Shahid M Amin
DONALD Trump, the Republican candidate, looks like losing next month’s Presidential election. Most opinion polls show him trailing behind Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent. Polls are not always right and politics can be full of surprises. But there are many other reasons that reinforce the conclusion that Trump is losing. Hardly ever before in a US Presidential election, a candidate has been disowned by top leaders of his own party. Most of them always saw Trump as an interloper who used demagogy to win popular support against many better-qualified Republicans. But the party had to accept Trump when he secured the requisite support for nomination. More recently, top Republican leaders have been repelled by the vulgar, sexist self-confessions of Trump in taped conversations that took place some years ago. Senior party figures fear that Trump will not only lose personally but will also imperil the election chances of other Republicans, leading to loss of their present majority in two houses of US Congress.
The leaked tapes, as well as accusations by several women victims, reveal Trump as a sexual predator, hunting for women and groping them without their consent. But more than the sexual lust, it is Trump’s contempt for women as a sex that is more shocking. He has missed no chance to demean women, calling them by various derogatory names and treating them as objects, rather than as equal human beings. Not surprisingly, American women voters by and large have turned away from Trump. A befitting, moving reply was given to Trump last week by Michelle Obama, the President’s wife, in one of the best speeches in the campaign.
While Hillary is not charismatic, she is a far better choice than Trump. She has suffered from a long-standing accusation of misusing the official email when she served as US Secretary of State for four years, but this looks like a minor sin. She has excellent credentials for the highest office in the land. She is a highly-educated lawyer, who served as a Senator from New York and later was Secretary of State, in which capacity she visited more than a hundred countries. Hillary was earlier in the limelight as wife of a State Governor and for eight years as the US First Lady. She is intelligent, articulate and poised and has handled media well. US media has been highly critical of Trump, leading to his complaints of foul play and collusion with Hillary.
Unlike Hillary, Trump has no government experience. He is a brash, foul-mouthed demagogue with a questionable personal character. He is emotional, jumpy and extreme in his reactions. He can hardly be trusted as leader of the world’s sole Super Power, who will have a finger on the nuclear trigger. Trump has said nasty things against Muslims and sees them as potential terrorists whose entry in USA should be banned or restricted. Mexicans have been described by Trump as rapists and criminals whose illegal entry in US should be stopped by building a wall on the border with Mexico, who should bear its cost. Most American blacks see Trump as a white supremacist and will not vote for him.
There is no doubt that the hard core of support for Trump is coming from the lesser-educated whites. They are upset by the loss of white monopoly on power, highlighted by the presidency of Barack Obama, and the growing number of non-whites in USA. Many Trump backers are angry about loss of jobs and businesses, allegedly to China and other foreign competitors. They blame Democratic Presidents Clinton and Obama for negotiating deals that hurt US business interests. China has come in for particular criticism by Trump, raising concerns that, in event he comes to power, he would adopt a confrontationist stance towards China.
Trump is unpopular in Europe where high-ranking leaders and others have been shocked by his views, including criticism of NATO. Paradoxically, Trump says good things about Putin, the Russian leader. In turn, he is being praised by Russian figures. Trump is impressed by Putin’s image as a tough, nationalist leader. Presumably, as President, Trump would exhibit similar characteristics. But the Russian system is not seen as a model by most Americans, who continue to regard Russia as a rival and potential enemy. Hence, Trump’s fondness for Putin gives a handle to Hillary to attack him with. There are accusations that Russia is ‘hacking’ emails sent by Hillary and others and supplying them to Trump in order to embarrass Hillary. Moscow has denied this charge, which constitutes clear interference in US domestic affairs. Nothing like this happened before in a US Presidential election and, if true, this could embitter US-Russia relations. Many opinion polls suggest that Hillary performed better than Trump in the two Presidential debates held so far. Trump was subdued in the first but overly aggressive in the second debate. Many observers lament that instead of discussing major political and economic issues faced by the USA, the debates have descended to personal attacks. Trump has sought to highlight sex scandals of ex-President Bill Clinton. But the latter is not fighting this election and Hillary cannot be held accountable for her husband’s sexual indiscretions. In any event, Bill Clinton was highly popular and had many achievements as President. Trump has followed a poor strategy by resurrecting outdated issues. His predictions that the forthcoming election will be ‘rigged’ already suggest his admission of defeat.
Trump has managed to cash in on widespread dissatisfaction in the American public with the performance of politicians in Washington and elsewhere –the establishment— and their nexus with financial and vested lobbies. Many Americans are unhappy with the loss of US influence in the world and the two futile, expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The rise of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State has fuelled Islamophobia in USA. Trump has exploited these concerns to attract public support, but he has not offered any real solution as to how he will solve them. These problems will continue to bother American public opinion and Hillary too will have a hard time overcoming many internal and external challenges, and coming up to expectations of the American public, in the event she she wins the Presidential election.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.