme right, with their Tea Party candidates and penchant for gumming up the work of the government if they're not in charge. In the last few years, the feeling I've gotten as I was exposed to Fox News, Western Journalism, Chicks on the Right, and the views of different Republicans through my “friends” on Facebook was that I was listening to “Thousand Hills Free Radio and Television” in the lead-up to the Rwandan genocide. Trump's candidacy shows how close we are to that.

2 Most likely Clinton will be elected and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. But for us to pull out of this tailspin, Trump and the Republicans have to be trounced. If they're only moderately beaten, they and their media allies will continue to try to make democracy crash and burn. There are so many “good Americans” who think they are being “patriotic” in waving their flags and voting for demagogues who promise to “make America great again.” Due to the biased information they get, they don't see themselves reflected in the “good Germans” of the 1930s and 40s who patriotically waved their swastikas around, supported their troops and followed their strong leaders. The future is very uncertain.

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