The American election still has a month to go, and it is now peak season for an “October surprise,” and Clinton and Trump are spending all their energies slinging mud at each other. In the past week, team Hillary, with the support of her media, has fiercely revealed details of Trump’s large business losses, suspected tax evasion, his discrimination against women and other scandals. But Hillary herself has been embroiled in EmailGate for a long time, and countless Americans consider her reputation to be already ruined.
Both Clinton and Trump have been through repeated scandals and revelations of secrets. They differ in the way they have presented themselves: Clinton used her personal email account to deal with state secrets and later destroyed evidence thereof; she is using money raised for her party for her own election campaign and is attacking her fellow party candidates; she controls media requests by only sending out articles favorable to herself; and she conceals the state of her own health and still won’t reveal what happened when she almost fainted in public.
Trump, on the other hand, is the populist representative. He speaks brashly and in a sexist way and has also publicly attacked Muslims. He might have incurred huge business losses and perhaps has evaded paying his taxes, but he still holds himself as a highly intelligent and successful business tycoon. Since 1976, every American presidential candidate has released their tax returns, and it is only Trump who has refused to do this – he has said he will only release his tax returns on the condition that Clinton releases the 30,000 emails she deleted.
Conducting oneself with dignity requires, at the very least, some modesty, and yet Clinton and Trump have both done their utmost to whitewash themselves even when it is evident that neither is squeaky clean. Both refuse to admit their mistakes or reassess themselves, and instead both think up every possible way to demonize each other. Just how bad Clinton and Trump are is impossible to tell. But because they both give their opinions on each other’s appearance and actions, neither seems like a decent, ordinary person.
But now the American public has to choose one of them to take position in their nation’s highest office as leader of the country.
Maybe Clinton and Trump aren’t that bad – in reality, their morality may not be any lower than the average. After all, Clinton’s professional career has been quite successful and Trump runs a successful business empire. But the American election machine turns people into fierce and vicious people – both describe each other as though they are so evil they should be imprisoned, and they are convinced that the way to the president’s seat is through manipulating the thoughts of great numbers of Americans.
In reality, the situation where American electoral candidates tear into each other has been around for a long time now – there is a precedent for the level of fierceness we are seeing between Clinton and Trump. As early as 100 years ago, the American author Mark Twain wrote "Running for Governor," in which he described all kinds of hidden details of American elections. During the general election of 1800, the candidates were two Founding Fathers: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who both played extremely dirty tactics – starting rumors, slandering each other, etc.
There are corrupt practices within the American and the West’s political systems, but around the world, many areas are still shrouded in an age of dictatorship. The advantages of the Western-style electoral system stand out and largely cancel the problems. This contributed to the rest of the world watching as the West became prosperous and powerful. However, the world is changing. Having been through endless changes in the 20th century, dictatorships, in the traditional sense, have for the most part disappeared or been reformed. The biggest contradictions in human society occur after transmutations. The basic essentials of democracy have spread globally and have deeply penetrated different countries’ political systems in different ways. Competition between countries is no longer about “who is more democratic,” but has become a competition of a much more complicated group of factors.
The dominance of Western-style political systems is almost over and their malpractices are gradually becoming more obvious. Political parties’ fierce battles revolve around ever more critical votes until votes become the most critical axis for western politics. This type of competition no longer centers on pledges of policy – it is much easier to be attention grabbing, aim personal attacks at the opponent and start numerous slanderous rumors. Western style politics is completely alienating, and candidates use deceitful methods to beat their opponent – being elected is their only goal. Western society is able to preserve social stability due to the rule of law even when the administration becomes weak or powerless. Those developing countries who are rushing to imitate Western elections will certainly suffer. Western-style elections could lead to large scale instability in societies which do not have the protection of a strong legal system, creating “bad democracy.”
Clinton and Trump will continue their first-rate election shows, and their continued insistence that each is better than the other will continue to mislead a portion of the world’s population; at the same time, this will lead another portion of the world’s people to reassess them. Ultimately, how should democracy work? Humanity’s long exploration into this question clearly has a long way to go.