The march of Donald J Trump and Hilary Rodham Clinton as their respective Party nominations for the US President in the upcoming Presidential Elections on 8 November has an air of inevitability. Their nominations have set the stage for a general election unprecedented in modern history between two of the most well known figures in American politics as the potential trajectories for America’s future global role.
However, the Indiana primary elections gave a twist to the story as it reversed the talk of a contested Republican convention and a triumphant Democratic nomination for Hillary Clinton.
Notably, the Republican camp witnessed the billionaire property mogul and Grand Old Party front-runner Trump becoming the de-facto Republican candidate by scoring a major victory which made Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich drop out of the Presidential race. On the other side, the Democrats saw Bernie Sanders’ winning Indiana and witnessed his determination to stay in the race until the Democratic National Convention in July.
Thereby, putting two crucial scenarios for both the Presidential front-runners today. For Hilary, the situation suggests that her energy and resources will be tied up for another month in her primary campaign and the focus will be on California, which votes on 7 June.
For Trump, its about not only winning the support of a higher proportion of white men as also balancing out his current deficits among every other demographic besides patching the Party together.
Politics just like life is unpredictable. Till some time back, almost all American political pundits while talking about Republican candidates, had declared Trump dead on arrival and instead backed the young, conservative and charismatic candidates. Such a response was obvious considering his hateful rhetoric against Muslims, immigrants especially Latinos, women and bigoted policy proposals that threatened to obstruct the path towards a more open and fair country.
Pertinently, Hilary’s path too had stumbling blocks as she was often criticized for being a weak nominee because of her history of mishandling the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya and use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration which made a clear case for negligence about an issue as important as national security.
Thus, in the public eye, both candidates face extraordinarily high negatives and specific polled vulnerabilities detrimental to their campaign efforts: Trump among women and minorities and Clinton on matters of trust.
As the saying in Washington goes, Democrats have to be good but Republicans need to be perfect to win the White House today. The changing electoral make-up of the States that matter — Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and Florida — heavily favors a Democrat, even after eight years of having one in the Oval office.
Additionally, with the political fortunes of candidates swinging on a daily basis, it would be interesting to analyze who would be a better President for India. Even though at present Donald Trump appears to be a loudmouth about certain issues, he would be a better contender for Indian-Americans and Indians due to the following reasons.
One, from an Indian-American’s point of view, Trump’s loud anti-immigrant sentiment might be a turnoff, but his Administration would balance it with a pro-business attitude, which would be in contrast with the Left-leaning, pro-trade-union perspectives of Clinton.
Two, despite the widespread belief that Democrats are better for India, but given past experience with Robin Raphael and later with Modi’s visa-denial circus it is clear that Clinton is not a friend of India.
Three, it is the Republicans who are more worried about China, and wish to bring India on board as an ally. Democrats tend to be like dictators and are far more enamoured of the Pakistani Army.
President Obama and John Kerry’s largesse to Islamabad in terms of financial aid or sale of F-16s despite New Delhi’s loud protest underscores their perfidy. It is likely that in a Hillary Clinton Presidency, her Chief of Staff might be Huma Abedin, a close aide who is a Pakistani-American and no friend of India. Whereby, the situation might get worse for New Delhi.
Four, Trump’s policies on illegal immigration focus on reviving the American economy, defeating terrorism and establishing peace through strength resonates well for India. Fighting terror, upholding US interests and guarding her borders against illegal immigration are closely associated with national security which any leader should advocate.
Five, if Trump’s establishment of peace through strength is criticized then one should also recall Clinton’s credentials. She has a calculating, hawkish reputation with her votes for interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan and preference for such tactics in Libya and Syria. She can be described as a hold-over from the Cold War. Remember, it was during her Foreign Ministership that the US ’tilt to Asia’ was initiated. India, on its part has traditionally opposed the great power presence in Asia.
Last but not least, if Trump is called anti-woman because of his views on abortion, Clinton’s record of female advocacy, being women, is uneven as she has evaded the abortion and maternity leave debates in the past with expediency being her watch-word.
She has opted to play the woman-power theme and feminism to prove her ‘progressiveness’ yet stood by her husband even when he was involved in a sex scandal in the Oval Office, much to the annoyance of American women and feminists.
With a ‘Make America Great Again’ punch line along-with the aforementioned reasons, Donald Trump’s flag seems to be sailing high in the Indian sky. A group of Indian-Americans have even formed a political action committee called ‘Indian-Americans for Trump 2016′ with an aim to garner support for him.
Whether he will be elected or not time will tell but as of now both Trump and Clinton should play it well on the national platform as the nature of this high-profile race might augur a messy, personal and enormously expensive fight with no boundaries for political discourse. Especially with issues like sexual exploits, accusations of criminality, both which have the potential to marginalize discussion over America’s greatest policy challenges.
Moreover, external events such as a new wave of terrorist attacks or a poor performance by either candidate in the debates could change opinions in unpredictable ways. As voting in the US is not compulsory and a good turnout is crucial which in general favors Republicans.
As the political spectacle unfolds in America, Sanders supporters threaten to sit out the election if he is not the Democrats’ candidate while Clinton faces the challenge of persuading a high number of youth and African-American voters who supported Obama to vote for her as well, we in India can just hope for the best candidate to win. INFA
(The author is associated with school of International Studies, JNU, New Delhi)