By Pete Williams
Pity is an awful emotion to feel for someone. I would rather someone hold me in contempt than pity me, so let’s just say that I empathise (or shall I say empathize) with the American people. Over the course of this electoral cycle the country has been rent in two, and for their Commander-in-Chief, they are faced with possibly one of the worst choices they have ever had. On one hand, they have Donald Trump, a reactionary, divisive, intolerant, bigot, who threatens to pitch races against each other; build a physical wall along their southern border, and an ideological one along demographic boundaries; and deport wholesale all illegal immigrants (an unfeasible proposition); [pause for breath] and on the other, Secretary Clinton.
Now I’ve written about Hillary before. I’m not a fan. Is she qualified to hold the Presidency? Of course. She’s a lawyer with over 25 years in politics, and a former First Lady and Secretary of State. For me, and I daresay I’m not alone, however, that’s the problem, she represents everything that’s wrong with the political class; a dyed-in-the-wool politician. Her stance on key issues has changed to suit the moment, same-sex marriage, crime and trade to name a few, she’s been paid millions by wall street and corporate America, and I’m still not convinced about her private email server. At least Trump is different, warts and all. He’s unapologetic, unpolished, and honest about his opinions – berserk opinions, but he’s honest nonetheless.
And so the voters go to the polls, with a choice between a guy who “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or a lady who’s “not really on [their] side”. Of course, they could vote for an independent, although Gary Johnson when asked on CNN about Syria, requested that the interviewer define the word “Aleppo”. However, as a Libertarian, he may argue that America has no place intervening in foreign conflicts. There’s no need to explain why Donald Trump isn’t a great choice, most people get it – for the avoidance of doubt however, here’s a quick list: when it comes to self-interest, Donald Trump takes first place; he has no discernible policies, foreign or domestic, beyond a vague notion of somehow “making America great again”; and his rhetoric, much like that of Mr Farage over here, has made it acceptable to use race and country of origin as a stick for people to beat each other with.
Now before we go any further, let me make one thing clear, this isn’t a pro Trump or HRC hatchet-job on one or the other, this is a bipartisan hatchet-job on both. They are, to my mind, as bad as each other. One doesn’t know what foreign policy means, and worst case will disengage and let Comrade Putin pinch bits of Eastern Europe; the other, worst case, might finance a proxy war between [insert Asian nation here] and China, over their shiny, new, ‘not military’ islands in the South China Sea- but that’s enough fear-mongering for now.
Often in ‘democratic’ countries, we, the electorate, are faced with a poor choice, and while we are given an option and I can write this piece expressing how I feel, unlike many in the world, it is often a choice between the lesser of two evils. A respected political scientist told me of a theory of his, that suggests that so called democratic states, while appearing functional, have failed. Taxes are collected, roads fixed, votes counted, however major reform isn’t passed. Governments are so gridlocked, that small reforms are costly and, ‘talked up’ to look large requiring political currency to be used up to the extent that it can overshadow administration’s – ‘Obamacare’ being a good example. An excellent piece of legislation, but hardly a complete overhaul, and one that shouldn’t have cost Obama so much.
Perhaps this is why candidates like Trump are so attractive. They represent a break from the status quo, they promise change, they stand out from the political crowd, one people find increasingly hard to relate to. This was also true for the other side of the Trump coin, Bernie Sanders.
Unfortunately, American politics wasn’t ready for him. Perhaps the best thing to come from this electoral cycle is that we’ll see a candidate like him successful next time around.
What is surprising about this cycle is the amount of hatred felt by each side for the other. A friend of mine recently returned from Chicago, where he described this. All one needs to do is look at the comments sections of any YouTube video that is even remotely related to the election to see bile being spewed from either side of the aisle. Even over here I’ve had vigorous arguments with people, who assume that just because I don’t like Hillary Clinton, I support Donald Trump. I’d go so far as to say that I’ve never seen so much interest in American politics on this side of the pond, even during the Obama ’08 and ’12 campaigns.
The US was founded by idealists, men and women who set off from Europe because they wanted freedom to live in their own way, then they kicked us out for the same reason. This freedom was hard-won. For all the perceived shortcomings that the American people have, one can’t fault their patriotism, the unfaltering belief in the idea; to me this is what makes America great. The constitution was written in order that they form ‘a more perfect union’, and even the motto, E Pluribus Unum, in the nation’s seal means “one from many”. Today we need to hope for a strong victory whichever way the result goes, as a narrow margin will only further serve to divide the nation. At any rate, I hope that whatever the outcome, we’ll see more of this union I’ve heard so much about. I’m starting to sound quite presidential myself…