Tuesday, October 11, 2016

US Presidential Elections: A sad view from the outside.

For decades the message from Washington to the developing world is to embrace democracy and to bring democratic norms and values to their own societies. There was never a doubt in my mind that eventually with education and social responsibility becoming more prevalent in the emerging world democratic norms would also follow. With it came a vision of the stalwarts of US politics, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and even those who did not occupy of the highest office, Al Gore, John Mccain, Robert Kennedy and many more. More recently Barrack Obama brought back a sense of statesmanship to the White House and then in sharp contrast the current US Presidential election has spiralled into a mud sling match which negates all that seemed so elegant about the electoral process.

Yes there was talk of JFK's escapades with women and the many other stories of US Presidents before. Perhaps we did not live in a world of intrusive media back then or perhaps the press never found their own teeth, but ever since the Gary Hart incident on the boat "Monkey business", the press found its power that it could derail any candidate for the highest office. It would seem that today Donald J Trump and his supporters will say precisely this that the press is out to get him.

However, from the outside, one cannot but notice that the quality of the political engagement that encompasses the current election highlights the depths to which the political squabbling has fallen to. There is also no doubt that both candidates are seriously faulted and the choice before the US electorate is who is more faulted? The question of character is at the forefront of this selection process and even though their character flaws are so wide apart it makes one wonder why could not the political process throw up better candidates. It would seem that both parties just vomited out the two worst candidates that they could think of.

While Hilary Clinton carries the burden of mistakes of her recent past, i.e the emails and the possibility that the established political powers engineered her nomination, the mudslinging would be reserved more for her husband the former President Bill Clinton. For Donald Trump his modus operandi to snatch the GOP nomination was based on a debased, offensive and an appeal to the defranchised white working class. While it may have worked at the primaries the challenge of creating an appeal at the national level based on race and divisive political slogan is much harder to achieve. Yet there was a prayer that he could well have preyed on the discontent within America and might even have pipped Hilary at the post. However, the unravelling of Trump has begun with his offensive comments, albeit from 11 years ago, about women and there seems a promise of more to surface, Trump clearly is committing political suicide.

While a lame apology has come out from Trump he has negated the effect of that with attacks on Bill Clinton and then calling his comments about women as harmless locker room banter, which clearly shows he has no remorse for his behaviour. This will move the debate more towards his character rather than away from it to the issues of the economy and the future of America. For Hilary Clinton and her camp the best would be to avoid commenting on the character controversy letting Trump dig his own grave with his Twitter shovel. Sadly the temptation will remain in Hilary's comment to add a few shovels of dirt onto the Trump political grave and this is where the election process will and is getting derailed into a vicious mudsling.

The broader impact of this is that the Republican party has been totally uprooted from its roots, causing a civil war within from which, the staunch political conservatives will have to wonder how long it will take to repair. Most GOP political figures will be distancing themselves from Trump thus creating a unique precedent that a nominee of a leading party has lost the support of the main political figures of his own party. Sensible voices within the GOP seem resigned to admit that they may not win the White House and must try and ensure that the Congress remains in their hands. This is where the schism between Trump and the party will become wider.

For Hilary the saga of her emails will dog her perhaps beyond this election and each week new leaks will at best distract her and at worst cause her to go on the defensive. It would not be incorrect to stop and think that perhaps Bernie Sanders would have had an easier ride to the White House and most certainly a difficult target for Trump to lash out at. Yet as we see the election from the outside we can only feel sad that a democratic tradition which we all upheld is becoming a reality show with smell of scandal on both sides that can only upset the more sane minds.

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