Well, here we are, literally moments away from one of the most important political decisions since Brexit. Months of campaigning, hours of ranting debates, xenophobia and avoidance of questions finally come to an end, but what next? As we all wait with baited breath to see who takes the reigns of one of the biggest political powerhouses in the world, here’s a Brit’s opinion on the race so far, and a little look at what might happen when one of the candidates wins. If you’re an American reading this article, I’m sure you’ll wonder why an English writer has such an interest in the U.S. presidential campaign. You may feel it’s not my place to comment on an election that shouldn’t concern me, but it does concern me, and it should concern every person on this planet. Although the term ‘citizen of the world’ (sorry Theresa May) may make me sound like I’m chanting a mantra during a yoga class, I fear that whatever happens in the US election will greatly affect what happens next for me, for the rest of the UK, and for the rest of the world.
Six months ago, I, like many others on both sides of the Atlantic, watched Donald Trump and brushed him off as a raving loon, a TV personality who had been allowed too far, spouting policies that would never make it to the White House. Over here in Britain we raised our eyebrows and breathed a sigh of relief that our political system didn’t allow us to end up with someone like Trump. Yes, we had Farage and Boris, but we didn’t take them seriously, there was never really a real chance they’d take the top spot. And then, on June 23rd, Brexit happened. We’ve now got an un-elected Prime Minister, a huge upsurge in xenophobic and racist behaviour and no real clue as to what form our EU ‘exit’ will take. Polls can’t be trusted anymore (they mostly got it wrong when it came to the result of our referendum) and we’re watching with our hands over our eyes, truly terrified that this nasty man, with his thin skin and his quick temper, is going to take the most powerful seat in the world.
And then there’s Hillary, the first woman with a realistic chance of taking the top spot, arguably the most qualified candidate we’ve seen in years on the brink of making history, and yet something isn’t clicking into place for so many potential voters. A level-headed candidate like Hillary should never be in a position where public opinion is so equally split between her and a man who spouts propaganda and lies on a daily basis, but yet that’s where we find her. Is it her refusal to fully address the Wikileaks email scandal that has hung over her campaign for months now? Although the FBI have said there’s nothing criminal about her email history, it’s a subject that won’t go away. Or is it her ‘experience’? For some reason her years of White House knowledge have become a huge smear on her credibility. In a world that has changed so vastly during her time around the office, someone with twenty years plus of TV interviews and public displays of opinion can easily be shown as a ‘flip-flopper’. There are some unquestionably controversial decisions making up her CV; her involvement in the Iraq War seemingly one of the hardest to shake. Yet we have never heard a male politician so criticized for his ‘experience’, nor seen a male candidate take such a media bashing regarding his health; JFK was notoriously an unwell man, yet Hillary has been questioned over everything from her period (something I hazard a guess is long behind her at the age of 68), to her recent brush with pneumonia.
So, how does the election impact us? Well, the UK and the US are intrinsically linked, we’ve followed each other into countless conflicts over the years, our financial systems are reliant on each other and the rest of the world. If Trump does take over, will our government just blindly hold his hand and jump into whatever ill thought out war he decides to wage? Or will we turn our backs? And if so, where on earth does that leave the UK? No access to the single market, back turned to the US and all the apparent trade opportunities that go with it?
And if Hillary takes over, will America see the change it so greatly needs? Positive change. Not the cack-handed, destructive change a Trump presidency would certainly bring. Well, possibly not. Obama has achieved a lot, tackling equal pay, legalising gay marriage, redefining hate crimes, yet he has also faced huge opposition. How will Hillary take over? Unlike Trump, there is no fear that she’ll repeal the amendments the Obama administration worked so hard to push through, but how she’ll handle the huge issues facing the US like police brutality, healthcare and gun crime remains to be seen.
It’s easy to spend hours comparing and contrasting Trump and Hillary’s potential policies (although Trump has been hesitant to define any specific policies apart from his eponymous ‘wall’, and the less said about that, the better) but after three debates and months of media coverage, to me it is clear that the republican candidate is a disaster waiting to happen. Even his own party are turning against him. From the outside looking in, Trump represents everything negative we’ve seen happen in the UK since Brexit and much more. He has coaxed xenophobia and racism out from the fringes of society into the mainstream. In a time when the Black Lives Matter movement is gaining traction fighting against injustices over 150 years in the making, he shouts about building a wall, banning Muslims from the US; his followers openly abuse black people who dare to challenge the rhetoric of a Trump rally. He is a volatile man with a casual approach to the use of nuclear weapons and to what constitutes sexual assault, and as Barack Obama quite rightly puts it, do we really need a man who isn’t trusted with his Twitter account in charge of the United States’ nuclear arsenal? News outlets and supporters alike have brushed off his ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’ comment as locker room banter as if that makes his comments alright, completely ignoring that he wasn’t actually anywhere near a locker room at the time of those words and that comments like that reinforce rape culture in the United States.
America under Trump doesn’t look great for many people; minority groups will be shipped across borders; immigrants have been a huge focus of some of the nastiness of his campaign. Women will potentially lose access to planned parenthood, and if his words at the last debate are anything to go by, could lose their right to choose an abortion.
This election feels nothing like the joy of watching Barack Obama making history in 2008 and again in 2012, but I hope for all our sakes the result is again a majority for the Democrats. Please, learn from our mistakes during the Brexit debacle, Americans, get out and vote, particularly if you think the world would be better off without Trump in charge. And if the shit truly does hit the proverbial fan, let’s start our own nation and put Michelle and Bernie in charge.