It’s always fascinating to visit the US in a presidential election year. This year has huge humour plus complex characters – if only it was mere entertainment.
I’ve finally realised who Trump reminds me of: one of those caricature villains in Batman, like the Egghead. You realise this best in Manhattan, passing huge, shiny phallic buildings like Trump Towers. Another clue was an American friend pointing out that one of Trump’s main activities over the past ten years has been starring in The Apprentice: so he’s had a decade of expert coaching in how to get massive media attention by being outrageous.
Another friend pointed out that many of Trump’s blurtings are factually untrue, but it doesn’t seem to matter. What did surprise me was the lack of analysis of what actually might happen if he were elected. I imagined the checks and balances of the American constitution might bog him down as they have Obama: but a Democrat friend pointed out that Trump is a powerful mix of bully and wheeler-dealer, who would push things through as Obama never really tried to.
And then – Hillary. Her situation has a Shakespearean complexity. Evident desire for power, but as she said herself, “not a natural politician.” Trying to rise above the sleazy sides of the Clinton brand while harnessing its strengths. Deserves credit for becoming the first female nominee of a major party, and working hard to evolve her approach. As the New York Times observed, “Mrs. Clinton is somehow expected to project the mettle of a Commander in Chief, the nouse of a drinking buddy, the warmth of a favourite aunt.”
Months back, most people expected a politician of Hillary’s experience and intellect to see off easily the crass bully (Trump) and the idealist Socialist (Bernie Sanders), but no. As one of my American friends told me, “Presidential elections are usually won by the guy who projects an inspiring vision, even if he can’t deliver it.” Hillary thrives on detail, and has continually struggled to find a simple, exciting message. Her campaign has already tried half a dozen slogans, none catchy. The next few months will be fascinating. Both candidates have massive vulnerabilities, and on form to date, Trump is better at hitting them: here’s a recent example of his Exocet Soundbites: “The Clintons have turned the politics of personal enrichment into an art form for themselves.”
One of the big issues which has fired support for both Trump and Sanders is income inequality. Both middle and working class incomes have declined for years, while the obscenely rich get richer still. Hillary will need to find a convincing way to meet this issue: note easy for someone who’s so clearly an establishment figure, paid megabucks for speaking engagements for the big banks.
Just to add a lighter note: a British Comedian explains that Donald Trump is “the unity candidate: aiming to unite voters in their denial of reality.”