Monday, 7 November 2016

U.S.A.: Clinton( the reason) v Trump ( the rage)

The results of tomorrow presidential election will have ramifications around the world. It is not about the construction of walls and societal peace in a divided country, it is also possible trade wars with Asia, the survival of the trans-Atlantic alliance and America's relationship with the Arab world. Tomorrow the future of the international community in on the ballot.

The two nominees could not be any more different from each other. The voice of societal rage against a power-political strategist, an outsider against the establishment, the voice of furious whites against the advocate of a diverse America.

Trump's campaign

The question that seems to be becoming increasingly pressing is whether America, a proud, great and powerful country, will fall into the hands of an egomaniac who wants to prevent Muslims from entering the land and to deport millions of illegal immigrants, a man who seeks to limit freedom of opinion and who has threatened to terminate old friendships across the globe. A whiff of 1950's McCarthyism is in the air, emitted by a candidate who is stoking hatred against Muslims and immigrants to a degree never before seen in a presidential campaign.

Trump is a candidate of rage, supported by the sense many have that something fundamental must change in the United States. The woman tasked with saving America from Trump is the candidate of reason, supported by the liberal bourgeoisie  who want a continuation of Obama's policies of enlightened pragmatism.

Trump is shamelessly seeking to take advantage of the uncertainty that has taken hold of American society and is instrumentalizing fears of a new terrorist attack for his campaign. Contrary to expectations, he has not become more presidential or more conciliatory since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

Trump appeals directly to a significant chunk of the population, one that feels abandoned by the country's leadership, left behind by globalization and threatened by demographics. Trump's campaign slogan: '' Make America Great Again'' might suggest that he is adhering to the American exceptionalism narrative and, thus, to the America founding myth. But much of what he says, banning Muslims from entering the US, stepped up domestic surveillance, expanded use of torture, is in direct opposition to the ''Constitution''. Indeed, the ''greatness'' that Trump wants to return to, it has become clear, is one free of immigrants and blacks. One where white American need not to encounter adversity, allowing their supposed natural superiority to shine through. Trump is suggesting an altogether different narrative of America identity, one based on race and religion.

Trump's vision of America is not rooted in the ''Constitution'', but one rooted in the notion that White America is under fire from all sides and must be rescued from the establishment. His patriotic movement is an identitarian crusade, open to those who dream of an America not for freedom loving democrats, but for those who seek a white revolution to take the power back.

And he has rhetorically armed the movement to continue beyond tomorrow. His utter rejection of Hillary Clinton as legitimate candidate democratically chosen by a political party representing half or more of the American electorate, combined with his repeated warnings that the election is rigged, provides all the excuse necessary for the white right to carry on the fight after Election Day. It is difficult to view the recently exposed plot by a group calling itself ''The Crusaders'' to blow up a Somali housing complex in Kansas the day after the election as anything other than a response to Trump' s hardly veiled call to arms.

Hillary's campaign

It seems as though Hillary Clinton has always been there. She was first lady, she was a US Senator, she was a presidential candidate and she was secretary of state. In 2008, many thought she had a clear path to the presidency--until she was beat out in the primaries by a virtual unknown by the name of Barack Obama.

She began this campaign too as the presumptive favorite, but stumbled early on over the email affair and faced an unexpected challenge in the form of a 74-year old senator by the name of Bernie Sanders. His call for a leftist revolution proved surprisingly appealing among many young Democratic voters, including a remarkable number of women who, it had be thought, would gravitate toward the Clinton campaign..

And now Trump has the initiative, and has not proven shy about deriding her and portraying her as a weakling, crooked. It is almost impossible for Clinton to reply in kind. She wants to avoid dividing the electorate and is loath to play one group of voters off against another. Reasonable responses are the only possible rejoinder to Trump's baiting of Muslims and other minorities, but her message of conciliation seems fainthearted and impotent against Trump's blustering. It is a battle being fought with unequal means, but what else can she do?

In this race, Clinton is fighting against something much larger than Trump. She is struggling against the widespread mistrust of the country's entire political class, a mistrust that has gripped the country like a fever. The majority of Americans have lost faith that politics can improve their lives. Representative democracy was born in Philadelphia and Washington and America, this ''shinning city upon a hill'', as Ronald Reagan described his country in 1989, became a paragon across the world. Today, though, it has lost much of its luster.

American society current identity crisis has a lot to do with the vast gap between the super-rich on the one hand and the middle, and working-classes on the other. The 400 richest Americans own as much wealth as the bottom two thirds of society taken together.and the annual, inflation-adjusted income of an average family has dropped by $5,000 since 1999 to $52,000. The great promise of America, that it is possible to climb the social ladder if you work hard enough, sounds to many these days like so many empty words.

Washington, DC does not just stand for the hatred establishment, but also for the connection between money and politics, a link few could epitomize better than the ''Clintons''. Indeed, the calculating presidential couple Frank and Claire Underwood from the television series ''House of Cards'' almost seems like a parody of Bill and Hillary.

Politics have in fact made the ''Clintons'' rich. Since they left the White House in 2001, Bill and Hillary have earned more than $150 million from public speaking engagements. They have become part of the 1 percent. Trump, of course, is also extremely rich, but he has established a narrative that his wealth makes him incorruptible because he does not need to rely on other people's money. He presents himself as the opposite of Clinton, a narcissistic businessman who claims to have the best of everything: the best women, the best properties and even the best genitals.

Clinton's campaign relies on women, African Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT community, on the summation of many different elements of American society, and the politics she champions is focused on reconciling these elements. She wants to continue along Obama's path. Still, Clinton's policies would result in improvements in the lives of many Americans. She intends to preserve Obama's health care reforms, introduce paid medical leave and establish a right to paid maternity leave. On foreign policy, she advocates a more aggressive approach that focuses on US military power. Whereas Trump would like to withdraw the US from NATO, Clinton would intensify American;s presence on the global stage. Trump is an isolationist. Clinton is an interventionist.

According to the classic rules of campaign analysis, Trump is certain to lose tomorrow election, not because Clinton is so strong, but because he has scared off too many constituencies. There are indications these days that Trump may have gone too far with his message of exclusion and hatred.

By doing so, Trump has presented Clinton with a unique opportunity; Clinton biggest strength now is the widespread fear this man could become president. . Hillary Clinton would be the most unpopular president since 1948, but she would still be president. It would represent the triumph of reason over rage.

By Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert/Author

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