Elections in America were, are and will be everybody’s business

Every capital in the world is now Washingtons significant other
Voices Opinion Friday, June 03, 2016 - 16:54

To become the President of the United States of America (USA) is to hold the democratic world’s most important job. What Washington decides has an impact on every capital city around the world. As a military ally or enemy, trade partner or challenger, friend or foe, Washington is a significant other like none other - it takes all.

Two reasons must make us sit up as Americans vote later this year to pick their President. First is the poor option between the Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. One is a bigot and racist capable of heaping unimaginable havoc on the world and on his people. The other is a battle-scarred lady so economical with the truth that she comes across as a cover-up artist par excellence. Is this all that the world’s largest free market economy has to show for internal and global leadership?

The other related reason is equally worrying. The world is used to an aggressive America seeking new shores and markets by all and any means. No judgement here. If India or any other country could exercise such power, it would be done in a heartbeat. But, is the world ready for a navel-gazing and inward looking America? How will the world’s major capitals pick up the pieces after the Americans have voted? Historically, India has done better under the Republicans compared to the Democrats who treat India as an NGO.  New Delhi’s nuances and regional realities have never been a priority for America and that is unlikely to change in the near future.

If a Trump is giving a Clinton a run for her money in every which way, what, if any, will be the remains of the spoils for the rest of the world?

Consider Clinton’s big ticket foreign policy speech on Thursday night which was meant to lay out her priorities that would reassure Americans and the world. It turned quickly into a low-grade entertainment cum twitter war between two people who will have their hands on the nuclear code. Clinton went for the guttural immediately and Trump retorted live. If she was supercilious and dismissive, Trump was plain stupid.

 

While the two exchanged rapid zingers reminiscent of India’s subaltern twitter wars, signs of an America torn from within were there for all to see 140 characters after Facebook page. Trump has said repeatedly this week he will make America strong again while Clinton’s line has been that America is a great country and people should not be fooled into thinking otherwise. Gone are policy debates and political vision in a war-torn world looking for leadership. Gone are riveting discussions between mature opponents engaging in intelligent opposition. An America that is so damaged internally will also hurt the world in ways no one can predict. Trade barrier and immigration come to mind.

Over the past few months, Trump has shown that he will stoop to any level if that brings him a political advantage. Nothing is sacred, no charter is written in stone. He has poured hatred on Muslims, Cuban Americans and Mexican Americans because that got his peanut gallery closer to centre stage with him as king. Demonising them cleared his way to be the Republican nominee. If targeting Jews and Hindus, Buddhists could help him near his goals, he would have gone there as well. Trump has blamed women for sexual assault in the American army, he is fine with targeting civilians who are not nationalists according to him and he believes America has the right to plunder and torture whatever, whoever from wherever.

Clinton with her experience and sagacity should have been able to demolish all of the above rationally while upholding the basic principles upon which the country is built. Instead she has been reduced to follow a trickster who destroys all that comes in his way including America’s greatest asset – its history of embracing immigrants who have built one of the world’s greatest nations. How has it come to this? How has Trump gnawed his way to centre-stage?

Some answers may be forthcoming as the race to the White House switches gear. For one, Trump’s race to get his party’s nomination is a very different ball game from being voted in as the American President. In the nomination race, he was mocked for being not conservative enough, or for his absence of etiquette and polish with even his hair being the subject of punditry. Then Republicans were willing to back him for what was profiled as his entrepreneurial or business skills. That speaks volumes about the Republican’ internal leadership bankruptcy they had to rally around Trump to bring the party home. Are they ready to lead America and with it, the rest of the free world?

Clinton brings over a decade and a half of experience at the White House, first as the first lady and then Secretary of State. She has seen worse and the worst of America. She will survive the scrutiny that will come her way in the few months before November and that is probably her greatest asset – she is politically battle-scarred in the truest sense of the word. Trump is yet to be roasted by the American media. He will find out in the coming days and weeks that now he is up against only one very powerful and agile rival and not the dozen other people he had to battle to get here. The strain is beginning to show and television is a ruthless medium and Trump is twitter-happy. He has lost his cool in a few televised debates and more recently went into shouting mode against journalists who questioned some of his philanthropy.

Americans are not in a forgiving mood. This is not an election about sending troops or bringing them back. This is a very here and now election with neighbourhoods meaning exactly that – the next block. If it gets established that Trump has floated fly-by-night schemes and endorsed projects aimed at fleecing people-like-us or playing up to their insecurities, they will most likely be ruthless. People may be more forgiving of Clinton. 

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