1 Nov 2016

US elections: a voyage into the unknown

It is a voyage into the unknown. Never before has a woman had so close a pitch at the US Presidency, never before has an individual untutored in politics come so close to making it to the White House.



Maybe that’s part of his attraction in this wild contest. Many say Trump has yet to demonstrate his fitness for the Presidency. But what about Hillary? Is she fit, but flawed?

Polls have shown a high level of dissatisfaction with the choice. And yet looking at American politics there are so many resonances with our own. The sense of alienation in Trump rallies reminds one of the populism that swept Britain out of the EU.

Yet in one way, for Trump read Corbyn. A troubled party searches for a leader – the masses muster behind a man they think represents an undermining of the old order, whatever it was. Huge crowds but neither man apparently honed to become a party political leader. In both parties seasoned politicians desert the leadership.

And Hillary, seasoned, experienced, but to some extent dynastic, old guard, and that email server. A victim of bad luck? Or of her own arrogance and questionable judgement? There’s little doubt that the former senator and Secretary of State could make an effective President, but what of the “stuff” hanging over her? Have her decades in the public sphere left her entitled?

Add to the mix the effects of automation and digital disruption; throw in a scattering of social networking with its echo chambers and the Brexit-Trump age is stoked into action.

The alienation is palpable amongst the blue collar workers I’ve encountered in Detroit over these past days. Trump and Brexit have triggered a moment when these forces feel they have a single moment to boot “the system” in the pants – as have those supporting the Front National or AFD in France and Germany, or Syriza and Podemos on the other side of the debate in Greece and Spain.

The unsettling fact here in America is that we have no way of knowing how big this vote is. I met a young bright African-American engineer yesterday. “I’m a nationalist”, he said. “I would have voted Brexit, I WILL vote Trump. I want my country back.” Wow!

As the polls fluctuate, it’s this great raft of votes we cannot calculate. Only the day will tell, then we shall know too what the voter will do about Hillary and Trump, warts and all.

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