Hillary Clinton – the ideal choice in normal circumstances
In an institutions-based country, primaries should have been enough to differentiate between a serious politician and a maverick gate-crasher
In normal circumstances, and in an established democracy like the USA, there would not have been a need to choose between the two presidential candidates.
In an advanced and sophisticated institutions-based country, the presidential primaries should have been enough to differentiate between a serious politician and a maverick gate-crasher; between real programs and protest posturing; and finally, between responsible and rational approaches that put attainable choices and unadulterated solutions before the American electorate and cheap populism that drags political discourse into the lowest abyss of personal slander, contradictory promises, and sickening out-biddings.
Given all the above, a candidate like Donald Trump should not have been picked as the official candidate of one of the two parties of government in America, i.e. the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, in the first place.
However, we are most certainly not in normal times or circumstances. The value system of America today is not the one that built the most powerful country, the most advanced educational system, and the most vibrant and energetic economy in the world. True, protest is not something new to politics. Accidental and controversial politicians have appeared during certain periods in American history, but political life in the US has so far remained covered by broad political and social consensus.
Accidental and controversial politicians have appeared during certain periods in American history, but political life in the US has so far remained covered by broad political and social consensusEyad Abu Shakra
At one stage in the mid – 20th century, there was a large group inside the Democratic Party, namely in the states of the ‘Old South’, that was ideologically more conservative than the Republicans of the North and Northeast. This, however, began to gradually change as the North and Northeast moved towards the Democrats, while the Southern states which gave America its last three Democratic presidents before Barack Obama (Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy carter and Bill Clinton) steadily became solid Republican strongholds.
Indeed, Prof Paul Krugman, the noted academic, writer and Nobel laureate, said something quite interesting in a lecture he gave in London a few years ago. Krugman said “In today’s America there is not a single Republican anymore who is to the Left of the Democrats, and not one Democrat who stands to the Right of the Republicans”.
Obviously, what he meant was that ideological polarization in America is now complete; and each of the two main parties now had its clear-cut political criteria: the Democrats are the social and religious liberals who respect individual freedom as much as they cherish social rights, support state intervention in one way or another, support public peace and collective responsibility that insure safety nets for the underprivileged and minority groups. They also tolerate racial, gender, religious and sectarian diversity.
In the opposite camp, the Republicans are now the religious, sectarian and social conservatives who vigorously uphold absolute individual freedom even at the expense of public good, view safety nets as restrictive to these freedoms and regard government intervention as a hindrance to individual ambition and detrimental to free enterprise, success and greatness. In fact, hawkish Republicans go even further, preaching that America must go back to the one built by the ‘founding fathers’, i.e. a white, Christian homeland closed off to outsiders and foreigners.
The latter is exactly the choice that was recently put forward to American voters; and due to the clear-cut difference between the Democrat and Republican candidates, we are witnessing two noteworthy phenomena: The first is that due to solidified political positions of the two parties’ support bases, any movement or shift is becoming virtually impossible as are the chances of listening, convincing and compromise. Such a situation has led to a nasty and vicious campaign. The second is that the two partisan bases now reflect contradictory ‘value systems’ that pose a real threat to social harmony, and subsequently public peace.
Going back to “in normal circumstances”, I would say Hillary Clinton deserved to win because she is a wise, rational, moderate and experienced politician. Trump, on the other hand, is an unscrupulous ‘populist’, who is willing to gamble anything, and say anything. It is truly unfortunate that Americans have grown so hateful toward the ‘political establishment’ in Washington that they voted for such a candidate.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 17, 2016.
Eyad Abu Shakra (also written as Ayad Abou-Chakra) began his media career in 1973 with Annahar newspaper in Lebanon. He joined Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper in the UK in 1979, occupying several positions including: Senior Editor, Managing Editor, and Head of Research Unit, as well as being a regular columnist. He has several published works, including books, chapters in edited books, and specialized articles, in addition to frequent regular TV and radio appearances. Eyad tweets @eyad1949.