Me or Hell. That is the title of a lecture about the American elections to be presented by Etienne Augé, a senior lecturer at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication, on Monday evening.

“Things are the same now as when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie broke up,” is the comparison made by Augé. “At the time you had Team Brad and Team Angelina. It’s the same now with Trump and Clinton. Everyone is choosing a side. ‘It’s me or hell,’ both candidates are saying. The message being: if you choose the other candidate, the country will go to hell in a handbag.”

Joe Exotic.

Not that voters are necessarily forced to choose between “Crooked Hillary” of Donald “Grab ‘m by the pussy” Trump. They are also free to vote for libertarian Gary Johnson, Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party.

In addition, there is a plethora of candidates who will only be on the ballots in a few states. Augé opens Joe Exotic 2016’s website on his computer. “This is an actual candidate. If I wanted to draw a cartoon character who wishes to become president, this is what I would come up with. And he’s not even the worst of the lot.”

Sending observers

However, these candidates, including Augé’s own favourite, Jill Stein, do not stand a chance of making it to the White House. “America is an oligarchy. If you are not part of the Democrats’ or Republicans’ war machine, you simply do not matter,” the French researcher explains. He shows a table on his computer listing the donations received by both candidates – $1.3 billion for Clinton, $700 million for Trump.

“There are many ways in which people can rig an election. This is one. In the primaries, Bernie Sanders refused to accept donations from major companies. It was clear from that point that he would not become the Democratic candidate. If the Netherlands or France were to run their elections in the same way the American elections are being run at present, the Americans would send observers.”

‘Fucking rednecks’

Augé discusses the elections with students during lectures and seminars. “A while ago I had an American student in the lecture theatre who said she hated Trump. ‘Fucking rednecks’ she called his electorate. To me, saying such things is exactly the same as saying all Mexicans are rapists, as Trump did a while ago. The problem is that you’re heaping so much hatred on Trump that you will overlook Clinton’s shadow sides. Which is exactly what they want you to do.”

Clinton has plenty of shadow sides, Augé has found. “Four years ago I supported Hillary. I was disappointed when Obama was re-elected. But the things that have been released about her recently have blown me away. As a scholar, I look at Wikileaks a lot. Clinton said the following about Julian Assange: ‘Can’t we send a drone his way?’

And her campaign leader John Podesta’s brother is a lobbyist for Saudi Arabia, a country that is bombing Yemen, with American assistance. Clinton will continue that policy. She is a real war monger. She is also very close to the Goldman Sachs investment banking company. She often presents lectures there, and her daughter is married to a Goldman Sachs boy. But if you tell people that Trump may not be as diabolical as all that, and that Hillary may not be a saint, they will respond very strongly. It has definitely become impossible in the USA to give a nuanced response.”

Jill Stein

Jill Stein.

Augé himself would vote for Jill Stein, the Green Party’s candidate. “First of all, I still love the idea of having a female president. Some people call her incompetent, but hey, we’ve had so many male incompetent presidents. Why shouldn’t we have an incompetent female for a change?” he says with a smile.

“Personally, I do think she is competent. One of her key ideas is that the USA must stop being the world’s police man. She will not invest in the army. Basically, she wants to reinvent the entire idea of how a president must govern. Her vice-presidential candidate is Ajamo Baraka, an Afro-American. Look at the ballot and you’ll notice that the other candidates are all white males. At least these two look like a team that would change a thing or two. But there is no way in hell they will be elected.”

Even so, the EUR scholar is not giving up on the United States. “What I like about America is its ability to adjust, to evolve and to grab opportunities. Several states are already getting rid of the ‘winner-takes-all’ principle, thus giving alternative candidates a better shot. I believe that America will conquer its problems. But yeah, these are the worst elections in ages.” He will hazard a cautious prediction: “I have little faith in the polls, but I do think Hillary Clinton will emerge victorious. But then I remember waking up the morning after Brexit…”