The US Elections
The nominees of the Republican and Democratic parties have been chosen. One is a business tycoon and political buffoon. The other is an able, controversial and widely distrusted lady. She is the first female presidential nominee of a major US political party but has so far failed to make it with the youth of America — male or female.
However, the most interesting and significant candidate has been the 74-year-old Senator Bernie Sanders. He highlighted the massive gap between the perceptions and priorities of young Americans and their elders with regard to where the US really is and where it should be heading. He demonstrated that truth-telling may yet have a future in American politics. He has started something that must continue if the US is ever to approach its self-image as a leader and model for the rest of the world.
Obama was gifted an opportunity to leave his imprint and not just his colour on American history. He blew it because he “flattered only to deceive” despite being one of the most intelligent, articulate and attractive of American presidents. History will note his efforts and accomplishments as well as his more fundamental limitations which prevented him from transforming the US, in the eyes of many around the world, from being a global threat to being a source of global hope.
The US has always had great human beings. In recent times, they have included the likes of FDR, Martin Luther King Jr, Noam Chomsky, Muhammad Ali, etc. Obama could have been among them. So many US achievements have provided inspiration to the world. But they have all been overshadowed by a concentration of political and economic influence that is protected by a military whose demonstrated killing prowess is abetted by an abiding contempt for international law in the pursuit of its interests.
As Donald Trump is more hot air than substance he may be the less menacing prospect.
Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will enthusiastically assume command of this power and impunity. She is a passionate advocate of its deployment and use around the world, especially in the Muslim world. This ‘kinetic’ strategy will be the core of her repertoire — just what the 21st century does not need if it is to meet the challenges of global survival.
The dangers of a Trump administration are easily recited. But as he is more hot air than substance he may be the less menacing prospect. His positions regarding Muslims, Mexicans, nuclear weapons, climate, China, etc. are so untenable he will inevitably move away from them. Clinton’s convictions spring from a deeper intelligence, insecurity and opportunism that will not give way to reality and common sense so easily.
One of the apparent mysteries of the Democratic campaign is how the Latinos and African-Americans fell for Clinton’s promises of tea and sympathy within a class warfare in which their oppressors financed her to beguile and pacify them. Sanders, instead, was committed to changing the system in which they remained losers. Clinton was brilliant and tenacious in ensuring that the Sanders message did not get through to them. Yet young Americans of all genders, ethnic and income groups prefer Sanders to Clinton. That power of the Sanders message remains and bodes well for America. Sanders, moreover, is reluctant to dilute the promise of his ‘political revolution’ with a phony show of support for Clinton.
Unsurprisingly, Trump who is as shrewd as he is bombastic relished the prospect of a one on one for the White House with Bernie Sanders much less than a straight fight with Clinton. Bernie would have had nothing to fear as he took on the Don. Despite her pluck Clinton will have plenty to fear from a slugfest with the populist bully. He has more Teflon than Reagan ever had. He has a nasty, frustrated and fearful constituency including white billionaires and so-called ‘white trash’ who love him for his boorishness and outrageous behaviour.
He is a daytime reverie for white losers in which they smash the so-called American liberal establishment and an emerging world that has begun to be in America’s face without blinking. Clinton is on to Trump but may lack the moral self-confidence to beat him without the strong support of Sanders, which his youth brigades seem in no mood to provide.
The Republican Party has long ceased to be a political party. As Chomsky observes it is now an “insurgency” mounted by millions of frustrated and angry white losers who have been manipulated by the political spinners of corporate America. Accordingly, they have become an incoherent and unstable but still significant electoral base of what is left of the original Republican Party. As losers everywhere they tend to vote for their oppressors.
The Democratic Party — which now resembles the traditional moderate wing of the Republican Party according to Chomsky — is following in the footsteps of the current Republican Party towards political disintegration. The Sanders movement, if it remains a part of and can take over the party, could develop a future for it. But corporate America and Hillary Clinton will formidably oppose such a development since they have an existential stake in ensuring that reforms of any kind do not fundamentally challenge a system that rests on the prevailing structures of power.
This is a game that is also unfolding in Pakistan. Can Nawaz Sharif survive Panama and all the misdemeanours of his government before and since? This is The Question! All other questions, including the future of the country, pale into insignificance and are therefore uninteresting. Smart anchors and commentators, keen to display their relevance and acumen, delineate a fascinating world of possibilities, survival and knockout strategies, and political skill-sets demanded by The Question.
The TOR saga is the current all-encompassing and diverting number one soap opera. The arguments, insults and speculations are fast and furious. The Romans had it right with their circuses. Something similar prevailed among the cardinals of Constantinople with their fascinating quarrels and questions as the Ottomans looked on in 1453. An enthralling rest of the year beckons.
The writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan.