Tomorrow, 8 November, the people of the world’s most powerful nation will elect a new president. The choice is between the billionaire businessman with no political experience -Donald Trump of the Republican Party- or former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hilary Clinton of the
Having just eight years ago, elected the first African-American president –one of the best in history- will the US elect a woman as president this time around? Perhaps it is the right time.
With the US presidential election system differing from those held in other parts of the world, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty, which the victor at this year’s elections could be, though polls suggest Clinton holds a slim lead.
This year’s run-up to the presidential election has been extremely confrontational, divisive, vituperative and resembles more, an election in one of the more recently independent former colonies, where democracy has not taken root, than in a nation which has been a practicing ‘democracy’ for over two hundred years.
This election has raised questions about democracy itself in the US. The Republican nominee has encouraged violence against opponents and has threatened to jail his rival if he wins the election. He has also claimed the election is rigged and has refused to accept the result in the event he fails to win! He has attacked women, questioned the capacity of the US military and intelligence services, been accused of sexual abuse, attacked minorities and accused Latin-American and Asian immigrants of being anti-American and fifth columnists.
On an international level he has dished US allies and literally accused them of sucking America dry. His opponent and the US administration itself have openly accused Russia of attempting to interfere in the outcome of the election.
The decorum which marked previous US elections is dead, the country is polarized, its international allies left feeling ill-used and the rest of the world confused.
There is also a growing discontent in the US -a study by the ‘Washington Centre for Equitable Growth’- shows the share of income going to the top 1 percent of families —those earning on average about $1.4 million a year— increased to 22.0% in 2015, from 21.4% in 2014. Whereas the bottom 99% of families grew by just 3.9% over 2014 levels!
US voters are understandably angry at the political establishment which bailed the wealthy out during the recent recession, which hit the US, while ordinary Americans lost even the little they owned.
Clinton has been part of a political establishment that shaped these differences. She also stands accused of corruption. US society is today polarized between white Americans and the rest…, its international partners left insecure of their position vis-a-vie their main bastion.
The incoming president needs to bring civility back into the US political system. She/he will need to allay the uncertainty among US allies.
A he /she needs to understand that the world has changed and no longer accepts US hegemony. The example of the Philippines and more recently Malaysia moving towards a Chinese orbit is an example that times are a changing.
Secretary Clinton has openly stoked tensions with Russia, claiming interference in the US presidential election. In East Asia the US is needling China via provocative interference in the South China Sea and backing opposition groups in Hong Kong –an integral part of China.
In a bid to shore up its sagging support in South Asia the US has aligned itself with its old foe India in a bid to confront growing Chinese influence in the region. It has simply discarded its ally in the ‘war against terror’ –Pakistan.
In the Middle East Secretary Clinton has adopted a hawkish attitude to efforts to bring peace to the region despite the ongoing killing of civilians.
Republican nominee Trump has spoken of a need to work with Russia in the effort to end confrontations. However, Trump has also spoken of tearing up trade agreements with all and sundry and pushing the US into isolation.
Whatever the outcome, the incoming president will have to face the reality that in this day and age no one accepts US hegemony. The incoming president has to change strategies to suit changing worldwide relationships. It needs to switch to co-operation rather attempting to impose its will or world view ranging from issues related to climate change, to trade agreements or keeping the peace.
To meet the challenges of a changing world requires vast political acumen, intelligence and facts at one’s fingertips. The three presidential debates revealed the Republican nominee was wanting in all three. The US is faced with a choice between a loose cannon Trump and a hawkish Clinton. A sad lack of choice, coming especially in the aftermath of the equanimity of an Obama presidency.