US Elections: The Trump-Clinton cliffhanger

The US presidential elections of 2016 are going to be one of the most rivetting polls in recent memory
Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr Delhi 

The stark and harsh truth that stares pundits in the face is that the liberals dislike Hillary Clinton. The conservative bastion loathes Donald Trump in equal measure. The editorials of conservative mouthpieces Weekly Standard, National Review and the New Republic deride Trump openly. Most conservatives feel that Trump is actually a Democrat in Republican disguise. 

The revulsion for Trump has ensured that the liberal media has united around Clinton. Even the conservative media outlets are flocking to the Clinton side, seeing her as a candidate of last resort. Despite fluctuations in polling numbers, Trump is no pushover. He will put up a fight and a nasty one at that. Trump continues to hold sway over working class whites. A large number of people from the Republican establishment will vote for him too. Never mind that he is an incoherent and belligerent bully. It seems pretty clear that the deep chasm of class and colour can’t be bridged by Clinton. She must draw solace from the fact that the Latinos, women and African-Americans will be on her side. 

The middle class and the posh plutocrats will most likely vote for Trump. To do so they must overcome their contempt for a man who reminds them constantly of the Dickensian character, Bounderby. Bounderby is forever boasting of how he is a self-made man.  

It would be unwise to ignore Trump’s inexplicable popularity. He should have fallen by the wayside in the early rounds of the Republican primaries last year. He did not. He mercilessly edged out all his other Republican rivals through sheer force of personality. There was no stopping him after that. His nomination was a foregone conclusion. The Republican Party had no one else left in the field but Trump. It could not have refused him the crown, and he grabbed it without ceremony and without humility.

There is little doubt that the United States is a country in turmoil. The race relations between white police officers and blacks have never been so frayed as now. The last time that white police and black protesters fought pitched street battles was in the late 1960s. The US might be a country dominated by the media and made by the media. Yet, to be blunt, it does not matter what the media barons think or who they prefer. US presidential elections are not fought in the newsrooms. The deciding factor in any elections is voters who have independent opinions. An example of this is the 1960 presidential elections. A sweaty Richard Nixon was pitched against the young and charismatic John Kennedy. The difference in popular vote was just one percent. 

The revulsion for Trump has ensured that the liberal media has united around Clinton. Even the conservative media outlets are flocking to the Clinton side, seeing her as a candidate of last resort. Despite fluctuations in polling numbers, Trump is no pushover

The only hope for Clinton is that the 2016 presidential elections should be like the 1964 one, where Lyndon Johnson won because Republican Party nominee Barry Goldwater was utterly disliked by the conservative establishment of the day. Comparing Trump to Goldwater could be a huge mistake. Goldwater was a hated conservative. Trump is a man who is hated by conservatives, some of whom are grudgingly reconciled to his candidacy.

Jay Cost, senior editor at the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard, picks out the critical factor in this election in a piece published on October 6: “…the Trump-Clinton battle has opened a previously dormant factional division. Nonwhite voters will assuredly break heavily to Clinton, regardless of education status. But the divide among white voters seems to strongly correlate with the highest level of education attained. Republicans have done well in recent cycles with whites lacking college degrees but Trump seems set to do much better.” And he goes on to make another acute observation: “In 1948 almost all of the country looked like the average Trump voter. But no longer. Yet, while the preponderance of the white working class has slowly disappeared, this cohort remains an electoral force to be reckoned with.”

The Clinton supporters hope she will pick on the right issue to win the election, even at this late hour. David Dayen, writing in The New Republic, argues wistfully: “Years from now, if we are lucky enough to look back on a Hillary Clinton presidency, the speech she gave in Toledo, Ohio, on Monday (October 3) might represent a turning point for the nation, the moment when corporate stranglehold began to shrink and economic liberties were strengthened. Or it might represent the latest in a line of broken promises from the political class, more evidence that the best intentions of concerned public officials run aground on the vast clout of big business.” And he quotes from Clinton’s Toledo speech: “Part of the problem is large corporations are amassing so much power in our economy. With less competition, corporations can use their power to raise prices, limit choice for consumers, cut wages for workers, crowd-out start-ups and small businesses.” Dayen sees much hope in Clinton’s words.

But the irony remains that Trump, the political outsider with no experience of public office, with no stint in legislature, either at the state or the federal level, is hoping to storm the White House. He may not succeed, but it cannot be ruled out until the last vote is counted. It is indeed Trump’s dream run even if he falls at the last hurdle. But this is also the triumph of democracy in the United States. People, rightly or wrongly, are willing to try out an untested man like Trump, with full knowledge of his pronounced prejudices and his braggadocio. Clinton should have had a smooth run given her tested political credentials. But it is she who is forced to fight every inch of the ground.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: OCTOBER 2016