America goes to the polls: Let’s not face such very poor choices

DESPITE narrowing but still fluctuating margins, FBI leaks on incomplete investigations into Hillary Clinton’s unwise, possibly illegal, email policy while she was Barack Obama’s secretary of state and a 24/7 conveyor belt of scandal and relentless greed; despite Donald Trump’s racism, boorishness, ignorance, misogyny, contempt for truth and his country’s constitution, today America must choose one of those insecure, frightened people to be their president for the rest of this decade and beyond.

If this was a dilemma for America alone we could watch bemused and disappointed as if it was just a Christmas box-set of an engrossing television tragedy but, as all the world knows, it is much, much more than that.

It is impossible to imagine that America’s founding fathers, mostly good-hearted visionaries driven by high ideals, well-rooted in a common purpose and driven by an active civic morality, when they prepared the three sacred documents of that republic — the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights — more than 200 years ago could ever have imagined that they might be succeeded by such obvious, transparent hustlers.

That the election campaign for America’s 45th president concludes with millions of Americans voting — if they vote at all — to block one candidate rather than endorse the other challenges the validity and possibilities offered by participatory democracy. Is it any wonder Vladimir Putin scoffs at western democracy?

Indeed, it is not necessary to reach that far into history — every former American president alive has said they could not support Trump which suggests that Clinton is indeed blessed in her enemies. Had she faced a Dwight D Eisenhower or even George Herbert Walker Bush the pundits’ view — hope? — that she will prevail might not be so very universal.

It might be wise too, to reflect on the days’ old lesson on the value of punditry, the one given at Chicago’s Soldier Field just last Saturday.

It is impossible to imagine that America’s founding fathers, mostly good-hearted visionaries driven by high ideals, well-rooted in a common purpose and driven by an active civic morality, when they prepared the three sacred documents of that republic — the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights — more than 200 years ago could ever have imagined that they might be succeeded by such obvious, transparent hustlers.

That the election campaign for America’s 45th president concludes with millions of Americans voting — if they vote at all — to block one candidate rather than endorse the other challenges the validity and possibilities offered by participatory democracy. Is it any wonder Vladimir Putin scoffs at western democracy?

Indeed, it is not necessary to reach that far into history — every former American president alive has said they could not support Trump which suggests that Clinton is indeed blessed in her enemies. Had she faced a Dwight D Eisenhower or even George Herbert Walker Bush the pundits’ view — hope? — that she will prevail might not be so very universal. It might be wise too, to reflect on the days’ old lesson on the value of punditry, the one given at Chicago’s Soldier Field just last Saturday.

More than 41 million Americans have already voted and if the opinion polls are accurate something around 20 million of those have voted for a Trump presidency.

This, to a more or less liberal, tolerant European mind may seem incomprehensible and frightening even if the warnings have grown ever louder over recent years — the bilious Tea Party and the entertainingly blunder-rich Sarah Palin were warning signs. But can we, like Putin, scoff too? Maybe not.

The Trump machine is fuelled, at ground level at least, by the millions left behind in our changing world. Trump is climbing towards power on the shoulders of the millions of Americans whose living standards and self-image have fallen in a way unimaginable to their parents. Under-employed and exploited by minimum-pay employers and believing they are abandoned by their government, they want to believe, despite the reality that it was never more so, that America can be made great again. The economically secure voters supporting Trump, and there are a disturbing number, underline how so many people, and not just in America, have lost faith in the value of establishment politics in their lives. This cohort also points to the racism that, despite all the we-shall-overcomes, seems barely skin deep in so much of America.

The Clinton machine is partially fuelled by the idea, if it retains any real currency, that she might be the first woman named president of America. This ambition seems to rely on gender issues relevant decades ago but today really successful, powerful women don’t have to, nor do they, play the gender card.

Clinton has been forced, maybe too many times, into humiliating situations by her husband’s sexual marauding. When ensnared in the Monica Lewinsky scandal she insisted “she was no Tammy standing by her man”. Indeed, she wasn’t a Tammy ... any Tammy worth her Lucchese boots would have shown the old philanderer the door years ago. Misplaced loyalty or misjudgment? Certainly a weakness.

America will name a new president this week. It will be either President Trump or President Clinton, most probably — hopefully — the latter.

And, as our US cousins might ask, what’s the take-home message for Ireland?

It must be that moderate, centrist politicians must work together in a new way to protect what we have and prevent the kind of collapse that leaves America so vulnerable and with such a very poor choice — if it’s not already too late.

In a country where sectional interests are so assertive and so indulged that lesson becomes more relevant and valuable each and every day.

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