Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

Donald Trump supporters celebrate his victory (Reuters)
Donald Trump supporters celebrate his victory (Reuters)

Kiwis don't understand America.

If the American election feels wrong to you, that's probably because you have got America wrong.

The reality is New Zealanders don't understand what the American voter has been going through to make them believe in Donald Trump.

I actually think the US election result has shown us up as far too judgmental of the average American. A more raw truth is that it is quite embarrassing how little we know about America, given how much time we dedicate to watching and commenting on its politics.

We don't know anything about the people of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Or the folks from Sarasota, Florida. We don't have any mates in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

Queuing at the door for Donald Trump in Scranton (Patrick Gower)

For them, the election wasn't about electing the first woman President of the United States and stopping a demagogue.

It was about sending a message that they feel left behind by the economy - and left out and ignored by the political process.

One of the best lines I heard was from a guy in Scranton on election-eve who said of Trump: "He is not the best messenger - but he has the right message."

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

Donald Trump supporters in Scranton, Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

It was in Scranton that I saw the Trump revolution first hand. His most resounding cheer came when he said: "Tomorrow you are going to get the change you have been waiting for your whole lives."

Middle America has wanted to vent for a long time - and Trump helped them find a way.

They hate politicians, they want to "drain the swamp" that is Washington, and they don't care how as long as it is now.

One of the criticisms regularly levelled at the new President-elect is that he has never had a governing role before - but his people absolutely love that.

It is easy to dismiss Trump supporters as thick. But tens of millions of "normal" Americans voted for Donald Trump. People with jobs, families and college degrees filled the queue at Scranton.

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

A Hispanic Trump supporter (Patrick Gower)

And now we know that ballot boxes nationwide were filled with these people too.

We like to think we know America - through the odd visit (mainly to New York and LA), through the great novels and movies, and through the media.

Well, the American media got the election very wrong - both in its analysis and its polls. We took a boiled-down version of this to New Zealand and then put a Kiwi spin on it. Effectively, that made it more wrong.

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

Donald Trump supporters at a rally (Patrick Gower)

Kiwis also don't understand the hatred for Hillary Clinton here in the States.

I don't think it had anything to do with her being a woman - more that she was the wrong woman. They hate her because she is a politician. They hate the system - and she represents the system.

Look at the Clinton Foundation - they took donations to their private fund in exchange for the donors getting meetings with Hillary as Secretary of State.

Imagine if that was exposed in New Zealand - a Foreign Affairs minister taking donations in exchange for access. That person would not have a chance of becoming Prime Minister.

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

A police car in Scranton, Pennsylvania (Newshub) 

In New Zealand, the Donald Trump show dominated things - people couldn't turn away. He is awful and arrogant. The Trump show blocked the bad side of Hillary Clinton coming out.

A lot of Kiwis heard about Donald Trump's plans for a wall, but not so much about his passion for creating jobs - although he doesn’t really explain either of them.

Donald Trump is not misunderstood, but his voters are.

Kiwis have every right to be aghast at what Americans have done.

Opinion: Why Kiwis have America wrong

Huge crowd for Trump in Scranton, Pennsylvania (Patrick Gower)

But it is their country, their democracy and, most importantly, their vote.

If we want to judge them on how they vote, we should at least try to understand them better.