Emma Heijmans was in the United States, Tennessee more specifically, from early January until the end of May of this year. "It was a very interesting time to be there because the primaries were in full swing. They were was a hot topic: everyone was following the Republican and Democratic debates on TV and everyone was talking about them, young people included. The primaries have been quite different than other years, both for the Democratic and the Republican Party."
Struggles in both parties
For the first time, the Democratic Party had a candidate, Bernie Sanders, who considered himself a democratic socialist. It struck me how many people supported him. As I was in Tennessee, a strong "red state" (i.e. Republican), I had expected they would all be supporting the Republican nominee.
Surprisingly, there were many people who told me they did not like the hate and fear spread by other politicans and were inspired by Sanders' message of hope and solidarity. Especially the younger people, who I met in the college where I was taking classes, were very strong supporters of him. They thought his promises of free education and health care for everyone were promising for the future of their country. However, it was always pretty clear that Hillary would win the Democratic nomination, which eventually happened.
Donald Trump or "a real Republican"?
The Republican Party, too, has had some irregularities in these primaries. At first, Donald Trump, who is their official nominee now, wanted to run as an independent candidate. When he realized he would only have a chance of winning if he joined one of the two big parties, he chose to run as a Republican.
It is important to know this background to understand why the Republican Party has been quite reluctant in expressing its support for him. The Party Leadership would have preferred a "real Republican", like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, but people keep on supporting Trump because he is not like the other politicans. He is very anti-establishment, is not trying to be politically correct and he just says whatever he thinks. A lot of people appreciate this.
Climate change as a hoax
It was interesting to see how different the American way of thinking is compared to ours. Climate change, for example, is something which is not taken seriously or sometimes not even believed (especially in Tennessee). I have repeatedly been told I should not believe politicans who talk about climate change, because it is supposedly a hoax invented by the Chinese in order to wheedle money out of the western world.
The American way of thinking
Another funny fact: when I learned about the Cold War at school here in Belgium, I learned that after 1991, when the Cold War ended, we entered an era of multipolarity, with rising powers all over the world. In my American politics class, however, I learned that Americans see it differently: after 1991, the world has become "uni-polar"; the United States are the sole important power in the world since the fall of Soviet Union. This says a lot about the American way of seeing the world and their place within it.
The end of the two-party system?
I've also noticed that voting third party is getting more and more popular. While a few years ago, this would have been considered as a stupid idea, more and more people are planning on voting for a different party than the two mainstream parties.
Some of these third parties are the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Constitution Party etc. However, the way the American electoral system works does not give any chance to these other parties. Indeed, when the majority of a county votes for a certain party, all that county's electoral votes go to that party. This way of counting the votes ensures that it will stay a two-party system.
By voting third party, people want to prove a point: they want to get rid of the two-party system and have more choices between parties and candidates. Of course, this change will not happen in the short-term, but the idea is slumbering and gaining popularity. We will see what the future will bring!
Up next: Annemie in Florida
Tomorrow: Annemie Van Rysselberghe reporting from Florida - "A hot potato"