I didn’t pay much attention to the last US presidential election. In fact, I didn’t pay much attention to the last two US presidential elections. I haven’t really noticed Barack Obama at all. I vaguely remember that he seemed to come out of nowhere, an outsider who could make passionate speeches, and who snatched the presidency from Hillary Clinton.
In the past I always used to be rooting for the Democratic candidate, whoever it was. Back then it was quite simple: Democrat = Good, Republican = Evil. If a Republican got in, he’d make poor Americans poorer, and start a war.
But that was then. Because now I’ve switched sides. So I’m most likely to be rooting for the Republican candidate, whoever it is.
And as with everything these days, it all goes back to smoking bans which always seem like somebody is pinning me to the ground with their foot on my throat. I was a contented little Lib Dem voter here in the UK until 95% of Lib Dem MPs voted for the UK smoking ban, and I realised there was nothing liberal about them, and nothing democratic either. They’ve never got my vote since, and they’ll never get it again. And since 90% of Labour MPs voted for the smoking ban (including Jeremy Corbyn), I was hardly likely to vote Labour, was I? I would have voted Conservative in the last two general elections if Cameron had even made a few faint noises about maybe relaxing the ban, but he didn’t, and so I didn’t. All that was left was UKIP, who actually do want to relax the ban.
I now identify the ‘progressive’ political left as antismoking, and the political right as being not quite so determinedly antismoking as the left. I realise it’s not quite that black and white. But since the smoking ban is the sole determinant of my voting patterns, that means I’m most likely to vote for the right. If Genghis Khan was running for office, and promised to lift the smoking ban, he’d get my vote.
So who will I be rooting for in the upcoming US election? Almost certainly a Republican. Because there’s obviously no way I’d ever want to see antismoking ice queen Hillary Clinton elected. It’s anybody but Hillary as far as I’m concerned.
But I was reading recently that she already got a whole bunch of delegates pledged to support her, and it’s actually going to be quite difficult for anybody else to muscle in like Obama did. Short of a miracle, it looks like she’s going to be the Democratic candidate.
But I really don’t know why anyone wants to vote for her. She’s thoroughly uninspiring. Obama was a rousing speaker with a message: “Yes We Can!” Hillary is dull, and she has no message. Or, if there is a message, it would be something like, “It’s My Turn Now.” Because I think she just deeply envied Bill when he was in office, and convinced herself that she could do the job just as well.
But aside from all that, the bad news for her is that her campaign is losing support. I’m not sure why. It seems to be something to do with sending confidential emails from an insecure private server while she was Secretary of State. And being in some way partly responsible for the death of a US ambassador in Benghazi. And being widely regarded as dishonest and untrustworthy. And maybe also just being another thoroughly uninspiring machine politician.
Which more or less describes most of the Republican candidates she’s likely to be up against. All except Donald Trump, that is.
Donald Trump makes all the other Republican candidates look like bit part players in the movie: Trump The Candidate. He hogs the limelight completely. He’s torn up the political rulebook, and thrown it away. He’s amazingly politically incorrect. He has no spin doctors or pollsters. He just shows up and answers questions himself, bluntly and unhesitatingly. And if anyone attacks him, he hits back even harder. He may be getting a bit too cocky. Everybody is expecting his candidacy to implode (myself included), but he seems to be bullet-proof, and his support keeps building.
I seem to read four or five news stories about him online every day, which has me wondering whether he’s running a viral campaign. When I go on Facebook, there are always lots of stories about him posted by fanatical supporters. And it’s not as if I’ve subscribed to any Trump newsfeeds. The other guys never get a look in, except when Trump has something to say about them. It’s Trump, Trump, Trump, and then some more Trump.
His big problem is that, aside from his growing grassroot fan base, nobody in the Republican party really wants him. He’s a bit of an embarrassment. They’re not even sure if he’s really a Republican. They want one of their safe, boring, neutered, machine politicians to be adopted as the Republican candidate. And so given that he’s already fighting Hillary and the Democrats, Donald Trump is fighting a war on two fronts. Maybe three. It’s The Donald versus the entire US political class and the US mainstream media. And at the moment, if he’s beating the lot of them, it remains most likely that the political class will win in the end, by fair means or foul.
In Donald Trump America is being offered a wild card. The real choice, if it comes down to Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump, will be between More Of The Same and Something Completely Different. It’ll be a choice between sticking with two pairs, or twisting.
In fact, a Trump presidency would probably be just like the Trump candidacy, except instead of other candidates being the butt of his damning criticisms, it would be other world leaders. The diplomatic rulebook would be torn up. There’d be a war of words from day one. And lots of brinkmanship. And maybe it would all go over the brink, not once, but several times – and become a real war on two fronts, maybe three.
But aside from that, I’m not sure that Trump has thought through his policy positions very carefully. Many of them seem over-simplistic. Is an enormous wall really the right way to deal with illegal immigrants on the Mexican border? Aren’t there smarter ways?
Last, but not least, Trump is a strange man. I’ve yet to hear him say anything against tobacco or alcohol, but here’s a man who doesn’t smoke tobacco (or anything else), and doesn’t touch alcohol, and also doesn’t even drink coffee. And also doesn’t like shaking hands with people either. What kind of man is that? Is this another Sir Thomas More, wearing a hair shirt under his Chancellor’s robes?