The World Watched

The World Watched

US-VOTE-DEBATEUnbelievable coverage of the debate in the African media, and I’m struck by how often reference was made to both candidates’ “reluctant” pledge to support the outcome. In Africa respect for the outcome of a democratic election is never taken for granted.

Many Africans understand for perhaps the first time in modern history, Americans are wondering the same.

Across Africa there’s fear not of Trump but rather of the millions of Americans who support him.

Perhaps twenty times as many Africans stayed up through the night to watch the debate live as Americans who visit Africa annually. That’s phenomenal. And the feeling this morning is universal: Thank God, Hillary won.

“Hillary Clinton’s debate victory boosts rand to five-week high,” the headline in South Africa’s major national newspaper read.

“A Clear Win for Hillary,” was the lead-in to South Africa’s Daily Maverick.

Many Americans went to bed after the debate. Many South Africans tweeted with the hashtag #sniffle.

Why are non-Americans so worried about Trump winning?” one Nigerian writer asked rhetorically before answering: “Because the USA is the most powerful country in the world and what it does affects the rest of the world.”

The continent’s economic powerhouse, South Africa, has so many incredible political and social problems of its own I find it revealing how much attention Trump gets:

“The implications of a Trump win could be earth moving … like a sound burst wave traveling worldwide – economically, financially, geopolitically. The first bit could affect SA directly, and massively,” an economic analyst in Johannesburg wrote recently. Financial columnist, Brian Grodsky, called America the “Democratic disneyland” and worries that Trump “will kill democracy as we all know it.”

Speaking for many well-off Africans that you might have supposed would always support a conservative, Grodsky thinks a Trump victory portends a world economic collapse as the “the braggadocios showman” systematically destroys the world order.

“The joke is on us,” writes a frequent contributor to Egypt’s Copts United.

“I can’t believe my eyes that Americans are electing a monkey and will be suffering the same fate as Egyptians did just 3 years ago,” he continues, referring to the election of Mohamed Morsi who was subsequently deposed by a military coup. “Maybe it will be time for an American Revolution?”

Comparing Trump to numerous African hooligan dictators, one writer on a respected South African financial forum wrote, “Trump has made no practical distinction between his political interests and his business promotion… Could he profit from promoting his holdings in office? Absolutely, say legal scholars.”

“The Real Trump Turns Up” is the headline this morning in a prominent southern Africa womens’ magazine that concluded virtually all of Trump’s answers to Lester Holt’s questions were “unfocused, meandering and just awful.”

Many of my African friends never thought Trump had a real chance. There’s a certain admiration for America that crazies have a forum here to try to prove they are something more, something truly revolutionary not just random. In the beginning this is how Trump was seen.

The arrival of Hillary Clinton as his opponent reinforced the view that Trump wasn’t random or crazy, but a real antithesis to everything that was wrong with the status quo. There was palpable excitement that Trump might positively “shake things up” if only from an entertainment point of view.

But as the cartoon grew alive fascination definitely turned to fear.

Superstitious as I am, I worry that early victories portend surprise defeats. But like so many of my African friends and colleagues, what I worry about most isn’t whether Hillary wins or loses, but that so many Americans support this aberration of humanity.