Up until a week ago, the US elections looked like a relatively easy win for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Then the FBI threw a spanner in the works which seem intended to favour the candidacy of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.
Clinton’s campaign continues to be dogged by her email controversy and the race has tightened considerably. Americans are faced with the dilemma of choosing between two evils and deciding on whether a possibly corrupt Clinton is the lesser evil compared to the temperamental business tycoon, Trump.
America has always been proud of its claim that anyone can grow up to be president. This campaign cycle, Trump has put that claim to the test with his unorthodox campaign style which arises from personality traits that include demagoguery, narcissism, sexism, and racism.
As his rhetoric grew to dangerous levels, the establishment, including many media corporations and Republican leaders, closed ranks around Clinton to support her candidacy. They felt that Trump’s rhetoric and poor grasp of international politics could make for unwanted volatility with their economic and political partners.
That the Russian Government is said to be hacking into the Democrats’ campaign headquarters’ emails and publicising embarrassing correspondence via Wikileaks also appears to be a pro-Trump move as are their attempts to interfere with the elections machinery and databases.
But any alarm over a foreign government’s attempt to influence the outcome of the elections has been overshadowed by Clinton’s email scandals and the public perception that she is untrustworthy.
Foreign interference in a general election is not the only factor in the US presidential race that resonates with us in Guyana. Ironically, it was the American Government who were the meddlers and rather infamously for nearly three decades as they kept President Forbes Burnham in power to serve their own interests.
That they forged the APNU/AFC coalition is no secret and the public perception prevails that they had a hand in ensuring a victory for their creation.
Trump’s insistence that the US elections system is rigged is also familiar territory in that such rigging actually occurred here – again, with the blessings of the American Government – as well as the fears of what could happen if he refuses to accept the results, should he lose.
The 1992 elections were followed by the looting of Regent Street shops by PNC supporters when their party lost that first free and fair elections since 1964 and, from 1997 onwards, the PNC was always in post-elections protest mode that was bolstered by the same Trump-like accusations of electoral fraud.
Before his presidential bid, Trump had been embraced as a billionaire playboy by the very establishment that now shuns him. It seemed they had viewed him as a somewhat entertaining buffoon who had literally bought his way into the company of the elite.
He now finds himself the leader of mainly white, non-college-educated America, not the company that Trump had ever embraced. Much of his rage could have come out of a sense of betrayal from those he believed had accepted him as an equal.
Trump has given voice to his supporters’ prejudices and frustrations, and one American political commentator said their faith in him is unshakeable because for them “he walks on water”. He has fed on their fears and suspicions of the establishment as being the cause of their inability to take advantage of social and economic policies that could have lifted them into the middle class.
That rhetoric of “marginalisation” also resonates here and even as many Republican leaders distanced themselves from Trump and his rhetoric, they have to acknowledge that their party has long tolerated the right-wing views that he espouses and represents.
Moderate Republicans might never use his extremist language but they had tolerated and even delighted in surrogates like Trump who had led the attacks on Democrats’ positions.
In every sense, they created Trump and how the GOP rebuilds after Tuesday is yet to be seen since he has managed to alienate women, Mexicans, Muslims, POWs, the differently abled, and US Gold Star families, among others.
As for his message of change, every one of us, from our current experience, can advise Americans to be very wary of that campaign promise. It’s also familiar territory for us to elect politicians who are dogged by scandals and controversies even worse than Clinton’s. America’s dilemma of voting for the lesser of two evils has been our only electoral choice for decades.
With the polls continuing to give Clinton a slight edge, will America choose to elect the first woman president of the United States?
Will it be President Hillary Clinton?