In the Cafés of Paris, Ennui and Revulsion Over Trump

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Montmartre, Paris.Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

As much of America climbed into bed in shock late Tuesday night, Parisians woke up to the news.

“Mon Dieu!” shouted one woman heading into a café from the rain. It was 8:45 a.m., 15 minutes before Trump addressed his cheering crowd in New York City. “Say it isn’t true. There are still states left to count. Aren’t there more states to count?”

Throughout the city’s cafés, Parisians took their morning coffee as they often do, standing up at the counter, flipping through the morning newspapers, and talking to each other. The results of America’s election were the subject of nearly every conversation I heard. Those I spoke to were divided as to whether or not Trump’s victory came as a surprise, but none were rejoicing.

“Me, I don’t really care either way, but I still would’ve preferred the other one,” said one barista, turning away to pull an espresso from the machine.

“But Trump, he is just a lunatic,” Patrick Bruyelle, a plumber, replied. “Put a bomb in his hands and he’ll blow up the world.”

“What we need is a woman president in France,” added Joaquim Henriques, a refrigerator repairman.

“Like Marine Le Pen?” I asked, invoking the head of the extreme-right party who has declared her candidacy in France’s presidential election next year.

“Ah, no not her!” he said. “Please anyone but her!”

In a different café, Guillaume Body Lawson, a financial coach, sat alone at a spacious bar. “I wasn’t surprised,” he said. “Americans voted for Trump for the same reasons people will vote for Le Pen. They want radical change without knowing why. And the discourse of the extreme right is extremely appealing.”

“It’s a movement, like Brexit, like Austria, that is spreading,” said Jean-Pierre Amoudrou, 76 years old, a regular at the café Le Père et Fils. “Americans love new things. They love new experiences. And they’re sick of immigration. All of us are sick of this immigration. I’m sick of it, too.”

In a café near Les Halles, I asked Paul Yetema, an economist, why he thought Americans had chosen Trump. He replied, “It’s the reality TV effect. People vote for names and faces they recognize. People no longer believe the experts.”

“I hope Congress can keep Trump in check,” he continued. “Or that he is impeached, or that he has a heart attack. That is what I hope.”

Alma Hueber, a 28-year-old sculpture restorer eating breakfast on a café terrace with a friend, was still in shock.

“I’m depressed,” she said. “I didn’t think it was possible. I really didn’t believe it. He’s a joke. He’s a caricature. Le Pen, she says terrible things, but at least she’s credible. Trump is grotesque. Trump, he has fans. Fans, not political supporters. If Trump can be elected, it means anything is possible.”

“Americans love strict people who speak frankly, who are aggressive and direct,” said Riyadh Bitoute, a 32-year-old Algerian plumber, speaking over a blaring television news show that was once again explaining the American Electoral College system. He had not followed the election closely, but was nonetheless unsurprised at the results. “Americans, they like that kind of personality.”

Everyone I spoke to felt certain the consequences of America’s choice would be felt in France.

“America is global,” one computer technician told me. “What will the impact be? We don’t know yet. But certainly it will have one.”

“On the economy, on the environment, on our own elections,” his friend added. “It’s going to have a very large impact here.”

“Look, here comes Trump now,” cracked one barman, gesturing out the window to the street. A heavy-set white man was attempting to park his shiny pick-up truck in a space far too small.

“God Bless America,” replied his co-worker, polishing a glass.