3 simple reasons why this year’s US election is unprecedented

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When I moved to the Netherlands two years ago there were plenty of things I missed – family, friends, Target, Tex-Mex… One thing I was excited to get away from: Politics. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to hide all that long.

Sure, when Trump tossed his hat into the ring (with 16 other Republican hopefuls), like many other US citizens, I thought it was a joke; a publicity stunt. Here we are a mere week from the election, and Trump is one of the major party candidates. How the fuck did that happen?

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I’ve been asked many times (too many, actually) from my international coworkers and random strangers about my thoughts on Trump and the 2016 election as a whole. The only word that comes to mind is ‘embarrassing’.

Between email scandals and xenophobia, there isn’t a single candidate I’d put 100 percent of my trust into. And anyone who says differently is either lying or should have their voter card shredded.

When I flip this question to those same people, I’m often met with the same word… though in Dutch it’s called ‘beschamend’.

This election really is unprecedented for a plethora of reasons. Here are three of the main ones. 

The world is watching

Every four years, I get all riled up when it comes to certain view points. The rest of the time, I could care less about politics. 

Outside of America, do people actually care what happens? And if so, is it any of their business? 

Make no mistake, the rest of planet is paying attention. The world cares about this election because it is a world issue. Putting someone as reactionary as Donald Trump, so close to the big, red button of world destruction matters to everyone.

More importantly, as my colleague Jelle points out, Trump’s rise in popularity as a major party politician makes the country look downright silly:

By sheer force of personality, Trump will bring down America’s stock in the world if he is elected. Regardless what he actually does, the world has already decided that he’s a douchebag. And the countries whose leaders don’t believe that are not ones you want to have left as your only allies in the world.

I’ve always defended Trump’s run by pointing out that this is democracy in action. That anyone off the street can run a successful campaign and make it this far into the campaign is a testament to our country.

But then Donald Trump isn’t just anyone off the street. In fact, when he opens his mouth, I’m reminded that this isn’t some idealistic man taking a stand against big government. This isn’t ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’ and Trump is no James Stewart.

Where did it all go wrong and how did we get where we are?

For one, these one-sided narratives from mainstream media and social media algorithms are no help. Those who have the luxury to research each candidate are ahead of the curve. But as fellow American expat Brittany notes, what about those who don’t? 

Why should anyone be surprised that we are stuck with two disliked candidates when people are being forced to make judgements based on what their one-sided tv channel selection is telling them.

Beyond this, having moved out of my North American bubble, I noticed that the rest of the world is much more involved in politics. They don’t take their duty as citizens for granted, and they sure as hell don’t refuse to work together in the name of their constituents.

Make no mistake, I’m no HRC fan either. And where America is foaming at the mouth for their first woman president, isn’t anything new for other countries. Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto are just a few women leaders around the globe.

So just because America is exponentially behind doesn’t mean we should be rushing to sign the first candidate with a vagina either.

Obama was arguably the greatest choice for first black president, and will be remembered fondly across both aisles. And to follow it with a first woman president that can already be foreseen as having an extremely low approval rating is just a shitty legacy for women.

Tech takes center stage

While it’s unusual for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) to be such a talking point, both candidates have been vocal on this issue – both declaring opposition to it.

Trump, has often brought about thunderous applause at Trump rallies for tariffs on Asian products. Even going as far as to say Apple should start making products in America. However, if implemented, these moves (and others) would have a devastating effect on the global economy.

As such, many of tech’s heaviest hitters are invested in this election – spending an unprecedented amount in lobbying and even coming out of the shadows to support a particular candidate.

Alphabet has spent a good deal on issues from copyright, patent, antitrust, labor, consumer product safety. and trademark issues (the latter being a common item for most tech companies), just to name a few. But some of the conglomerate’s biggest policy-induced challenges come from outside the US – notably in Europe where the EU has alleged that some of Google’s practices breach EU rules.

Amazon put forth $5.8 million worth of lobbying towards issues on taxes, consumer product safety, transportation, and trade… not to mention aviation considering the company’s involvement in drones.

Facebook focuses its time and money towards homeland security, intelligence, computers, trademark issues, and taxes, among others.

And it’s no surprise Apple focuses on taxes and telecoms after being hit with both alleged unpaid taxes in Ireland and the iPhone showdown with the FBI earlier this year.

This election is undoubtedly setting a new normal for technology. From genomics research to consumer product safety, the government’s role in and with technology will be center stage for years to come.

Taking a stand for or against

PayPal cofounder, Peter Thiel, is no stranger to controversy, and while I don’t think anyone is mourning the death of Gawker, those of us in the publishing industry are a bit on edge about how to traverse this newfangled world that seems to be against free speech.

Beyond that, Thiel has been an outspoken supporter of Trump, standing behind the candidate’s policies and regard for the country as a whole stating that “Trump is rooted in empathy for parts of the country that are not sharing in Silicon Valley’s economic boom times.”

The billionaire tech investor has also been a staunch opponent of immigration, even donating$1 million to an anti-immigration group.

And he’s received a lot of flak for this support, with most calling for his exit from seed accelerator, Y Combinator.

Y Combinator president, Sam Altman, immediately came to the investment firm’s advisor defence making it clear that while he thinks Trump is “unfit to be President,” cutting ties with Thiel is “a dangerous road to start down.”

This led to a great discussion with our CEO and co-founder. While I played devil’s advocate, Boris explained why there’s a distinct difference between being an employee and being an advisor:

An investor or advisor is also a role-model. They are an example. You pick people who can stand for the company, and as such i think it is fine to reject them based on their beliefs, if they are open about them.

While I could climb atop a mountain and scream for whichever candidate I believed in most and still have a job at TNW, I am an employee:

I totally agree with Sam that you don’t want to stop communicating and can’t fire someone based on their political views. On the other hand: If one of our public advisers would do the same I would be inclined to say goodbye to them. Because it is also how you present yourself as a company and who you associate with.

Bear in mind that Thiel has come out against Trump’s behavior (to a point) saying that he doesn’t believe the candidate’s ‘locker room talk’ was at all acceptable. Though I’d like to see anyone who says they are okay with most of what’s spewed from his overly-tanned face.

But in Thiel’s most recent statement, one thing stuck out from the rest regarded a sense of normalcy: “Just as much as it’s about making America great, Trump’s agenda is about making America a normal country.”

Obviously Thiel and I have a difference of opinion as to what ‘normal’ really is. Because in no stretch of the imagination is the sexual assault speech and xenophobic rhetoric that makes up Trump’s presidential rallies the norm for America.

So as we embark on this final week of campaigning –  I’ll be stockpiling canned goods and praying the 22nd amendment get repealed in the next seven days. Good luck, America. And Godspeed. 

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