Fascinated and trepidatious, world braces for America's vote

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Philippe Tanne, of France, holds a Trump 2020 flag outside the military memorabilia store he runs in the Normandy town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont, one of the sites of D-Day invasion in 1944, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Tanne, a French former soldier who hopes Trump wins reelection, is among the multitudes of people across the globe for whom the U.S. election is not a far-away happening in a far-away land but an impossible-to-ignore big deal for the planet. (Courtesy of Philippe Tanne via AP)

SAINTE MARIE DU MONT – In one of the towns in Normandy where U.S. Army paratroopers fought and died on D-Day in World War II, a French store owner already has readied the “Trump 2020” flag that he plans to unfurl in celebration if the U.S. president wins a second term.

But in Sweden, a scientist alarmed by the increasing signs of global warming she witnessed on her latest Arctic research trip is hoping Trump is voted out, not simply because she believes Democrat Joe Biden will do better against climate change but also because she wants to fall back in love with a country she now finds repellent.

Two voices, from among the multitudes of people across the globe for whom the U.S. election is not a faraway event in a faraway land but an impossible-to-ignore contest with stakes for the entire world. For many, that’s especially true in a year in which the scythe of the coronavirus cutting through millions of lives and livelihoods has driven home the need for countries to work together.

Because Trump has had such an outsize impact on global affairs -- tracing his own “America First” course and upending traditional alliances, friendships and norms -- the possibility of change in the White House has left the rest of the world even more captivated than usual by an election in which it has no say.

“America votes and gives the world a president,” tweeted the editor in chief of the Ashraq Al-Awsat newspaper, which is Saudi-owned and published from London.

As ballots were cast, global onlookers both fascinated and trepidatious braced for the butterfly effect of America’s choice and its knock-on effects big and small. A very real feared repercussion for some was the prospect of a reelected Trump further closing pathways to immigrants and some visitors.

“Trump makes these unexpected decisions out of nowhere and the lives of millions are changed,” said Ishan Kalra, a doctoral student in linguistics from India who fears her studies in the United States could be cut short. “It’s on my mind all the time.”

By often refusing to be a team player on global initiatives, including pulling the U.S. out of international efforts to slow climate change and withdrawing from the World Health Organization in the midst of the virus pandemic, Trump dismayed many around the world who long for U.S. engagement and leadership.