Trade and Globalisation


Trumps metamorphosis and the odds of a 'First Lady President'

26 Apr 2016 - 15:26
Source: Mr. Gray / Flickr

At the end of the nineteenth century, our great historian Johan Huizinga typified the American election campaign as “the greatest show on earth”. Due to a broad ideological consensus on the capitalist nature of American society, the difference between candidates can only be clarified by making it personal.

Well, the spectators of this “political spectacle” have recently been given value for money in 2016. Almost literally, because many Americans actually contribute financially to the candidates. Bernie Sanders received millions of donations at an average of 27 Dollars per person, whilst the others mainly received vast sums of money from rich Americans. All that money allows the candidates to unleash a media offensive, which by definition encourages populism. On the Republican side, Donald Trump - the master of marketing - has been most successful at exploiting the dissatisfaction in society caused by poor economic recovery and fear of terrorism.

There are other examples of such great uncertainty in American history. For example, populists were a common phenomenon at the time of the Cold War and with major social issues such as civil rights and the expanding power of bureaucratic Washington. Just think of Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan.

History has taught us that there is always an opposing reaction, particularly in election years. As is almost always the case, common sense amongst the voters will prevail after the conventions this summer, which marks the start of the final phase of the election campaign until voting day in November. By that time, the fanatical activists within the party will no longer be as dominant as they were during the primaries and it will instead be down to the large, diverse electorate that includes increasing numbers of undecided, independent voters.

In order to stand any real change, Donald Trump needs to appear more moderate, one could even say more presidential. He has already included the well-known, but also controversial Washington insider Paul Manafort, who has previously been in control of the campaigns of Eastern European, African and Asian leaders, such as Ferdinand Marcos, the leader of the Philippines.

Trump is already receiving extra tuition in foreign policy. Until now, all he has managed were cheap slogans that point to a neo-isolationist foreign policy. Manafort has also demanded that he makes peace with the Republican establishment, which he insulted on a regular basis until recently. We have indeed heard fewer extremities from Trump’s big mouth over the past few weeks.

The opinion polls indicate that Trump has a strong lead in almost all the upcoming states, including California. Even with victories in states such as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Indiana and California, there is still a chance that he will not reach the threshold of 1,237 delegates. However, his chances of exceeding this threshold have increased now that he has even more wind in his sails following his “landslide” victory in the state of New York.

However, on his path to a more serious content-based candidacy, he will in all likelihood meet an opponent who knows her onions better than most and also has extensive foreign policy experience: Hillary Clinton!

I know of no other candidate in American history with such an excellent CV for the highest office: after all, she was the political First Lady, a senator who served on the important Armed Services Committee and six years as the Secretary of State. Of course such a background does not guarantee an electoral success, but objectively we have to conclude that the Republican candidates that Donald Trump has faced so far were “small fish” compared to Hillary Clinton.

And what about Bernie Sanders? The left-leaning populist, who was surprisingly successful with his “political revolution” particularly under young voters, can no longer overtake Hillary following his defeat in New York. Bernie will ultimately have to opt for being a guardian of the progressive cause. Whether he will opt for Hillary or someone else is actually the dumbest question we could ask ourselves. Or rather, ask him! Of course he will support Hillary against the winner from the Republican party. A party that is leaning more towards the right than ever before. In fact, the internationalist, moderate wing of the “Grand Old Party” has effectively been obliterated over the last few years.

This election will again be a clash between the two Americas. The small-town, rural America against the ever-expanding, metropolitan and diverse America. President Obama will also support Clinton, in order to secure his political legacy as far as possible. It’s going to be a close race. However, I predict that the winner will not be the one with the most populist campaign, but the one with a campaign based on content and that matches the prevailing views of the latter of the two Americas. We shall see how the Trump’s metamorphosis will develop, but at the moment Clinton is in a more favourable starting position.