The author is a research fellow at the Charhar Institute. The views in this essay do not represent those of the organization.
The Brexit vote and the EURO Cup have for the time being set the entire world’s sights on Europe, as if the brawl that is the American presidential election could be forgotten.
The latest opinion polls show that since the middle of June, the presumptive Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton’s lead over rival presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has dropped by five percentage points. The gap in public opinion between the two in the race for the White House has shrunk to nine points. From this it can still be seen that Trump’s effort to use the Orlando shooting to pull in the populist vote was ineffective, and if anything incited anger. In addition, Trump has fired his controversial campaign manager and is far behind Clinton in fundraising efforts. It appears that although Trump definitely represents the Republicans in their battle with Clinton, according to current polls, his chances are not great.
However, although she is currently leading, Clinton by no means commands absolute superiority. Clinton has been continuously unable to rid herself of “email-gate,” troubles with government funds and the “Crooked Hillary” label. These are not just problems identified by Trump, but are also targets of criticism from opponents within her own party. Even her husband’s sex scandal was viewed as partially her fault. The economic prosperity of the Clinton era has been meticulously challenged by Trump. When Clinton cited this prosperity to show the success of her husband and of the Democratic Party, Trump still mouthed off. Americans approve of the era’s flourishing economy, but not of the Clinton family.
Ironically, although Clinton’s popular support has consistently measured 10 percentage points above Trump’s, in the war of words between the two, she is definitely not taking the lead. Moreover, Clinton has started criticizing Trump as “outside of the norm.” But as she, like Trump, uses the same negative themes as weapons, she is falling into a trap. The so-called anti-immigrants, misogynists, and anti-globalizationist supporters, in addition to Trump’s disrespectful remarks about a judge of Mexican descent, all look like serious liabilities, but in reality, he is using these very anti-intellectuals to win widespread popular support.
As Trump marches forth, Clinton continues to reveal even more faults. With either of these two people leading America on the stage for the next four to eight years — one with no government experience but able to move people’s hearts, and one with experience but alienating to others — what will the future image of America be?
Should Trump become president of the United States, and even if only a portion of his election promises are realized as law, America would no longer be America, and so too would the world be changed.
Americans may have a deep attraction to Trump’s promise to cut American taxes by $10 billion, but if this nonsense were to become actual policy, America would risk facing the worst financial crisis in its history. The American tax regime is robust yet sensitive; no matter if it is a Republican or Democratic government, extreme caution must be had in both raising and lower taxes. Otherwise, changes in the tax system would alter systematic interests inherent in taxation, and thus incite social unrest and could even shake the very foundation of the nation. Looking at Obama’s term, the debt ceiling adjustment and medical insurance issues, both of which did not directly touch the fundamental machinations of finance and taxes, have still caused much uproar and sharp contest between the two parties, all the while creating lasting resentment among all strata of society.
Trump’s tax cuts are all talk, but his dual political and economic populism are the basis of his support and could be partially implemented if he were elected. People ought to ask: if America shuts its gates to immigrants, and loses its melting pot spirit, will it still posses the soft power of a global democratic leader? If American multinational corporations were to withdraw from global markets, and if America were to no longer uphold its security responsibilities to East Asian allies, and if it were to abandon its alliances in the Middle East and NATO — would it still be the world’s leader? Global order would enter into unpredictable chaos, especially as the flames of terrorism spread in the Asian hinterlands and toward Europe. America under Trump is difficult to imagine, because this America has no future, and the world will be full of uncertainty.
So what about Hillary? This former first lady and Obama’s secretary of state; were she to enter the White House, she would not only become the first female president, but she would also become America’s first president whose husband also served as president. But this is not particularly important; the world is concerned with whether or not Clinton is able to provide Americans with a normal America, bestowing the world with a sense of safety, not anxiety.
It seems logical that Clinton will appear to keep America heading forward on the normal track, but she still has her own flaws when it comes to political ideals and ideology. At the very least, she lacks a sufficient amount of political consistency. On one hand she does need to appear overly agreeable during the election, and so has fallen into the war of negativity with Trump. But if she is always so tied up by her opponents, she would not make a good president. Additionally, President Obama’s greatest strategic design, excluding the geopolitical shift to rebalance in East Asia, is the global economic Trans-Pacific Partnership, which supplements a former trade agreement. This is certainly aimed at China, and thus, Obama’s strategy views Clinton’s efforts as secretary of state like a return to “smart power” in Asia. No matter if it is Trump or even the Democrat Bernie Sanders, they both have reason to oppose the TPP, but Hillary Clinton does not. Yet in reality, she stands in opposition to Obama on TPP, evoking her insincerity; people have reason to suspect the political nature of a “President Hillary.”
The earth is changing, and so, too, is the United States. In an uncertain, globalizing world, the unconventional American election also indicates a transformational period in American politics. Whether Trump is good, or Clinton is bad — what kind of future will they bring for America? Will the American dream fade away?