Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The US Presidential Election: Lesser Evil for Whom?

Trump or Clinton? Who will America choose?

This is the question on everyone's lips, from Brooklyn to Bangkok. The U.S. Commander-in-Chief represents a position as close to complete power as exists in the modern world.  The global economy hinges on U.S. interests, and its President is head of arguably the largest and most dominant military force the world has ever seen. The relationship between the economy and the military is unmistakable, and dictates foreign policy. The choice to be an economic ally of the U.S. is hardly a choice at all.

Source: CNBC
During the month of July, we witnessed the circus that was both the Republican and Democratic Conventions, where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were nominated as Presidential candidates by their respective parties. Trump's key message was that America is in deep trouble and that he is the only one that can save it. With a message that echoed Ronald Reagan, he insisted that he will restore law, order and greatness. He argued for a withdrawl from the global community, an 'America-first' position, ignorant of the face that America is indeed the primary beneficiary of globilization. "Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo. As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America first, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect, the respect that we deserve. The American people will come first once again." (Trump acceptance speech)

Hillary's message, as expected, was much more focused on 'issues' but rather cliched, leaving many sceptical. There was not really a central theme to the speech, or the Convention, bar that voters need to save America from Trump, and that Hillary is that saviour. "America's strength doesn't come from lashing out. Strength relies on smarts, judgement, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power. That's the kind of Commander-in-Chief I pledge to be." (Clinton acceptance speech) 'Strategic application of power' indeed. Among the massive protests from within her own party, the walkouts, the heckling and a DNC coffin over the fence, the 4-day show served more to alienate progressives rather than unify.

Even as Noam Chomsky, the darling of the left, threw his weight behind the idea of Lesser Evil Voting (for Hillary), Andrew Smolsky countered that in Clinton we have a candidate with a "clear record, from Serbia to Libya, from Honduras to Paraguay, of supporting coups, militarization of authoritarian regimes, breaking international law, and genuinely following the neoconservative playbook in trying to make the 21st Century another century of American hegemony and empire". Her demonstrated 'experience' advocates for exactly the ideology and practical application that Chomsky has spent decades fighting.

There is something entirely flawed in our acceptance of a flawed hegemonic political system, and it inevitably leads us down the path of lesser evil voting. Will Clinton be better than Trump? Ben King argues that 'it doesn't make the threat of fascism go away with Trump losing, it makes the the eventual fascism likely to be even worse.' The amount of anger now directed at hackers, protesters and conscience voters has intensified, largely from the left. Self-professing liberals are smearing Green candidate Jill Stein, even though she is campaigning on a revolutionary platform that more Americans identify with (well, they would if they knew about it) than either of the two main-party candidates.

If Trump does become president, there will be an inevitable wave of progressive insurgency mobilised by the left and in 2020 the challenger for the White House will likely be rooted in this insurgency. If Clinton becomes president, she will continue with a strictly neoliberal agenda, while the insurgency will rise up from the far-right. Progressives will have been widely co-opted by the Clinton campaign as a lesser evil and will be more disillusioned than outraged.

So, where do we want to be in 2020? Perhaps it's time to rethink the political system before complete meltdown. A great start would be opening the presidential debates to 3rd parties so that at least voters are aware that they have options.

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