US Election: America gears up for Clinton v Trump

By: Calum Henderson, Student Voices writer

When Hillary Clinton addressed a rally of her supporters in New York after her victories earlier this week, you could tell she was savouring the moment. For a woman who is often criticised as being wooded and insincere, this was joy at its most genuine. Never mind the fact that she has made history by becoming the first woman to win the nomination of a major political party, it has been a long, long journey for her personally. Almost eight years to the day since she conceded to Barack Obama in the 2008 race for the same nomination, she can now claim to have improved on previous failings. Her mistake the last time was to dismiss the Obama candidacy when it first appeared and then appear panicky and hateful when he overtook her own. It was a high-profile version of the fable about the hare and the tortoise that she was determined would not catch her out again.  

And yet, for a while during the primary season that is now drawing to a close, it looked as if the same could happen again, what with the rise of an insurgent candidate who refused to accept her nomination as a given. History does not repeat itself, as the great Yank Mark Twain once said, but it does rhyme, and the rise of Bernie Sanders had its similarities to Barack Obama's meteoric campaign eight years ago. Sanders, ironically for his age, appealed to many Democrats because he was, like Obama, a fresh face. Clinton, on the other hand, had been a major figure on the American political spectrum for a quarter of a century.

It will be twenty-five years this November since her husband first announced his bid for the White House. Like Obama and Sanders in recent times, the Bill Clinton of 1992 also benefited from being a stranger to most voters. He was also lucky to have Hillary serve as an unofficial running mate, robustly defending him against accusations of sexual misconduct (many of which turned out to be true, but the point still stands). Before Hillary First Ladies were to be seen and not heard. They would support some charitable causes and serve various do-gooders tea in the Oval Office, but they would never seriously engage in the political bear pit of Washington D.C. This changed with her, and although she wasn't always successful - screwing up the last major attempt at health reform before Obamacare, for example - her unwillingness to keep her mouth shut and smile innocuously did wonders for her career. Off the back of being First Lady she became a senator for an admittedly easy-to-win state of New York, and then came the first shot at the presidency.

This year is her last chance, so when Sanders came along, she was naturally going to fight with everything she had. The Senator for Vermont, rebel that his, is not showing any sign of suspending his campaign, claiming that he will fight on until the convention in mid-July. His last hope lies in the pledged delegates, vestiges of the 'undemocratic' side of US politics which his campaign has rallied against. He should really do the polite thing and throw in the towel, for this self-indulgent lap of honour could potentially tarnish the memory of an otherwise wondrous campaign. He must also urge all of his supporters to back Clinton, as over the last months, a not insignificant number of his own supporters have spent so much time attacking the now presumptive nominee that they have forgotten who their real opponent is. And Trump is not a complete idiot, he knows there will be some Democrats who, having built up a loathing for Clinton, will consider voting for him Sandernistas and Trumpers: both followers of renegade candidates, both of whom shocked the system with varying levels of success. Perhaps not such an unlikely alliance after all.

For spectators such as myself, who live in another country but nonetheless enjoy the sheer entertainment that the American elections provide, the coming months will be fascinating. The television debates alone will be a sore disappointment if they do not provide anything less than a dozen historic moments. Then there will be the vote itself, held in early November. By conventional standards Clinton should trounce her opponent, but this, as the pundits are keen to remind us, is no conventional race. It is not easy for a party to take the White House three times in a row, as Clinton is hoping to do, and as political campaigner she has her weaknesses. Her opponent may pick up more votes than some would expect by appealing to the disgruntled in the American electorate. Then again, he may lose many.

Clinton's best bet is to run a bullishly optimistic and patriotic campaign, in order to deny Trump a monopoly on country-loving. His is an Americanism in its most unpleasant and derogatory form: the perception of Americans as loud, rude, rotund ignoramuses. Yet the most boastful patriots usually nurse a contempt for their country's values in one way or another, and Trump, with his proclivity for making his speeches in a loud voice, betrays himself more clearly than most hypocrites. His dumb promises to erect walls, either literal or legal, to keep out anyone of even faintly dark skin is a direct affront to the whole point of the United States: its claim to be a home for everybody. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, so goes the old saying, as well as the Hispanic migrants happy to do the kind of work Trump supporters would turn up their noses at, or the moderate Muslim families who see America as a place to build a home and live a life in peace from the tyranny and violence they have fled in the Middle East.

The best way in which America can remind the world of its greatness is to elect a woman, flawed though she may be, to the most important office in the world, while repudiating a hateful and smarmy parody of 'Americanness' that would be an embarrassment at home and a disaster for the wider world.

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US Election: America gears up for Clinton v Trump US Election: America gears up for Clinton v Trump Reviewed by Student Voices on 19:24 Rating: 5

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