Dr Uroš Pinterič
Associate Professor in the Faculty of organization studies in Novo mesto and was awarded a PhD in political science at Faculty of Social Sciences at University of Ljubljana
Section 5: Overseas Perspectives
Presidential elections in United States are always in public eye, even in small and rather distant countries, such as Slovenia. However, in the case of 2016 US presidential election, Slovenian interest is much more personal. Republican candidate Donald Trump is currently married to a Slovenian wife; Melania Trump (nee Melanija Knavs and renamed to Melania Knauss). The interest in Trump in Slovenian media and public exists since the fact that Melania Knavs married what was a symbol of an American success story. Slovenian media were following Trump successes as well as failures due to this marriage. In this manner, the first reaction to Trump’s announcement he was running for the US presidency was concentrated on the fact that Slovenia might contribute a first lady for the first time in the American history. With the development of the Republican primaries optimism was increasing as well as the interest, not only in the development of the campaign as well as in the reality. The Slovenian community in the USA was strongly supportive towards the idea of a Slovenian first lady (even when they were more supportive to the Democratic party).
With the Republican convention approaching and attempts of personal discreditation, Melania started to lose popularity in Slovenia. Naked photos were rather positively accepted, since it was known that her career was in modelling. However, the confusion with her education (with no official record publicly available) and her long-term reported refusal of Slovenia and the Slovenian language raised negative sentiments. Her plagiarized speech at the convention, together with poor performance in English made her a subject of fun, not only in American but also among the Slovenian public, which started to lean towards the position that her performances could be considered harmful for the image of Slovenia in the world.
Trump’s sexual scandal, put Melania in the spotlight again. Her defence of her husband was reported predominantly as a subject of amusement, due to her language abilities as well as her obviously naive responses. Her story of success in the US became a story of the ‘gold-digger’ who caught a rich man. At the same time, occasional appearances of Ivanka Trump was seen as indicating that the actual first lady will be Ivanka, due to her ability to perform effectively in public. Slovenian analysts declared the political death of Trump, and Melania was considered as irrelevant or even part of the problem, since she was unable to effectively support her man. Hence interest in the US presidential campaign reduced.
However, Žižek supported the election of Trump as a way to initiate political change (similar to Brexit, which is considered a demand for a different politics and not necessary actual exit from the EU). Slovenian analysts/scientists predominantly agree that Trump’s election would be hazardous due to his lack of predictability in international relations, where competences of the US president are highest. In the same time Melania entered the spotlight once again, with the speech in Philadelphia. Which was again proved she could not perform appropriately as a first lady. She was unable to improve her strongly Slavic English in the course of 20 years (despite analysis showing her broken English is rather sign of her discomfort than anything else).
After her constant glorification of the USA as the promised land she became subject of fun, not only in US talk shows, but also among the Slovenian public. Her success became disgrace and Slovenian media (regardless of political preferences) concentrated on the usual US presidential election reporting. It is possible to gain the impression that Slovenia excluded Melania due to her failure to present herself as a smart, adaptable and virtuous woman as well as due to her publicly reported rejection of Slovenian roots. Trump descended from richest Slovenian son-in-law to just another Republican presidential candidate, who can potentially harm unstable world peace, for which the USA are predominantly held responsible in critical circles of Slovenian intellectual elite.
The election day brought new surprises, proving all analytics, certain Clinton’ victory as granted, wrong. Slovenian media reported the electoral result with enthusiasm and reset the reporting on Melania as the success story of a Slovenian woman who was to become the next first lady. Despite a certain level of (rather unjustified) pride, Slovenia will be much more affected by the American policies, than by the fact that first lady has Slovenian roots (which she misused in her political campaign, rejecting her fatherland and mother tongue). Media now speculate on whether Trump will perform well as President; Slovenia media are equally concerned if Melania is able to leave any meaningful impression as first lady.