American Kay Xander Mellish sees the election from outside: Støjberg reminds me of Trump
Elections for the Folketing in Denmark are on November 1, 2022, and the US mid-term elections, which will decide control of Congress, are on November 8. As a dual citizen of the US and Denmark, I am one of the few people who will be voting in both of them. So I have a lot of research to do.
I don’t follow politics on a daily basis, the ups and downs and whispers and gossip. I believe that as a citizen, all you need to know is enough to vote properly when requested. Until the election was announced, I barely followed the events at Christiansborg, except for hearing that one candidate had tossed his husband overboard when he was no longer a political asset.
That sort of colorful story is more common in the American elections, which are full of candidates as varied and eccentric as the country they represent.
There’s John Fetterman, who is running for Senate in Pennsylvania, a man who wears hoodies to even the most formal events and lived at his parents’ expense until age 48. Fetterman recently had a stroke, is easily confused, and requires closed-captioning software to understand journalists’ questions.
Still, he remains in the race to be among the 100 most powerful American legislators; anyone who questions his competence is called “ableist”, someone who discriminates against the disabled.
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Or the two candidates running for Senate in Georgia – two Black men, which is remarkable in a state that is known for three centuries of slavery and is the setting of Gone with The Wind. One is a Protestant minister, Raphael Warnock, and the other is a retired American football (not soccer) player, Herschel Walker.
Walker is a Joachim B. Olsen type, a gentle giant whom no one would call an intellectual, and he speaks with the same slow southern dialect of many of his potential voters. In a debate, the two men came to blows over abortion rights, which Reverend Warnock supports and Herschel Walker opposes. “Instead of abortin’ those babies,” Walker cried out, “why are you not baptizin’ those babies?”
The Danish election lacks these lively characters; Alex Vanopslagh and his mildly funny TikToks may be the closest we get. Jacob Ellemann-Jensen, possibly the next prime minister, must be one of the dullest men in Scandinavia. He reminds me of Jeb Bush, the third Presidential candidate from the Bush family who ran a lackluster campaign in 2016 featuring posters that said Jeb! with an exclamation point. Donald Trump dubbed him “low-energy Jeb”, which he was, and his campaign ultimately went nowhere.
Low-energy Jacob and I had a real-life encounter a few years back: I was walking down Strøget in Aarhus when I noticed him giving away water bottles with his face on as a campaign goodie. My daughter and I were sipping on some McDonald’s shakes at time, but Jacob disapproved. “Here, drink this instead of whatever awful stuff you’ve got in that cup,” Jacob told us. It seemed an odd way to persuade voters, but maybe he could tell we didn’t live in Aarhus.
Inger Støjberg is in no way dull, and the connection she has to rural voters very much reminds me of Trump’s. For people who feel they are ignored and laughed at by the national media, it is life-affirming have a politician who seems to listen to them and care about their concerns. When I see pictures of voters waiting in line to meet Inger, she seems to be more than a politician to them – she seems to be a promise that they and their values are still important in a changing world.
But what I find noteable is that unlike Trump (and despite her criminal record), Inger is treated as just another politician by her fellow candidates, who joke around with her, take selfies with her, and in Søren Pape’s case even go as her date to the Queen’s jubilee dinner. Trump, on the other hand, has long been an outcast from the establishment in both parties; even before the events surrounding the 2020 election and January 6, to work for Trump in Washington or to voice the thinnest strand of support for him would see you cast out of all fashionable company. Trump’s supporters are loyal because they have no place else to go.
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My voting decision in the US is easy, because my Senator for the state of New York faces no meaningful opposition. In Denmark, I haven’t decided whom I’m going to vote for yet. Last time, I voted for Lars Løkke Rasmussen. He’s a bit older now and seems a bit out of breath, but at 58 he’s a child compared to the current US leaders.
Our last Presidential election was a 77 year old man vs a 74 year old man. Both of them seem to be hinting that they’d like to run again – and so is 74-year-old Hillary Clinton – but Biden’s senility is obvious and appears to be getting worse.
Unlike Biden, Mette Frederiksen seems to have grown in the job. She looks better than she did in 2019, she dresses better, she talks better, she moves with confidence. These things may seem superficial, but in a dangerous world, a leader who acts as if she knows what she’s doing is a valuable thing.
Would Jacob Ellemann-Jensen or Søren Pape have the same gravitas when dealing with Russia, China, the EU, or whomever the befuddled Biden is sending around to represent the US? I’m not convinced yet.
Kay Xander Mellish is a US-Danish dual citizen who has worked for Fortune 500 companies in both countries.
Her How to Live in Denmark podcast has been running since 2013.
Kay is the author of seven books, including How to Live in Denmark and How to Work in Denmark, and she is a popular keynote speaker and cultural trainer for business teams. All of Kay’s books are available in audio format from Audible, Storytel, and Nextory.
She lives in Copenhagen with her family.
Contact Kay to book an in-person presentation or virtual presentation about the cultural differences between the US and Denmark.