Simon Williamson

The US election: An impossible choice

2016-11-08 08:53

I have been asked throughout this election by people from all over the world, how this election is so close, and why America is even considering electing Donald Trump its president when he is such an obvious lunatic.

The question isn’t easy to answer, but in this highly-polarised country, 90% of the nation’s citizens will vote for the person of the party with which they identify. It is the other fraction that will determine who gets to manipulate the power that comes with the presidency of the US.

Due to the peculiarities of the US electoral system, very few states of the nation’s 50 are actually going to determine who wins, and relentless focus on them has given us a picture of who the people deciding this election might actually be. The campaign has pertained to the small group of people who don’t always vote for the same party, and who happen to live in one of the states that matter. This election will be decided on the fringes.

To figure out what may happen on Tuesday, we need to look at the candidates, both of whom are the least popular people to run for president ever since the statistic began to be measured, and which has resulted in a pretty miserable campaign.

Trump is unpopular because he is unapologetically racist. While I have had thousands of people whine at me on Twitter whenever I mention this, a ban on Muslims entering the USA is racist. Calling Mexicans rapists is racist. Going to Minneapolis and complaining about the Somali refugees that live there is using your power to punch down on a small group of people who are often on the receiving end of hate crimes. On top of that Trump has used his business acumen and power to screw other people out of being paid, and he has refused to release his taxes, a standard for presidential candidates under the notion of real and basic transparency.

He is also a perpetual liar. We all expect politicians to lie, but Trump does it so often and says things that are completely antithetical to other things he has said before while being recorded. He also remains the only adult I know of to willingly impersonate a disabled person, which, as CNN’s Anna Navaro so succinctly said, is something most of us would punish our children for doing.

Clinton, meanwhile, has honesty problems of her own, by way of using a private email server to conduct government business (she is not alone in this, but it transgresses rules and guidelines nonetheless). She has ethical problems with work of the Clinton Foundation, its dealing with foreign governments, and its money-making implications. Add to that a series of email leaks and Freedom of Information requests that show overlaps where there should not be, such as her confidant Huma Abedin working for the State Department and Clinton Foundation at the same time; and a breaking of an agreement with the Obama administration to keep the foundation from falling into ethical lapses, such as an undeclared $1 million birthday gift for Bill Clinton from the government of Qatar.

She also has problems within the Democratic Party for her support for American military intervention, especially her promotion (not just vote) for the war in Iraq, and her backing of American interference in the affairs of Libya and Honduras to name but two, her support for the dictators of Saudi Arabia and coup government in Egypt, and so on. Clinton is also often criticized for her cozy relationship with America’s wealthy, which doesn’t sit all too well with a Democratic base that is more concerned with those further down the ladder. None of this differentiates her ideologically from Democrats, but she is yet to deal with the left flank of her party in the way that Barack Obama did eight years ago.

While Clinton has an enthusiasm problem within her own party, Trump has an ideological problem with his. On top of the open racism, unlike the coded racism Republicans use to sop up the extreme right wing, Trump has a foreign policy that is hard to pin down, as opposed to the unified interventionist streak the GOP has backed since Reagan, and has threatened to renege on America’s treaties. While all Republicans campaign on tax cuts, Trump’s tax plan makes no sense. Trump has no relationship with any church, which, until this cycle, was a prerequisite to running as a Republican. One of the relationships he does have is with Russia, a dead horse so beaten by American political candidates it is pure poison, no matter the rationale. Trump is for preserving America’s two largest entitlement programs, in direct contrast to Republican aims to “save” them by cutting them.

All of this makes polling this election difficult, as polling is a snapshot of how people feel at this point in time, which is then weighted by experts, as opposed to a measure of who will actually arrive at the polls. Clinton looks the favorite, and I would be very surprised if she doesn’t win. While she has the aforementioned problem of getting her own party to love her, national trends and the Electoral College map make it more difficult for Republicans to win, especially with a candidate with as much self-inflicted damage as Trump. His terrible numbers with both educated and Hispanic voters have created a Democratic surge in unexpected states like Texas and Arizona where he polls only marginally above Clinton. She is well ahead in wealthier and more educated states like Virginia, and similar demographics are also assisting her in North Carolina.

Americans journeying to the polls on election day are choosing between an ideologically typical Democrat and a volatile Republican appealing to a base that doesn’t quite exist strongly enough to put him over the top. I am not in the habit of making predictions, but should Trump win, the American polling industry needs to go and find the systematic error that biased all their polls toward Clinton, who, as things stand, is the favorite to become the first woman US president-elect come Wednesday morning. 

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    us 2016 elections


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