After hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of flyers and ads, hundreds of campaign speeches and multiple primary debates, the question that most people seem to be asking is: “are these the best two candidates we could have come up with?”
On the Democrat’s side, Hillary Clinton was all but expected to win based on experience, name recognition and funding. However, a relatively unknown Bernie Sanders challenged her, and despite his 75 years and socialist leanings, rallied the youth to back him. She finally managed to secure the party’s nomination but not before spending more money and energy than she initially thought was needed. Her experience and global political connections are struggling to come up as strengths with millions of people who focus on her poor decisions around email servers, links to Wall Street and conflicts of interest with the Clinton Global Foundation. She also doesn’t have the ‘natural communicator’ gene that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are blessed with.
Divide and conquer strategy...
On the Republican side, Donald Trump had no political background and managed to channel an ‘outsider’ label and a ‘divide and conquer strategy’ to get this far. He started with questioning Obama’s birthplace and moved on to become an equal-opportunity offender – be it mocking women, minorities, Mexicans, military families, media and, in an ironic twist, his party and its members. The offense is his best defence, and it centers on insults and denying he ever said certain things (recorded proof be damned). While many influential members of his party have denounced the narcissist with malleable ideologies, his ardent supporters seem to perennially shift the moral, ethical and professional lines to the point where nothing seems to be ‘that shocking’ anymore.
There will be lots of head scratching after this election. Some tough questions need to be also asked. I hope one of them is “why the heck do we need this long an election cycle in the first place?” If India can rally its 1.3 billion people in a matter of months and the UK can offer a referendum vote and change Prime Ministers in a matter of weeks, should the US need a 10-month long cycle that warrants unnecessary spending and animosity?
The Republican Party will likely never be the same again. When its nominee has questions even the electoral system, it isn’t easy to just move on. Trump seems to have brought out the worst in some people – and spew a kind of venom that people just weren’t used to. Relatively speaking, the Democratic Party seems better, but it also has deep fissures from the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps – in their case, made worse by the WikiLeaks revelations around the party’s scheming.
Your success is now our country’s success
Frank Wisner, as US Ambassador to India, famously talked about how “differences cannot define relationships.” The virulent statements and personal disdain between Clinton and Trump make it so much harder for them and the parties to come together to solve the country’s needs. The nation is now more nostalgic for an era where fierce passions and differences in opinions still stayed above the line of civility. No matter what people thought of Barack Obama’s policies, he and his opponents in past presidential elections were professional. One of the nice things making the Internet rounds these days is a handwritten note that George H W Bush penned to Bill Clinton in 1993. Among other things, he says “you will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success is now our country’s success. I am rooting for you.”
The US election has indeed caused an embarrassment to many of its citizens. Global leaders are amused and worried about how seemingly immature and uneducated the US democratic process, and its people are.
Forget about making “America Great Again.” After this, it should focus on making it more respected, kind and united these days. Greatness will follow.