Sunday, 13 November 2016

Why the American Election Was a Farce

by Libby Young

Saturday Night Live's portrayal of Trump and Clinton
For hundreds of years, America has prided itself on its democracy, proudly declaring itself to be “the land of the free”.  This weekend, with news of the election continuing to reverberate in every corner of the world, it surely begs the question: what went wrong? How has the selection of the candidates, the candidates themselves and hatred combined to form the 2016 American election?

The candidates of this election were perhaps the most unpopular to ever grace the ballot papers. According to ABC News, among registered voters Donald Trump had an unpopularity rating of 60%, Hillary Clinton following closely behind with a rating of 59%. Yet how did this happen? How did two such unpopular candidates become the Democrat and Republican nominees? Well, only 18% of Americans voted in the primaries, and only half that number voted for either Trump or Clinton. It has been shown that over the past two decades, the average Democrat and the average Republican have become increasingly polarised, yet these divisions are greatest amongst those who are the most active in the political process. As a result, a small portion of the most polarised Americans chose the two mainstream candidates. Clearly, the nomination process works better on paper than it does in practice.

With Donald Trump, and his lack of political correctness, it is easy to see why some believed he was unsuitable for the role of president. His mild obsession over nuclear weapons was, to say the least, disturbing, and it was laughable to imagine him as a successful diplomat when he can get angered by a tweet. He claimed to resent illegal immigrants, yet 200 undocumented Polish workers built Trump Towers. And of course, there is footage of Trump speaking in a derogatory manner about women. Since the release of the video, 12 women have accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct.  However, a lot of Donald Trump’s crimes can be categorised as childish insults. While this is not ideal for the president of the United States, at least Donald Trump has not yet been under FBI investigation.

To many, Hillary Clinton was viewed as a safer option. However, the disappearance of 33,000 private emails hounded her campaign ever since its start, and, although the head of the FBI previously said that whilst Clinton was “extremely careless” there would be “no charges”, a reinvestigation into the matter stripped Clinton of her lead in the polls, and possibly the presidency. Yet the emails were not the only area where Clinton’s integrity was questioned. It was recently revealed that Clinton was informed of one of the debate questions prior to a primary debate against Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders was Hillary Clinton’s only serious opposition to the position of Democrat nominee- and that says a lot about Hillary Clinton. Although beloved by the internet, Bernie Sanders’ policies were extremely liberal, so much so that in normal elections, he would have found it difficult to gain a footing. Hillary Clinton, however, managed to find him difficult to beat. It is easy to see why the election became something of a running gag.

Finally, there was the unprecedented level of hatred flowing from all corners of the political spectrum. In polls taken before the election, the majority of Trump voters were voting for Trump because he was “not Hillary”, and nearly half of Clinton voters are doing the same. Yet what I found the most disturbing was the hatred towards Donald Trump’s voters. America prides itself on its freedom of speech, yet how free is it really when Trump supporters are quickly depicted as ignorant and racist? Nobody will forget about Hillary Clinton describing half of Trump’s supporters as belonging to the “basket of deplorables”, yet despite apologizing for this remark, only last week did she once again declare that she was “sick and tired of the negative, dark, divisive, dangerous vision and the anger of people who support Donald Trump.” It is one thing to insult a political leader, but to class all Trump voters as “white supremacists” is a dismissal of what, according to the results, legitimately concerns approximately 47% of the American voters.

So- why was the American election a farce? The candidates chosen were loathed by the general public, both seemed unsuited for the role of president, and the torrent of hatred rushing through America was horrifying. All in all, to me it seems that the American election was a joke that people stopped finding amusing a long time ago.

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