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'It’s like a collective suicidal leap into the unknown'

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'It’s like a collective suicidal leap into the unknown'
Photo: Madel Ngan/AFP
10:00 CET+01:00
As Donald Trump defies the polls in the US election, Democrat expats in Switzerland tell The Local how they feel about the shock result.

“Shocked”, “depressed”, “disappointed” are just some of the reactions from American expats in Switzerland this morning – the majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton – as Republican candidate Donald Trump declares victory in the US election.

The tycoon might have beaten Clinton to the presidency, but there was little sign of support for him among Americans at a bipartisan election night party in Geneva.

“I don’t really understand what this means. It’s just something I did not entertain at all,” says Anne-Shelton Aaron, chair of Democrats Abroad in Switzerland, who watched events unfold from the Geneva event.

“I have to say that living over here there are probably things that we don’t share. How people are truly feeling in the US. This is obviously a very widespread response and a total rejection. I think it’s more a rejection of the establishment and a desire for change.  It’s almost like a collective suicidal leap into the unknown.”

Her views are reflected within the wider American expat population in Switzerland, some of whom spoke to The Local from across the country as the results unfolded.

“I’ve been crying a bit. I did not think that America could do this, I did not think there was this much hate and vitriol in the American people and I think I’m feeling rather naive right now,” says Mindy Sharp, who moved to the Zurich area with her husband four years ago.

“I’m shocked at the result, I had no idea so many people would vote for Donald Trump – or rather, disliked Clinton enough to vote against her. I honestly expected it to be a clear win for Clinton,” says one Democrat in Bern, who preferred to remain anonymous.

“I think the result of the election shows that a large portion of the US wants a big change. But I can’t say I agree with their decision to elect Trump to be in charge of spearheading that change. I also can’t say wholeheartedly that I was Clinton’s biggest fan, but I think she was the more appropriate choice.”

Most people The Local spoke to agreed that Trump’s victory indicated that America was calling for change.

“I think there were more disaffected, poor voters. People who have lost jobs, people who have lost a way of life in middle America who see someone like Trump as being strong enough to try and help them reclaim their old way of life,” says Sharp. “I don’t know if they realize how much they are voting against their own best interests,” she adds, citing Trump’s stance on abortion and universal healthcare. “All of the great strides that America has taken will be set back.”

It’s also made many expats think twice about the possibility of moving back to their homeland. Liz Voss from Illinois has lived in the Basel area with her husband and four-year-old daughter for two years and runs the website anamericaninbasel.com.

“When our daughter got up my husband and I had to have a discussion with her that we would not be moving back to the US for at least four years because we had said we would not move back if Trump were elected,” she tells The Local.

“I can’t move her back to a country where the president elect doesn’t think that she matters and he thinks that it’s fine for him to grab her or any other woman because he’s famous. And thinking about every other minority that he has disparaged along the campaign trail and the conversations that those families are having to have, I can’t even imagine.”

“It feels like a personal attack on women,” agrees Sharp, whose husband Milo Sharp adds that Trump’s hardline views are against the American spirit.

“The America I was raised to believe in was one that was inclusive and guaranteed everyone freedom and equality,” he says. “A lot of people were very angry with the establishment, and I understand that.. but I think people have put their anger ahead of their thoughts of their fellow Americans, and turned away from the ideal that America was founded on.”

So what now? For many expats in Switzerland, the future is bleak.

“I’ve been working globally for a while, and you know how important standing is,” says Sam Harper, a Californian now in Zurich. “I think the world is really going to change quite a bit. I’m not so positive I guess, at least for the next four years. I think [Trump] is a bit unhinged  and I don’t know what he’s going to do and who he’s going to put in place and how he’s going to act.”

“I’ve been thinking about the structure of the democratic process of the US and the checks and balances that our government has in place and I’m hoping that the legislative branch and the judicial branch can stay strong and weigh out the executive branch, because the executive branch [now] has a lunatic at the head of it,” says Brittany, an American expat in Lausanne.

The only thing many feel they can do now is hope. “I have no idea what to expect for the next four years in the US, but I assume there will be a lot of outrage against Trump being in office,” says a Democrat in Bern. “I sincerely hope he and his staff can surprise us and do good work.”

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