This election is one of the most divisive elections in the US history; with Trump running an unconventional campaign and Clinton continuing to rant Democratic ethos
Munish Raizada | August 11, 2016
United States presidential elections are hardly three months away. Voting will take place on November 8. The Tuesday following the very first Monday in November is observed as Election Day in USA.
USA has a presidential system of democracy unlike India which follows Westminster or parliamentary type of democracy. In USA, the president is elected every four years and each president can hold a maximum of two terms. It is weird but true, that in America, the strongest democracy of the world, the president is not elected directly by a popular vote. A citizen casts his or her vote for an ‘elector’ and the latter in turn elects a president. Out of 538 electors, a presidential nominee needs 270 electoral votes to be the winner.
Another interesting contrast between the presidential system of democracy and parliamentary democracy is that in the USA, the president constitutes the executive branch and the congress functions as the legislative branch.
In the two party system of American democracy, the presidential nominee from each party is not thrust upon by the so called "high command" (in fact, there is no high command in parties here). A presidential aspirant has to seek a win through primary contests (called primaries or caucuses) within his own party – a form of inner party democracy that is missing in India. In India, one party that came close to preaching this concept (they named it Swaraj) was Aam Aadmi Party but as soon as Arvind Kejriwal came into power in Delhi, he bluntly took a U-turn and systematically killed this concept. Today AAP symbolises the most lethal form of high command culture where three to four sycophants are running the whole show.
Thus after months of rigor, virulence, theatrics and political rhetoric, we now have two presidential nominees in the fray: Donald J Trump, the Republican (or GOP- Grand Old Party) nominee and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee. It does not mean that no one else can contest. Libertarian Party has nominated New Mexico former governor Gary Johnson as their presidential nominee and Green Party last week announced Jill Stein as their nominee. Libertarian Party – an extreme champion of individual liberty, limited governance and pro-market economy is hoping to entice voters dissatisfied with Trump and Clinton.
This election is one of the most divisive elections in the US history. Credit goes to Trump for running an unconventional campaign characterised by ‘politically incorrect’ views on several issues that USA faces today.
Donald J Trump is a multibillionaire businessman. Although, politically inclined since years, he never jumped into active politics prior to this. He is trying to use the tag of being an outsider from the political establishment of Washington to his advantage by championing that things need to change and they must change NOW.
A successful businessman, Trump has been maintaining that the country needs a politically incorrect perspective on various pressing matters. His pet phrase is that the country needs a man outside of Washington establishment who can look at the problems from a common man's perspective. He has struck the right chord with the masses by venting out his feelings on issues like illegal immigrants, Islamic terrorism (it may be noted that president Obama has steadfastly refused to link terrorism with Islam) and why the USA is trying to be the chieftain of the world rather than taking care of its own pressing issues at home. His priority for job creations in USA is also finding echoing sentiments in the public.
Even though a highly polarising figure, Trump has truly able to arouse a mass mobilisation of voters across the country during the Republican primaries. He amassed as many as 13.3 million votes in the GOP primaries, the highest so far. This is unprecedented despite the fact that he chose not to focus on a cadre based party mobilisation and deciding to spend less on advertisements.
Trump is not a typical Republican candidate and thus to compensate this, he has chosen Indiana governor Mike Pence who famously declared: “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”
Hillary Clinton on the other hand had tough primaries too. Although she always seemed like in a winner in the Democratic Primaries, the avowed "socialist" democrat Bernie Sanders gave her a protracted competition. Bernie was able to mobilise the youth of the country by playing socialist tunes before finally sitting down in support of Hillary Clinton. The Republican opponent Trump pounced upon this by stating that Bernie had been a victim of electoral maneuvers of Democratic primaries and should contest as an independent rather than sitting in the support of Hilary.
Hillary Clinton carries big name as well as a baggage of liabilities. Wife of former US president Bill Clinton, Hillary has also served as Secretary of state during first term of Obama. Trump has been constantly calling her ‘Crooked Hillary’ due to her alleged involvement in email sever scam and the fact that she must carry accountability for the failures of American intervention in the Arab world and ISIS becoming so powerful in last several months.
Who will win? The National Polling Average on New York Times website, as of August 8, shows Hillary Clinton grabbing 46 percent votes and Trump 39 percent votes.
One of the major determinants of the presidential election outcome is how much funds you can generate. In the previous month of July, Hillary campaign raised 80 Million USD compared to 72 million raised by Trump. On that aspect, Trump may be lagging behind. But to be fair to billionaire Trump, he never seriously sought donations until last couple of months.
American political pundits say that Trump is not only lagging behind on the money trail and but also on organisational mobilisation; that it is not possible for him to catch up with Hillary.
But on ad spending also, Trump’s approach has been careful. His campaign is in no mood to spend too much when the ‘media is already paying him great attention anyway’.
In addition many feel that Trump has also alienated women voters, Black and Hispanic voters. How much can he woo middle class white voters will largely decide his outcome.
In addition, he cannot imagine a victory without winning Swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. It may be noted that Pennsylvania has never voted a Republican candidate in last 28 years and Ohio has the siting Republican governor John Kasich who lost out in the Republican primaries and has refused to endorse Trump.
The Democratic Party is more heterogeneous in terms of social, racial and ethnic representation, and the Republican Party represents supremacy of whites and Christianity. Thus, Clinton will continue to rant the usual Democratic Party ethos and woo Hispanic and Black voters and talk of a middle path.
In the Republican domain, the discussion this time is not happening on abortion and gay rights, thanks to the uncharacteristic Republican Party candidate Trump who is talking of jobs, ‘making America Great again’ and his vigorous outbursts on illegal immigration, and radical Islam.
The possibility of Americans having a first ever female president does not seem to have ignited passions. Hilary cannot count on this alone.
Trump is a wild card candidate and that sums up all. Watch out!
The author is a Chicago-based columnist. Twitter @drMunishRaizada
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