The frightening reality is that the race for the presidency in the US is so close, and getting so much closer, that Donald Trump may well win the presidency. On Monday evening the two contenders, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have their first debate so as to give the American people a further opportunity to decide which candidate to support. While there is a large number of undecided or independent voters that each candidate will seek to win over, each faces specific hurdles which need to be overcome in order to ensure victory in the elections.
Hillary Clinton is struggling to attain a knockout punch because, having been hounded by the press for over twenty years, compounded by lapses in judgment, she faces skepticism in a part of the electorate. ‘Untrustworthiness’ of her has flourished because of her use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State. Even though there is no evidence that she treated with confidential material, apologized and previous secretaries of state have conducted official business by private email, the Republicans and the US media have been unrelenting in their criticisms and allegations of ‘lies.’
Another negative factor has been Mrs. Clinton’s ‘likeability.’ This has emerged as a result of the tight control she maintains over her public image so that, it is argued, the ‘real Hillary Clinton’ has not emerged. She is alleged to be a kind, sensitive, relaxed, progressive, generous, humourous person in private. However, an unsympathetic portrait has been painted of her by the right wing press over several decades, picking at minor incidents such as her combative posture in the health care initiative she promoted as First Lady in 1993, her retort to critical journalists as to whether she should stay home and bake cookies, tears during the election campaign against Barack Obama, and more. Allegations of corruption, or at least cover-up, which have never been proven against her during the Clinton Presidency, have all been used over time to build up a negative portrait of Mrs. Clinton.
However, Mrs. Clinton, a skilled debater and deeply knowledgeable about the issues, is clearly the superior candidate with vast experience, a progressive agenda, detailed programmes for a wide range of problems and wide respect in the international community, notwithstanding her traditional embrace of the Wall Street elite and her proven tendency to favour the use of force in international relations. Her support for the Honduran coup against a progressive President Zelaya, after which thousands of activists have been killed, still rankles. But her support among Americans is broad-based and spans the widest cross-section of the American public, including African Americans and Hispanics.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a wealthy property developer and a flamboyant TV personality who has been described as a narcissist and a sociopath. He is a dismissive, smooth talker, who lies incessantly and with reckless abandon, mocks women and the disabled, attacks Hispanics and insults anyone who criticizes him, in typical narcissistic fashion. But despite Trump’s numerous lies, which flow like molten lava from lips curled in hatred, and his proven discrimination against African Americans in his property business, the US media has given him a free ride. The excuses are numerous but the main one emerging in recent weeks is that it is not the business of journalists to fact check, so that when Trump lies, it is not their job to confront him. The reality, though, is not only that Trump attracts viewers and sells copy, but that journalists are intimidated.
Trump does not have serious policy positions, or any at all. He takes no advice, reads no briefing books, nor does he have any. He obtains his information from television news and formulates his policies on the basis of populist sentiments. After the killings of African Americans by police last week, at least one of whom was clearly unarmed, Mr. Trump advocated the resumption of the discredited, biased, routine, stop and frisk policies that had been abandoned in New York as being useless as a crime fighting tactic and as disproportionately targeting African Americans. This is not serious, considered policy, but these types of responses constantly consolidate and strengthen his white support.
What explains his competitiveness in the polls? The answer is race. Michael Paarlberg, writing in the Guardian, after an extensive analysis of experts and polls, said: “It isn’t about trade, it isn’t about jobs, it isn’t about economic performance. It’s about demographics, and the sense that the country is looking less like what a portion of the electorate imagines it should be like – a perception that is also exaggerated, since Trump supporters are also no lore likely to live in areas affected by immigration.” A recent analysis in the New York Times of demographic and voting trends in Florida, a swing state, where support for both Trump and Clinton is even, concludes that Hillary Clinton has a huge deficit among white voters, whose support is keeping Trump’s hope alive. And Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, confirmed this in an interview with Christiane Amanpour.
A victory for Trump would damage American credibility and stature in the world.