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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
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"Does the rest of the world want what's best for us, or what's best for them?": The US election in Dublin, California

In this Dublin, it’s what comes after the US election that worries people.

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From bona fide swing states like Ohio to traditionally deep-red Texas, Dubliners across America are entering the final days of one of the most divisive general election campaigns in living memory. As part of a series on the race for the White House, TheJournal.ie has been talking to Clinton voters, Trump supporters, and independents in a range of time-zones between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts in recent days.

Why ‘Dublins’? We could just have easily have picked ‘Springfields’ or ‘Madisons’ but we are, after all, an Irish website – and many of the towns we chose to focus on have a strong Irish heritage. Add to that, if your peruse any list of communities called ‘Dublin’ in the US, you’ll find everything from booming Silicon Valley suburbs to industrial towns off Georgian highways. Here’s the first piece in the series – there’s more to come tomorrow, and over the next week.

DUBLIN, CALIFORNIA, IS a little different from the other Dublins TheJournal.ie has investigated as part of our series on the US election (more of those to come).

For starters, California is a dyed-in-the-wool blue state – it has voted Democratic in every election since 1988, and currently the polls have Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump by about 26 points with under two weeks to go until polling day.

Understandably, both candidates have effectively given up campaigning in the state – one way or the other California will vote Democrat, and they both know it. But that doesn’t mean California isn’t important.

With 55 electoral college votes, the state accounts for more than 10% of the votes available. There’s no escaping it – California matters.

But the state, and certainly the Bay Area in which Dublin is situated, is far from impoverished.

The concerns of feeling left behind as manufacturing rust belt towns die a slow death are far from the minds of Bay-region Californians. In fact, if blue-collar angst and anger is one of the main focuses of this election, Dublin is not where you’ll find it – over 90% of people employed  here are in white-collar jobs.

Silicon Valley is here – the tech centre for the planet. Facebook, Google, Apple, they’re all present and correct. Very wealthy and very well-educated people are the demographic (Dublin, as well as being next door to a major wine-producing region in Livermore, functions as a satellite town for the Valley).

People here are more worried about climate change, legalising marijuana, banning the death penalty, the cost of living, and (especially) the price of property (which is sky-high) than they are about factories closing down and American jobs being lost to immigration.

But don’t let that fool you. A lot of people here will still vote for Trump.

In shock

Situated about 35 miles east of San Francisco, Dublin is home to about 55,000 people. There are a number of large employers in the city itself, but most people work in the Valley to the west (in case you’re wondering, the city’s sister town on these shores is Bray, Co Wicklow).

The city does in fact have the third-highest proportion of registered Republican voters in its county (Alameda). But – this is California after all – there are still over twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans in the town.

As a candidate, Hillary Clinton has something of a bye in California. The question is – what do the townspeople make of Trump?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Dublin public library Source: Wikimedia Commons

“I think everyone is just in shock at this stage,” journalist Autumn Johnson (with local website Patch.com) tells TheJournal.ie.

While she won’t say how she thinks the election will go (“I don’t know if we’re a Trump or Clinton city, people here are more interested in local issues”), Autumn does acknowledge that the situation is polarised.

“Oh it’s definitely polarised, I don’t think anyone here has ever seen an election like this in their lifetime,” she says.

People are in shock for different reasons.

Her reluctance to give a firm forecast as to the outcome is perhaps understandable. This is the ultimate election where a sting could be in the tail – given the divisiveness of the two candidates, it’s likely the case that many voters aren’t being entirely truthful with pollsters as to their voting intentions.

City council

Dublin is run by a city council with an elected mayor and vice mayor, both of whom gave us their thoughts on the election.

“Certainly here many people support Clinton,” says City Mayor David Haubert, a Republican.

California is overwhelmingly Democrat - Trump hasn’t even campaigned here except to raise funds from those who do support him.

Haubert says Clinton is “a safe bet, lots of government experience and more likeable”.

Still, Trump has a lot of underground support, meaning people who like his message but are afraid to openly admit it. It’s true that the rest of the world wants Clinton to be elected.
But then a lot of us wonder if what the rest of the world wants is what’s best for us, or what’s best for the rest of the world.

“Round here we don’t have much controversy, we’re more homogeneous,” says Vice Mayor Abe Gupta. Abe, a registered independent, is very eloquent, but not someone who gives away his own feelings easily.

Abe Abe Gupta Source: Arounddublinblog.com

“The area will probably go heavily for Mrs Clinton,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk about job losses around the country, about jobs going to China and the like, but we have a robust economy here right now.”

He agrees with Haubert that the candidates have effectively given up California as a foregone conclusion.

“Trump did make one visit to the state, but at this stage both candidates are just using us as an ATM machine of sorts – we’ve some very wealthy folks who support either candidate.”

The phenomenon of Trump is one that he finds “very interesting”. “He’s tapped into a resentment out there against changes going on, against globalisation,” he says.

He’s tapped into that and it’s hit home. It’s like Brexit, the same kind of underdog mentality – ‘we’re not going to let the corporations tell us what to do’.
There are people here who are passionate for Trump – they think he is speaking their language.

So who’s going to win? Abe won’t say but he gives us this:

“As a Stanford-trained engineer, I would take the polls with a grain of salt.”

This is going to be a lot closer than people think.

Disgusted

Local man Brian Petoletti exhibits no such caginess.

