Shahid M Amin
After a long and bruising primaries campaign for nomination as Presidential candidate, it is now apparent that Donald Trump will be the nominee of Republican Party, while Hillary Clinton will secure nomination of the Democrats. The election for the next US President will be held on November 8, 2016. Most recent polls show that in a direct two-way contest, Hillary will easily defeat Trump. Some polls suggest a landslide victory for Hillary, who is very experienced in government, is highly-educated and is a far more refined person than Trump.
But politics is a strange game and things can change suddenly. While the firing line is now more or less settled between the two major parties, there is a possibility that a third party candidate might yet surface, as has happened in some past elections. No one from outside the two major parties ever won a US Presidential election, but a third party candidate can become a spoiler. He can take away enough votes from a presumptive winner to allow his trailing rival to ‘steal’ the election. This happened in 1912 when Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, got elected because the Republican Party split, due to the third party candidature of Teddy Roosevelt.
The formal nomination of the Presidential candidate is done by each party in national convention. The Republican Party leaders dislike Trump and last-minute efforts might yet be made in the convention to deny him the nomination. But Trump has such a clear lead of delegates won in the primaries that such a move would be seen not only as undemocratic but also very divisive. If denied the nomination, Trump could stage a revolt and become the third party candidate. That would work to Hillary’s advantage. On the other hand, Hillary too faces the possibility of a revolt by supporters of Bernie Sanders who put up a vigorous campaign against her but could not secure enough delegates. Sanders inspired his supporters in a way that Hillary could not. In fact, despite her success in securing more delegates for the nomination, Hillary has found it tough going because many voters in her own party find her lacking in charisma and she remains stuck with the scandal of misusing her official email for private purposes when she served as Secretary of State.
Most observers still cannot fathom how Trump has been able to secure victory in so many primaries. As one US political analyst put it: “How an insulting, ill-mannered, public policy ignoramus could be chosen by voters to be the presidential nominee of a major party will be pondered for years, probably decades.” The apparent reason for his success is that many nationalistic, racially-motivated people in “white America” have responded to Trump’s appeal as a blunt, outspoken, anti-establishment politician. Among such Americans, there has been a growing anti-establishment, anti-government, even anti-politician revolt. Many of them feel left out economically. They have not prospered and have even been losing jobs due to the perceived competition from China and other foreign countries. Some of them see America losing its superiority in the world in military and economic terms. They are angry with Washington for not doing enough either at home or abroad. They still cannot digest as to how a black man has remained President of the USA for eight years. Many of them think they are being oppressed by a powerful, detached government in Washington, which is unresponsive to their concerns.
Trump’s admirers are not put off by his coarse language and unrefined manners because they think that he articulates their frustrations and promises to set things right. Trump is unmindful of political correctness and came out swinging against Muslim “terrorists” and Mexican “thieves and rapists”. He has cashed on growing Islamophobia and racist sentiments of many Americans. Another explanation for his success in the primaries is the growing role of social media that is becoming a substitute for considered, analytical thinking. Secondly, the broadcast media too has promoted him since he is seen as good entertainment on TV channels and improves ratings. But coming to the hard realities, how will Trump fare if elected as the US President? He has promised to act tough against perceived foreign enemies. His policies could lead to racial confrontation at home and could destroy world peace. He is the dreaded bull in a china shop. While it is possible that once in power, he might moderate his policy, that looks like too big a risk to take.
Traditional friends like Europe and Japan are also deeply worried. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has already said that he stood firmly “against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance, or hateful rhetoric.” Mexican President Pena recently said that Trump’s “strident tone” was reminiscent of dictators Mussolini and Hitler who rode a tide of economic discontent to seize power. Mexican leaders are furious over Trump’s vow to build a wall to keep Mexican migrants out of the USA and make Mexico pay for it. British Prime Minister Cameron said in December 2015 that Trump’s threat to put a temporary ban on entry of Muslims to the USA was “divisive, stupid and wrong.”
Trump has been critical of European allies. His promise to “Make America Great Again” raises fears that he will promote an isolationist policy, which will weaken NATO and create problems with allies like Japan and South Korea. Negative reactions to Trump have already come from traditional US friends like Canada, Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, Trump is seen as anti-Muslim and a racist. He might act tough with Pakistan and could cut off the coalition funds that Pakistan has received from the USA for the past decade for fighting against Al-Qaeda and Islamist terrorists.
As the Trump-Hillary campaign gathers momentum in the next five months, there could be a gathering momentum against Trump. He has made formidable enemies by antagonising the blacks, the Muslims, the Latinos and the women. Liberal opinion in USA is appalled by him and the populated east and west coasts, as well as the big mid-West states like Michigan, are solidly against Trump. Most opinion polls at this time are predicting a clear, even sweeping, victory for Hillary Clinton over Trump.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.