I do not have a vote or a voice in the US election, and am not on anyone’s side. The contest is, however, more than usually interesting and important as Presidential elections go, because the US faces a choice between two such very different candidates. This result will have a measurable impact on our economy and on the state of world politics. My comments are by way of independent analysis, not partisan intervention.
Both candidates are divisive and each are unpopular with around half the electorate. Polls to date have shown Mrs Clinton in a winning position, but recently they have narrowed and a win by Mr Trump cannot be ruled out.
Mrs Clinton has a major problem of trust. The email controversy which has dogged her throughout gnaws away at the wider question of can she be trusted? Mr Trump has also questioned her stamina and health. Her recent collapse at an important national event is therefore a double blow. Not only does it give image to exactly what Mr Trump has been saying about her health. It also undermines the line of her campaign team that her cough is unimportant. It turns out it was pneumonia, not some minor irritation of the voice box. It becomes another issue of trust.
Mr Trump has an equally difficult dilemma. He rose to fame by making comments about migrants, borders and the rest that many thought were dreadful, making him unsuited for public office. He now wishes to show he understands the need to be more mellow and statesmanlike, but does not want to lose the aggressive down to earth image that won him so many friends amongst the angry voters he spoke for. His trip to Mexico worked quite well, allowing him to appear side by side with an elected country leader, and stick to his view that he wants a wall or fence on the border. It was a good enough performance to lead directly to the resignation of the Mexican Finance Minister who had invited him! The aim had been for him not to come or for Mexico to portray him and his policy as unacceptable.
The liberals of the west on both sides of the Atlantic have no trouble in condemning Trump’s wall as barbaric, yet these same people seem to accept the policy of building ever more walls and fences around eastern and southern Europe. The Republicans and conservatives unite to condemn Mrs Clinton’s economy with the truth and refusal to reveal all her documents and emails, yet they seem happy that Mr Trump refuses to reveal all his business and tax documentation in the same election.
Beneath these personality probes, health scares and aggressive rhetoric lies some fundamental political issues. Would Mr Trump talk more and bomb less in his world order? Will Mrs Clinton continue with the aggressive military interventions in the Middle East that she initiated or supported as Secretary of State? Will Mr Trump’s tax cutting agenda allied to making US corporations bring their money back onshore yields more growth and a tax bonanza as he hopes? Or will Mrs Clinton’s beefed up public programmes and higher tax rates for the rich create a more prosperous and more equal society?
The US people have a rich choice, even if they do not like either candidate. We will feel the washback from this decision.