Aged 53, Brian’s a tournament director with the All Pro Tour, a local professional golf mini-tour. He’s lived in Dublin for 40 years, and is another registered independent who has voted both Democrat and Republican in the past. He is unapologetically voting Clinton. What does he make of the divisive nature (to put it mildly) of the presidential race?

“People are just disgusted and appalled with how this has gone,” is the answer. “I’ve never seen anything to this level of disgust. It’s the most awful election of any sort in anyone I know’s lifetime.”

We’ve lost our way as a country. There was a time when our focus was to gain knowledge, to learn all we could. Now we’re just ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ all the time. Education means nothing, it comes down to who’s the most popular.

Brian sees Trump’s appeal as being the quintessential outsider.

brian Brian Petoletti

“Look, everyone is sick of Congress and their inability to make a decision. Like Mitch McConnell (Republican majority leader in the US Senate) was frank about it when Obama came in, ‘we’re not going to approve anything he wants to do’.

That leads to the Tea Party. Then Trump comes along, he represents a smart businessman who’s from the outside. People who are for him think he’ll make a change we haven’t had for a while.

“But then he starts talking and people are blown away by how he handles himself. People hate how he talks and acts,” he adds.

Brian may be independent, but his ideas are poles apart from those espoused by Trump – he wants more immigration, not less, for starters:

“There’s politics around people coming here and supposedly taking the so-called ‘good’ jobs. The problem is these people are often better-educated and smarter. That’s just reality.”

So who will win the whole thing?

I think Clinton will win, and she’ll win heavily. I think the Democrats will take back the Senate and possibly even the House (of Representatives). And in theory that means they’ll be able to get more done.

Vile

28-year-old Steven* meanwhile works in a local winery in nearby Livermore and lives in Dublin.

He’s from San Francisco. He doesn’t like Trump or what he represents one bit, but what he finds more worrying is what the billionaire demagogue may have started.

“I do not know of any person in my social circle that has a positive view of Trump,” he says.

liver Source: Twitter/LivermoreBlog

He is the living, breathing embodiment of all the worst things in American culture: a hyper-capitalist, a misogynist, and a racist loudmouth. He seems entirely propelled by ego which makes it seem likely that he would not accept the election result and I cannot overstate how worrisome that is.

Steven sees Trump as a natural side-effect of “the Republicans embracing slash and burn politics” following a chastening experience in the 2008 election. “In order to regain power they went for obstructionism. That’s not even speculation, it’s been explicitly stated by Mitch McConnell.”

Every country has an extremist element – for us with our racial history the most ‘popular’ is white nationalism. When I was a kid, thinking those things was social taboo. But with Trump, the rise of the far right has become legitimised because it provides easy answers to hard questions. ‘It’s all immigrants’ fault’.

The rust belt states are “nostalgic for the days of plentiful easy and well-paying jobs” he says.

But what Californians care most about is “the cost of living and affordable housing”.

“So many people are moving into Californian cities that property values have skyrocketed. A lot of my friends that I grew up with have moved to other cheaper cities in different states as the idea of buying a house here is laughable,” Steven says.

Not that it’ll make a difference come the election on 8 November.

“I am 100% certain, unless the Russian’s manage to hack the entire election, that Trump will not be elected. Certainly there is no way he’s winning this state.”

But what comes after Trump is anyone’s guess.

The Irish Angle

Giving an Irish angle to the election in Dublin is Wicklow-native Kevin*, a 32-year-old IT professional in the east Bay area. He’s lived in Dublin for the past year.

“It’s pretty diverse here, it’s a nice town to live in, very friendly people, and a good mix of cultures,” he says. “Given it’s a Democrat stronghold, you wouldn’t expect too much diversity of opinion though, where the election is concerned.”

As has been the case with most of those we spoke to, Hillary Clinton seems to be a political afterthought (one wonders how she would have found the race if she had faced someone in any way less divisive).

“The number one thing when it comes to politics here is Donald Trump,” Kevin says.

All the things he says and does. You never hear anyone evaluating the candidates based on their policies or plans. I’m sure it could be different in other parts of the country, but that certainly seems to be the case here.

Kevin does know of “a couple” of people who are planning to vote for Trump, though “there could be a lot more who just don’t want to broadcast it”.

5463875736_ae38471f26_o West Dublin / Pleasanton BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station Source: Eric Fischer

“People just don’t seem to trust Hillary Clinton, and openly dislike her, even people who wouldn’t dream of voting for Trump. I don’t really know why this is. But it’s not uncommon to hear her referred to as a ‘crook’ in public.”

For Kevin, the fact that Trump’s many campaign gaffes haven’t hurt his core support that much is more a sign of an inherent distrust of politicians in the America of today.

“When he speaks his mind he seems to appeal to people, regardless of how offensive it may be,” he says. “My understanding is that he can’t win however, because things are going so badly for him in the swing states.”

But does the rise of Trump mean that ‘change’ is coming? No matter what guise it may take?

“That’s a very hard question to answer because things are very different in the Bay area as distinct from the rust belt states. Radical change appeals to people there because they’ve felt neglected for so long. After Brexit though, well I guess anything’s possible.”

For the moment people are just tired of this whole election. It’s been going on for a year and a half, and the coverage is just endless.
But I can’t say that major change is coming. It’s not even clear to me that a president acting on his own can really even make such major changes.
* Both Steven and Kevin are pseudonyms – given the divisive nature of the election both asked not to be made identifiable

Read: Man who defaced Trump’s Hollywood star with a sledgehammer arrested

Read: Mike Pence’s plane slides off runway in New York

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