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Here’s what Americans in Italy think about the US elections

With the first of the presidential debates over, Americans on home soil as well as the millions living abroad are deciding which candidate – if any – will get their vote. The Local caught up with Americans in Italy to find out how they’re voting and why – and it was clear that there was no one ‘typical’ view.

Several people commented that one of their motivations for moving abroad was to “get away from US politics”, while others said that living abroad and speaking to Italians had helped inform their decision.

Kathleen, a retired New Yorker living near Genoa, told us: “More than one of my Italian friends has joked to me that now Americans know how Italians have felt for decades, with nothing but lousy choices on the ballot, always heading to the polls holding one’s nose. However, everyone sees that for Italy to have poor leadership is nowhere near the problem for the world that America having bad leadership is.” 

This discontent with the choice of candidates was echoed by most of the people we spoke to, however they each held contrasting political views.

The Clinton voter: ‘She will make America stronger than ever’

Ramafrancesco, 46, born in San Francisco’s little Italy, has lived in Rome since 2010.

Ramafrancesco believes Hillary Clinton is the only choice for America. Photo: Private

I’m usually a Democrat and will vote for Clinton. The bottom line for America is ‘Hillary or bust’ – we are living in strange days indeed.

It seems that during economic depressions there is always a flamboyant person that rises to the occasion and poisons people’s minds just like Trump is doing now. He’s not a leader, not a politician; it was evident in the debate that he gets too emotional during interactions … How will he interact with world leaders in NATO meetings? And imagine him with his finger on the nuclear button – that’s a scary image.

In this election we don’t have “candidates”, we only have one choice: Hillary Clinton. Sure, she has messed up here and there as every leader does, but she’s bringing 30 years of political experience to the table. You’d be blind not to see she is the only option for the USA . I believe she is the woman with the plan and she will get America stronger than ever. Trump can go back to doing what he does best … being a funny TV celebrity. 

As an Italian American, if Trump somehow takes the White House, I will seriously consider not touching USA soil until he’s out of office. I’ll finally get my Italian citizenship as to not have to show my USA passport ever time I travel and get laughed at. 

The Trump voter: ‘The Clintons already had their chance’

Janice, originally from New York, has lived in Sardinia since 2008.

I think everyone has decided who they are voting for now. I am a registered Republican but haven’t voted that way in many years. I consider myself independent and would never be a liberal; Trump is the lesser of the two evils. The Clintons had their eight-year opportunity already, and stole the White House china, furniture and silverware*. I don’t want someone with this sort of character and entitlement to be a leader of my country.

For me, honesty and character play the most important part in an election, and I am voting for my grandchildren’s future, not my own.

Janice believes Donald Trump is the ”lesser of two evils”. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/AFP

Anyone who reads knows the details of her criminal behaviour and if people truly understand the details of the tax evaded by the Clinton Foundation**, I am doubly sad.. But maybe they don’t want to believe them.

The moderator of the debate seemed to me to have been either paid off or instructed to interrupt and intimidate. How can the American people make an intelligent choice with the media bias? It’s pretty frustrating to try to explain to friends here…and I have pretty much stopped trying.

*The claim that the Clintons stole White House furniture has been fact checked here: Bill Clinton was asked to return $28,000 worth of gifts he had kept, after they were judged to have been given as gifts to the White House rather than to him personally (Ex-presidents are only allowed to keep any gifts given to them personally after leaving office) 

**An independent analysis of where the money donated to the Clinton Foundation goes can be found here. Hillary Clinton has published her personal tax returns, and the Clinton Foundation, which has been granted tax-exempt status, publishes its audited financial reports online.

The third party voter: They won’t win, but it’s my right to vote how I choose

Erica, 23, is from West Virginia and moved to northern Italy, near Venice, in June 2014.

Erica with an advertisement that ‘shows the election is laughable’. Photo: Private

This will be my first time voting in the general election. Prior to that I was registered as an independent, but for the primary elections this past summer I voted Democrat in order to vote for Bernie Sanders. I have since switched back to independent and plan on voting for Jill Stein.

A good 95 percent of her views line up with mine, unlike Trump or Clinton; the debate proved that they are both a mess. Many people choose to vote for the “lesser of the two evils,” but I cannot allow myself to vote for either evil. I know Stein will not win, but I am expressing my right to vote exactly how I choose and ultimately I will not feel at all responsible for either of the unsatisfactory candidates who may end up as president.

I try not to discuss these things with too many people here in order not to cause confrontation; we all have very strong feelings. However, I visited London last week and I heard some other opinions from Europeans, who all agree that this election is laughable – as the advertisement in my picture [above] shows!

Overall, the choice of candidates in this election is just sad, because our political system is rigged in favour of those who answer to the richest one percent of our population. 

The undecided voter: America deserves better, I may leave the box blank

Andy, from Wyoming, now lives in Bergamo.

After having to spend six years apologizing for George W. Bush, I’m afraid I’ll have to do it again for Trump or Clinton, no matter who wins. America (and the world) deserve better. 

Trump is grossly unqualified and although Clinton has experience, she doesn’t have many accomplishments. Experience is important but it’s also important that you’ve learned from your experiences. Trump would be a disastrous president but Clinton will be a wasted four years in office, while the world needs strong American global engagement. 

I plan on voting absentee but I don’t know if I will vote for the President. My state is heavily Republican so my vote really won’t change much. I may just vote for my state representatives and leave the President block blank.

New York native Kathleen has lived on the Italian Riviera since 2008.

I never vote for Republicans and I am totally fed up with the Democratic Party, which should have known better than to run a candidate as problematic as Hillary Clinton, especially at a moment when Americans want and need change. 

The most difficult decision of the 2016 election has been trying to decide if it is better for America to use one’s vote to support building alternatives to the duopoly, or take no risk whatsoever and pile on with Hillary Clinton to ensure a Trump defeat. Trump’s bigoted rhetoric makes him unfit for any public position in America. He is a positive danger to everyone living in the US.

All the Italians I know recognize Trump is an arrogant, opportunistic blowhard – they know this kind of politician all too well – but quite a few feel that Hillary Clinton is two-faced and too fond of military solutions, too beholden to a rotting status-quo. 

Clinton is poised but problematic, Kathleen says. Photo: AFP

In the debate it was clear that Clinton was more poised and in command of the moment, running circles around Trump with her remarkable fluency in policy details. But over the long run, I don’t know if Clinton will come out ahead; her own past is problematic and many voters really do care more about the ongoing wars in the Middle East, inner city and rural poverty, affordable health care and student debt, and might resent what they see as the attempt to distract from her record.

I wish the media would do more to insist on a substantive debate, especially about climate change. I don’t think it’s good for America that most of the media feel justified in uncritically pushing the elite point of view of the Clintons, portraying Trump’s supporters as fashion-challenged unattractive people full of bigotry and backward views.

Trump’s appeal to enormous numbers of voters is evidence of a perfectly understandable and overdue reckoning for mistakes elites have made for many decades, at the expense of way too many Americans and people abroad. People are not stupid to be upset by aftermath of the financial crisis, to see that the system is rigged against them, that their vote means less, that America wastes money abroad on wars that bring nothing but more trouble.