The US Presidential Mano a Mano Tussle

The world faces too many important challenges for Uncle Sam not to make the right choice nor miss his historic tryst with destiny

The US presidential elections campaign looks more and more like a street brawl with no holds barred. The contest has been anything but cricket. It has been nasty and vicious at times. It has also been marked by many twists and turns. However, it is becoming starkly evident as we approach the date of the US presidential elections scheduled on 8 November 2016 that the level of debate in the campaign is nose diving. The rhetoric and argumentation used have too often been low brow and been basically flying au ras des pâquerettes.

Politics in the United States has essentially been the preserve of two parties. The US Democratic Party which was founded in 1828 is the world’s oldest party. The anti-slavery Republican Party which was founded in 1854 established its credentials with the election of Abraham Lincoln as the first Republican President in 1860. These two parties have dominated American politics ever since.

The democratic system of primaries to obtain the party nomination to contest the presidential elections is gruelling and tough. This is the more so as since 1933, nearly every US president has either been a governor, senator, or five-star military general. In the run up to the primaries of the 2016 presidential elections, there were at one stage some 10 present or former governors and 10 present or previous senators interested in the race to the White House before many dropped out. This is tantamount to a two tier qualification barrier to obtain the party investiture to contest the presidential elections. Donald Trump, the US billionaire businessman who won the primaries to become the Republican Party candidate at the 8 November 2016 presidential elections is therefore in many ways a maverick who has bulldozed his way through the established order and rules and invited himself to the party.

Outrageous posture

Donald Trump’s brazen persona and rabble-rousing political discourse intent on not being politically correct has upset the apple cart. His radical views have basically inculcated new attitudes towards a host of issues causing angst among the people. His campaign has therefore regularly spawned controversies through outrageous and provocative stances and remarks. Mexicans have been summarily labelled ‘rapists and criminals’. He has also vowed that he ‘will build a great wall on the southern US border and make Mexico pay for it.’ He has advocated that Muslims should be banned from entering the United States. His lewd and demeaning remarks about grabbing women caught on video have jolted the world.

Spinning his own conspiracy theories, he has also cast doubt on the US electoral system by suggesting that the elections could be ‘rigged’ against him. When asked last month at the end of the last live presidential elections debate whether he would accept the verdict of the presidential election polls if he loses, he refused to do so in the teeth of an established practice and principle of American democracy, saying that ‘he will look at it at the time.’

Against such a backdrop of appalling stances so contrary to the American ethos and the lofty democratic principles enshrined in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights, most people would have expected the US presidential elections to be won by Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party candidate and the first woman candidate in the US presidential elections, hands down. This is the more so as the general view is that Hillary Clinton has won the three live debates opposing the two candidates. Yet, the outcome seems still in balance as the latest polls show that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are running neck and neck.

Does this mean that large swathes of Americans identify themselves with the radical views expressed by Donald Trump? Do the close polls mirror deep-seated grievances and a sense of alienation among the people? The Donald Trump election as the Republican Party candidate is not a freak occurrence. Its root causes must be competently gauged and resolved.

Safeguarding the American ethos

The outcome of the presidential elections will basically be determined by two fundamental issues. The first issue relates to the preservation and consolidation of the ideals, values and ethos of the founding fathers of the United States. The United States is a melting pot. It has regularly admitted immigrants from all over the world who facing hardships in their own countries have sought refuge in the US in search of a better life. The US is the country where foreign born nationals can also live the American dream such as Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google or Nitin Nohria the Dean of Harvard Business School. The US has therefore had an open policy within the framework of well-set rules.

When travelling to Miami, passengers are first greeted at the airport by announcements in Spanish in deference to the large Spanish speaking population in Florida followed by English. According to statistics released last year, Asians have overtaken Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants according to a survey on demographic trends. The evidence shows that immigrants have generally enriched the US through their hard work, entrepreneurship, integration in American society and cultural diversity. It would be anathema for the United States to shut its borders and shun the outside world.

The second issue relates to sound judgment and ability to lead the country. Both camps have been trading personal attacks to expose their opponent’s shortcomings. Hillary Clinton has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the FBI in July for using her private email server for official communications, instead of using an official government email address when she was Secretary of State. However, this has not deterred Donald Trump from hammering and questioning her sound judgment on the issue.

The FBI recent announcement 11 days before the elections that they have found new emails of hers that they plan to review to ascertain if these contain any classified material has come back to haunt the Clinton camp. Polls show that her lead has as a consequence been eroded amidst protests by Democrats that the FBI may have broken the electoral rules by making its investigation public so near to the election.

Similarly, Donald Trump has been pilloried by Hilary Clinton and the Democrats for his derogatory remarks on Mexican immigrants, a judge and the Muslim family of a fallen soldier, his lewd comments on women and his refusal to release his tax returns amidst claims that despite being a billionaire, he has paid no federal income tax for 18 years.

Bull in a china shop

In a context where every piece of news goes viral, the present US presidential campaign cannot be said to have showcased the best traditions of American democracy. The prospect of Americans electing their first woman President after 43 male presidents since the office was established in 1789 should have been a high and proud moment for the US at large. Like a bull in a china shop, Donald Trump’s brash and truculent foray into American politics has threatened to spoil the party. The world faces too many important challenges for Uncle Sam not to make the right choice nor miss his historic tryst with destiny.

Mrinal Roy

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