Saturday, 12 March 2016

Uneasy lies the head that wields a vote

It’s been fun to be out here in the US and see a bit of the Presidential race up close, even if briefly and only in a thoroughly unscientific and anecdotal way.

Most of the people I’ve met over the last week have, I believe, been Republicans. They’re coy to admit it, but that’s how I read some of their comments and their body language. Perhaps their coyness too.

Most strikingly, they’re stumped.

How can they help decide who should win their party’s nomination? Cruz, the candidate placed second to Trump, is far too right wing, it seems.

“What,” I asked, “is Cruz to the right of Trump?”

“Way to the right,” I was told, “because he really is of the far right. Trump’s just erratic. You have no idea what his position is on anything until he takes it.”

“And not even then,” I was tempted to add.

It’s tough. Since Kasich and Rubio aren’t going anywhere, the choice seems to be between Cruz and Trump. Which is a choice between the unbearable and the unconscionable – and it doesn’t much matter which you consider to be which.

So most of the Republicans I met seem increasingly resigned to voting, against their conscience and their inclinations, for Hillary Clinton in November’s general election. No one is inspired by her. No one particularly trusts her. But given the likely choice of candidate on the Republican side of the fence, most of the people I met are resigned to having to vote Democrat and, specifically, for Hillary. And to do so only because their own party is going to put up a candidate it would be horrific to see in the White House.

Which creates an even deeper dilemma if Bernie Sanders pulls off the unlikely feat of beating Clinton to the nomination. He seems to be generally viewed as more honest and more likeable but, as I have been so frequently told, “this country isn’t ready for a socialist president.”

Preferable but unelectable? Believe me, we’re familiar with that dilemma in Britain.

Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders
Decision time. And it’s a tough choice...
Equally, we British have often had to vote with a clothes peg on our noses, as we choose candidates we dislike only to avoid something much worse.

In France, too. I was there back in 2002, when the Centre-Left presidential candidate Lionel Jospin ran such a lacklustre campaign that he was knocked out in the first round, leaving only Conservative Jacques Chirac to face off to the far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen in the second. That was certainly clothes peg time, and Le Pen was trounced by more than four to one.

Funnily enough, Le Pen is one of the foreign politicians to have endorsed Trump, as is Vladimir Putin. There’s a French saying, “tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.” Putin and Le Pen: appropriate company, one can’t help feeling, for the authoritarian Trump.

As it happens, there are also plenty of foreign leaders lining up against Trump. Unsurprisingly, the Mexican president and two of his predecessors have denounced him, but then Trump is proposing a wall to keep Mexicans out and, to add injury to insult, wants to charge them for it. But the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken out, as has the German Vice Chacellor Sigma Gabriel, and even British PM David Cameron.

That’s unusual: the convention is that politicians say nothing that could be interpreted as an attempt to intervene in another country’s elections. But if he’s anything, Trump’s unconventional. Even so, voices in the US are being raised against foreign interference. For instance, although she’s not a Trump fan, Republican and foreign policy analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, Danielle Pletka, pointed out:

It’s none of their bloody business. This is our election, not theirs.

Well, up to a point. When you’re talking about the wealthiest nation and most powerful military power on Earth, choosing a leader with at least a modicum of rationality is a matter that affects us all.

On the other hand, seeing how much Americans who actually have a vote are struggling with the decision, perhaps it’s no bad thing we don’t have to. Or would it be any kind of struggle at all for voters outside the US?


Lydia said...

Read this aloud to my husband. Excellent reading as always, David!

David Beeson said...

I'm delighted you both enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know