Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Lesser Evils

Lesser Evils

The situation in America is extraordinary. Never before in American politics have there been two candidates who were quite so disliked.

Whatever happens on voting day, it is unlikely that the winner will get in because of votes cast by people who want them to be President; it seems more likely that most votes will come from those who are voting against the other candidate being elected.

Voting is supposed to be when you vote for someone you want to win. But in this case, it is the lesser of two evils. Personally I think Clinton is  marginally less likely to mess up America than Trump, but then what do I know: I thought the UK would see sense and vote against Brexit.

People have likened Trump to Reagan. But Ronald Reagan was Governor of California from 1967 to 1975. He had experience of power and leadership, so that what he put in his election campaign could be seen as achievable. Unlike Reagan, but like the Brexit campaigners, Trump has a series of postures on political matters, but no detailed working out of how they might work.

As for Hillary Clinton, she seems tainted by her time in Washington. Unlike Nixon, misdemeanours seem to have broken out before she gets to the White House, and while perhaps not quite condoning criminal actions in the way Nixon did, she certainly strays very close to the line, and might have indeed crossed it marginally.

That the American system should have managed to throw up two candidates, who in comparison with the presidents of the past are pretty much unelectable, suggests an election system that is broken, or damaged and in need of urgent repair.

Whether that will happen is another matter. First past the post in the UK has produced decades of elections where third parties gain massive shares of the vote, but are relegated to the margins. The Brexit vote shows what happens when you do that to voters, and they finally have the chance to inflict damage, especially to the notion of safe seats where voters’ voices are regularly disenfranchised. If Trump succeeds, it will be because of those same kinds of disaffected voters wanting to hit out, and at last finding a candidate who fits the bill.

But like Brexit, this will bring increased uncertainty, as there really are no clear policy objectives: Trump just says anything populist to get elected, just as the Brexit campaigners peddles all kinds of lies.

Unfortunately, as the UK discovered, what you want and what you will get are two different things altogether, and – to paraphrase Donne – no nation is an island, politicially, even if geographically that might be true.

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