America’s Great Electoral Stushie: a Scottish Angle

Will the outcome of this fractious American election register in Scotland? Given that Barack Obama and Sarah Palin stood shoulder to shoulder and asked Scots to reject independence in the 2014 referendum (a bit rich, given what Americans were getting up to in 1776) there is certainly a possibility of an influence, if marginally, though it is unlikely that Barack and Sarah’s intervention had much effect. After all, it was The Vow wot dun it, as we know.

In contrast, Joe Biden avoided commenting on the issue at that point and he has been circumspect ever since. This is not to say that he’d back independence – only that he’s not prepared to give a view, unlike Donald Trump, who opposes it on the basis that he couldn’t attract the British Open to Turnberry. Moreover where Obama was helping out David Cameron, Biden is unlikely to offer such comfort to a Prime Minister who sucks up to his fellow carnival barker in Mar-a-Lago.

Americans, if they think about Scotland at all, often have a mawkish affection for the people they believe the Scots to be. This has more to do with Outlander and Harry Potter than with any reality known to you and I. Harry Potter isn’t even a Scot, but that didn’t stop a young American lady once asking me if Edinburgh’s ancient Potterrow ‘was named for him.’

True, the odd movie-goer may mention Trainspotting 2, but usually as a perverse anomaly, which is fine by me. On the whole Americans are much more emotionally fixated with Ireland, where many still have relatives. Scotland remains, in general, a Brigadoon fantasy which, while it can throw up the odd one-off, like talk-show host Craig Ferguson or Silicon Valley radio presenter Alison van Diggelen, will eternally be a never-never land of misty romance with the added advantage of sea lochs which are just great for nuclear submarines.

In any event they have much more important things to think about right now, like a bizarre electoral contest between two old men which is about to decide their future. In this great collective national breakdown nobody’s quite sure what tomorrow will bring. After the unexpected 2016 result, the pollsters and the pundits aren’t taking anything for granted, nor should they. Back then, the supposedly informed view was that Hillary had it in the bag. I was in New York at that time, trying not to be a wet blanket by pointing out that Britain had just voted for Brexit, and no one had expected that. Biden’s lead has been more effectively sustained, apparently, but the fear stalking the Democrats is that there may be enough hidden Trump voters who refuse to ‘fess up on their dirty little secret to tip key states like Pennsylvania over to the Republicans. The Democrats best recruiting sergeant in hard-fought states like Florida could yet turn out to be Covid-19.

Elections can be full of surprises, of course. Eighteen months prior to Trump’s 2016 triumph I’d been on a porch in Cranford, New Jersey with a few friends and a bottle of chilled white wine as the results of the Westminster election trickled in. A BBC exit poll predicted an SNP win in all 59 Scottish seats. ‘Jeez’ my host had exclaimed ‘Even Joe Stalin couldn’t pull that one off.’ In the event it was reduced to 56 seats, which left me with the difficult job of explaining how it was that Edinburgh’s swanky Marchmont, Merchiston, and Bruntsfield had ended up being the last bastion of Socialism in Scotland. ‘A bit like the Hamptons going communist?’ was the perplexed response.

In 2016 there were a few straws in the wind, not the least of them being a complacent liberal establishment persuading itself that (a) working class Americans always vote Democrat because – in the words of Blair pollster the late Philip Gould – they had nowhere else to go (b) no woman in her right mind could possibly vote for a man who’d boasted of his louche prowess with the ladies (c) African Americans would obviously reject him en bloc and (d) Hispanic Americans, appalled by his rhetoric about supposed Mexican rapists and murderers, would be totally against him.

I tried my best not to become a Cassandra but boy, was it difficult. The line ‘but hang on, we did Brexit, and no-one, least of all David Cameron, expected that.’ Invariably received a polite shrug. I went to a meeting organised by the impeccably liberal Nation newspaper, only to find I’d entered an echo chamber in which a panel of seven college educated white people droned on about minority rights, with few of the said minorities in the audience. I did notice an expensively dressed Sikh gentleman of mature years along the row, but he spent most of the meeting asleep.


I like people who read The Nation and follow CNN, but their biggest failing is that they don’t read The National Enquirer or watch Fox News, so they are, inevitably, detached from the humdrum reality of the rust-belt majority. The faithful gathered at Hillary’s big party (where she failed to turn up) were, by and large, far removed from that ilk – an ilk which had been not best pleased when Hillary had described blue-collar types who were considering switching sides as ‘deplorables.’

This time around, it’s even more bizarre and scary. Trump supporters, who seem to have become their own unquestioning cult, come up with such reasons for pledging their support as ‘he walks with Jesus, a sinner redeemed’ (verbatim, by the way) and revere him as a businessman who can get things done, regardless of his many bankruptcies and failures, like that Aberdeenshire golf course which was going to create 6000 jobs, but allegedly only managed 150. The most insightful take on Trump’s Scottish antics is still Anthony Baxter’s You’ve been Trumped closely followed by YouTube short The Dreadful Tragedy of Donald’s Troosers (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?)

The most disturbing prediction is that Biden may win, but Trump will refuse to lose. A rigged Supreme Court will be asked to intervene, which failing the military will take action. Nothing would seem to be beyond a sociopathic President who has urged his own armed ‘patriot’ followers to ‘monitor’ polling stations. The military, having been insulted as losers and suckers by this particular unreality TV star who has never worn a uniform, may not be compliant, of course.

It’s going to be an interesting month; let’s hope not too int

Comments (5)

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  1. Welsh_Sion says:

    My country would be even further off Americans’ radar than yours, I’m sure. Remember too, Trump’s mother was a Gaelic speaking Caledonian.

    Still, I found you this, and let you decide what you think:

    1. John Monro says:

      I enjoyed it and I thought they did reasonably well. Even the odd Scot mightn’t know their national animal was a unicorn! And if you asked a Scot to point to Florida on the map you might find some amusing results too. They mostly seemed appreciate the Scottish contribution to their own culture, that was nice.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @John Monro those who said ‘unicorn’ might have watched John Oliver’s skit:

  2. greenergood says:

    ‘ reasons for pledging their support as ‘he walks with Jesus, a sinner redeemed’ (verbatim, by the way)’: wish I’d bookmarked the photo I saw of a Trumpwoman wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed ‘Jesus is my savior – Trump is my president’, to which someone had added the caption ‘And never the twain shall meet’

  3. Threenotch says:

    Lived in Aberdeen in the 70s loved it. Still think of myself as Scot although have never returned. I hated Thatcher more than Reagan and I still hate him (he started the muckslide to Tru*p) . I like the idea of sticking it to the Tories and even more love the idea of Scots finally and completely being in control of their own lands and futures. However I do worry about an independent Scotland being economically challenged. I certainly am not educated on the topic and am only Scot so much as my 5th great grandfather was, but I love the Caledonian Highlands and the wonderful people of Scotland.

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