This is turning out to be one of the most fiercely contested elections in US history. Democratic party candidate Hillary Clinton was the clear favourite going into the elections but she has seen her lead eroded due to a variety of reasons and now it seems that the post of the President of the most powerful nation in the world is up for grabs.
In recent months, Clinton has seen questions raised about her relating to the alleged security breach that occurred after she used her personal account to send emails while in office and though she has consistently defended herself of any wrongdoing, the can of worms was opened once again when FBI chief Jim Comey, just nine days before the nation went to the polls, stated that the agency had found more emails from Clinton while investigating former Congressman Anthony Weiner. As of yesterday, Comey had cleared Clinton, though the controversy has already had its impact.
Another major controversy that has been dogging Clinton since the early days of the campaign has been her role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks. Though she has been cleared of any wrongdoings by a number of congressional investigating committees, her detractors, especially in the conservative media, have used this incident time and again to raise questions about her.
In terms of what to expect from a Clinton administration, one topic that has caused considerable interest is gun control. This has been one of the most hotly debated topics in the US with conservatives for long blocking any attempts by the Democrats to instill stricter firearms rules, considering it in violation of the second amendment to the US constitution. Last week, Al Jazeera reported that gun sales were rising in the US in anticipation of a Hillary Clinton victory and firmer restrictions on gun ownership during her tenure.
The Newsweek, in a report, stated that as a result of a number of high-profile shootings in the US recently, Democrats and Republicans are not viewing advocating for stronger gun legislation as much of a political risk. Meanwhile, according to the Voice of America, gun control is still creating massive division among the electorate with even long time Democratic party supporters reportedly expressing concern over Clinton’s tough stance on gun control.
Media reports are pegging a Clinton victory to lead to attempts to bring in tougher gun control measures. However, most media commentators are still sceptical whether these will actually lead to any changes in the existing system as was seen in the case of rebuttals seen by Barack Obama in his repeated efforts to introduce gun control rules.
It will also be interesting to see how successfully Clinton is able to convince the American population about the need to support Obamacare, the nation-wide healthcare program that Barack Obama championed and which remains a controversial and divisive topic in the US. According to Politico Magazine, “The quick summary of those differences is that Trump is running to repeal the entire Obama era, while Clinton basically wants to extend it for another four years.”
Interestingly, the same organisation also notes, “In fact, those traditional broadcasts on ABC, NBC and CBS have devoted just 32 minutes to all policy issues this year. That’s less than one-third of the airtime they devoted to Clinton’s emails. And most of those 32 minutes focused on terrorism and Middle East policy, with just a few snippets about gay rights, immigration and policing, according to media watchdog Andrew Tyndall. And when it comes to the issues, the rest of the media, new as well as old, haven’t done much more to elevate the information levels of low-information voters.”
Foreign policy might be something that would interest most neutral observers as whoever assumes the presidency will have responsibility to make some critical decisions that will impact nations across the world. With Clinton, most political commentators and observers seem to agree that we can expect more of a continuation of the policies of inclusiveness, especially in Asia. One interesting point raised by some media reports is how a Clinton administration would handle Russia and Vladimir Putin. Hillary Clinton has spoken strongly against Putin in the past and the dynamics between the two superpowers has been far from cordial recently. In one of the presidential debates, Clinton took on Donald Trump and Putin’s mutual admiration by stating, “That’s because he’d (Putin) rather have a puppet as President of the United States.”
Another key area that has been vociferously criticised by the Republicans is the Iran nuclear deal, which its detractors see as a sign of US weakness. Clinton will have to continue to defend such decisions as the US sees an upsurge in of sentiment among its citizens who want their government to take a tougher stand against terrorism and countries thought to support them. As the BBC notes in one of its reports, both candidates have more or less the same general outlook towards key issues like ISIL, Syria, China, etc. though the democrats seem to favour less aggressive means with the US taking a more central role as opposed to Donald Trump’s plans of forcing other countries to increase their involvement in these issues, for example, getting the Arab nations to set up a safe zone in Syria.
“Hillary Clinton firmly believes the US role is to uphold a global security order from which it also benefits, the Pax Americana at the core of traditional US military and diplomatic thinking. Donald Trump's America First approach is more transactional. He frames alliances in business terms, vowing to get better value from them or pull back from historic commitments he says the US can no longer afford,” opines the BBC in its report.
Meanwhile, from a dark horse, Donald Trump now stands with a very good statistical chance of actually being elected as the President of the United States. The question on illegal immigrants saw its crescendo with Donald Trump’s now infamous remarks on Mexican immigrants and his promises of building a ‘wall’ on the US-Mexican border. It has been one of the most prominent of the Republican campaign’s promises and has also seen wide support from some sections of the US public. Fox News reports that there has been a surge of illegal immigration into the US along the Mexican border as people try to get into the country before the election results are out. Both the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have reported that the Republican presidential candidate has intensified his rhetoric when it comes to this issue in the closing stages of his campaign.
His campaign has also been controversial from the beginning with Trump drawing flak from a number of different sections of the society for his various comments. In a column for Vox titled “Donald Trump’s candidacy is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid”, writer Ezra Klein comments, “It’s been nearly four months since the Republican convention ended. Since then, we have had more than 100 days of Trump on the campaign trail to envision what the first 100 days of Trump in the White House would look like. And it looks worse than ever.”
It is also interesting to see the extreme criticism and ridicule that he has drawn since entering the campaign trail from liberal TV shows like The Daily Show, Last Week Tonight and The Tonight Show. Thought essentially more focused on comedy, their brand of “fake journalism” provides a different insight into how the US elections have been shaping up.
Another important topic adding to the stark divisiveness is climate change with Donald Trump famously stating that it was a hoax invented by the Chinese. If reports in some sections of the media are anything to go by, any Republican government is likely to distance itself completely from any spending to combat climate change. For example, The Huffington Post, in an article exploring Trump’s plans on the topic had this to say, “But what we do know about Trump’s policies is that they would be a real disaster. It is particularly notable that this week is the start of a very important climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, where negotiators from around the world are working out an implementation plan for last year’s Paris climate agreement. Trump has said he would “renegotiate” the Paris deal, prompting even China to criticise the Republican’s position last week.”
With perhaps the ugliest election in US history and one with polar opposite candidates finally concluding on November 8, 2016, the world will surely be waiting with bated breath to see who becomes the most powerful man (or woman) on the planet come November 9.