During last week, as I began thinking about this blog, Hillary Clinton was a very short price favourite to take the US presidency. Given what I have chosen to write, it being predicated on a Clinton victory, I’m not sure how useful an exercise it might turn out being if she ends up being turned over on account of a very late October surprise delivered by the FBI. I have deliberately avoided the fluff, the non-stories, the irrelevant nonsense of this campaign where it’s been possible, and I haven’t made up my mind where these new revelations fit in. Plainly some of the information that has leaked out over the summer and autumn is of some significance, and with wide ranging implications, including what it says about the role of the fourth estate itself. Attempting to shun the noise and the heat admittedly doesn’t leave a whole lot left where Election 2016 is concerned, but I still don’t feel particularly uninformed. And I vowed that after 2004, having committed so much time to keeping abreast of that campaign, I wouldn’t waste so much of my time again. Especially when the guy I was rooting for, John Kerry, turned out to be such a lousy candidate. To be fair, he has since been a pretty decent, fairly well-intentioned Secretary of State, which is one of many things that makes one wonder about the dignity stripping contortions and compromises that running for the top job seems to require.
I have written about Trump before, and it is scarcely worth mentioning that he is intellectually and temperamentally wholly unsuited to be president, with a nasty streak about him as well. But plenty of others have already pointed that out, some with a delightful sense of mischievousness. By contrast, given the exposure Clinton has had for 25 years, and the experience of high office she’s accumulated in that time (not to mention a long running barrage of often unpleasant, irrational hostility), it’s fair to say that few candidates in history were more prepared for the unique pressures of the presidency. That she offers few temperamental concerns should be a highly reassuring in a volatile age. And let us further acknowledge that it would genuinely be a transformational moment for a woman to become president. Given the double standards that have been repeatedly applied to Clinton’s candidacy, which a lot of men have been disappointingly slow to acknowledge, it needs reiterating that this is a development that should be welcomed without cynicism.
What to make of the various email furores is a difficult question. While some revelations are obviously of acute interest and expose some of the habitual stitch ups that characterise elite modus operandi, including the wholly unsurprising knowledge that Clinton is apparently more comfortable talking candidly with senior bankers and other high rollers than she is with voters (as is the case with the UK prime minister), in other ways they mostly serve as little more than an illustration of the way trivia can be elevated out of all proportion to its importance. Overall, were I an American citizen, I could find some ways to be excited about her, as much of her stated domestic policy platform is, if anything, more progressive than Barack Obama’s. And she stands on the right side of the most serious existential question for our species – the one that never gets talked about – climate change.
However, we have to admit that a Clinton presidency could be problematic in some meaningful ways. We often hear of the presidency being a constrained position with limited powers. If anything, it is in the foreign policy sphere where a president enjoys the greatest freedom of action, and so for the world it is naturally a topic of great interest who gets to be president. A question many non-Americans ask at election time is whether it is America’s election — or the world’s? And what Clinton is likely to bring to foreign policy, with her fondness for interventionism near the forefront, is more of the same approach that’s failed for decades. Clinton has high profile establishment endorsements that make one feel glum about the prospects of some of the greatest geopolitical problems being resolved peacefully, that includes reaffirming dubious alliances that this blog has previously written critically about.
Half of young Americans would apparently prefer a meteor apocalypse to a Donald Trump presidency, which is instructive enough. And let us not dismiss Trump as a crazy outlier – he represents much of what his party now stands for. That Hillary Clinton has struggled to dispatch this comedy candidate is perhaps even more instructive. This dismal election year has raised questions about the state of American democracy and the nation’s basic governability. And while Trump must be stopped, electing La Clinton doesn’t feel like any kind of credible solution to that problem.