With just days to go in this 2016 US Presidential Election, both candidates, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and Republican nominee Donald Trump, their surrogates, and their volunteers, are trying frantically to shore up support and convince the undecided to become their voting supporters. Put that way, it sounds just like a normal hard fought political campaign for the US Presidency doesn’t it, crazy as that process is compared to other countries. But this particular election is anything but normal, even by the strangeness of the process of American Presidential elections.
Firstly, the Presidential election process itself is incredibly long and bruising. And given the prolonged multiple battles against a diverse bunch of opponents it can be unprofessional, confused, and at odd times comical. As the field thins, the battles become more focused and ferocious, at times downright vicious. But up till this election, except for perhaps a few memorable moments, and the rare memorable candidate(s), the elections are mostly forgettable for the most part. Not this one.
This election is a volatile mix of political, power and money machinations, on a scale generally unknown in any other democratic country, with a particularly virulent partisan split that has fanned the flames of division along political, economic, religious, racial, class, gender, social, liberal and conservative lines, to a degree that is leaving even the adrenaline addicted, thrill seeking Americans a little breathless, and shell shocked.
The difference in this election cycle has of course been Donald Trump. If he hadn’t entered the race, the election would have been fairly mundane, notwithstanding the extraordinary number of Republican candidates in the primaries. Most of the Republican candidates that vied for nomination were regular political types and not particularly outstanding or memorable in personality or in their deeds to-date. On the Democratic front the number of candidates was much smaller, and even that quickly reduced down to primarily two (2) veterans, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And while both candidates had good record of public service, they were hardly ones to radically rock the establishment boat too aggressively.
Bernie Sanders developed his run at garnering the nomination into an extraordinary one, beating all expectations, and improbably appealing to the younger generation of American voters that by and large until Bernie kick-started his campaign, had elected to stay out of the political process altogether, through deep social, economic disillusionment, and sheer boredom. But Bernie’s left-of-centre, humanist, economic, environmental, gender and equality based, young people oriented platform fired the younger generation, and brought the kind of excitement that had not been expected from him or his campaign by anyone.
To the end, Bernie and his campaign were bold, impassioned, and perhaps visionary, but respectful of the political process and his powerfully (and covertly favored, by the Democratic establishment) winning opponent, Hillary Clinton.
But, it was Donald Trump that radically changed the tone and tenor of this election from a pretty predictable run-of-the-mill one to an especially explosive, perhaps even a destructive one.
Trump ignored the status quo of the rough and tumble of American politics, and Presidential elections in particular, which were already a type of muted blood sport, with barbs and ad-attacks allowed on competitors, but with some tacitly understood rules to keep it all somewhat semi–civil, and moderately respectful of the high office for which the top candidates of both Parties were vying for.
Instead, Trump tore up the book on rules of acceptable behavior, and made it into a no-holds-barred, bare knuckle, bite, scratch, gouge the eyes out, swing at the family and friends, and spit at everyone watching-type of a political fight. And by doing so, Trump drew to himself as his ‘core base’, the more parochial right wing of the Republican Party and the American public. And with that ideologically compatible core base solidly behind him, he turned the election race into a morbidly fascinating free for all brawls where he took the fight first to the Republican Party and then the Republican elites, and then to his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton.
From all accounts, this is the kind of fight he likes and revels in. This is the kind of fight that suits him. A fight that took an America that had sunk rather low, nationally and internationally in reputation and in reality, during, and especially after the disastrous Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Republican Presidency, the broken America that President Obama tried to lift up and heal over the next 8 years of his two terms; Trump took that America, and in this election, right from the primaries, ripped all pretentions of decency and civility off of it, and made the competition descend into the septic tank of perpetual stinking hateful vitriol, and an ever rising tide and tirade of ever personal never ending insults (the hateful, conspiracy theories filled far right Republican radio show hosts on steroids).
The Presidential election went from the normal pointing out the other’s shortcomings as a political candidate, and a fairly harsh and intemperate critique of their history and past performance, yet within acceptable limits, to the unruly bawdy barroom/brothel type descriptions of their shortcomings of physical anatomical parts, appearance, personalities, and present and past sins. And when it came to Hillary Clinton, Trump pushed it to the unrestrained claims of outright criminality of her past, current and future behavior, with threats of prosecution and potential imprisonment of upon him being elected.
When it came to having only Hillary Clinton to focus on, all restraints, if any left, were abandoned and he had his supporters chanting “lock her up”, upon him inciting them repeatedly and often at his rallies that she was “crooked Hillary”; the mob passion at a fever pitch, Trump supporters bayed for blood as if she was some loathsome fearful witch from medieval times.
The more restrained Americans watched in horror, the radical right were in unrestrained full throated glee, while the World watched in rising disbelief the most shameful exposure of America’s least flattering characteristics, and the systematic destruction of the remnants of its tattered dignity.
Trump trenched an immoral, indecent, downright embarrassing deep trough through which he has dragged, kicking and screaming, first his Republican primaries fellow contestants, the Republican hopefuls, and later the Presidential Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and of course us - the titillated and horrified outside of America spectators who can’t believe that we are actually seeing and hearing the things we are in this election, from those that are vying for the highest office in America, the most powerful nation on earth, and the leader of the free World.
Trump doesn’t really care about the damage being done to the American credibility in the international arena by this election, turned into a mud wrestling match by him, while he constantly berates the American leadership of being stupid and weak, and Obama being the worst President in the History of the US, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton being “the most corrupt ever”, in front of other countries, their populations, and their leaders - who by and large still respect America.
None of those that have been in or close to this bloody combat - nothing-is-too-rude-or-off-limits-fight - with Trump, are ever going to be the same, and neither is the increasingly polarized and shocked, pleasantly (his core base and all Hillary-haters) or unpleasantly, the rest, American electorate.
As the election draws to a close, political, economic ideological differences aside, and winning and losing aside, America, the Republican Party, his official opponents in the primaries, President Obama and his administration, the media, the Pope, the women accusers of his alleged sexual assaults, the American Judge of Mexican parentage, all Mexicans, Hispanics, illegal immigrants, Muslims, China, American allies, NATO, the Generals, Iran, the Establishment, the moneyed and the privileged (except himself of course), the electoral system, and most of all Hillary Clinton - all have been savaged by Donald Trump.
As the final days roll by, we can expect Trump to stay true to form and continue to savage anything that may come to that ever ‘target seeking’ mind of his, and will unfortunately continue to drag America ever lower in dignity, decorum and democracy, to the disgust of ordinary Americans, and the shocking unseemly delight and horror of all observers not directly involved in the great blood sport that is the American Presidential Election, particularly this one.