There is no greater political spectacle in the world than a presidential campaign in the United States. Combining an old ritual with the most advanced techniques of the era in marketing and globalization, and an estimated cost of more than $5 billion, the country will be submerged in a long process starting tomorrow that will culminate next November in the election to replace Barack Obama in the White House. And it is incredible that it is starting with a Republican Party candidate, the billionaire Donald Trump, who all the polls show as the favorite with an enormous lead, when at the same time his nomination could destroy the foundation of the Republican Party. The Republican machine does not know how to stop him although it fears that having him as the candidate would take away every possibility of defeating the Democrats, among whose ranks there is also a lot of uncertainty due to the meteoric progress of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is starting to eclipse Hillary Clinton.
The stage, therefore, is very open. Paradoxically, in one of the most consolidated democracies on the planet, a considerable part of Americans are fed up with conventional politics and this has fueled the most “anti-system” options on two well-opposed sides.
Trump represents populism and those conservative values that many Republicans consider at risk. The real estate magnate prides himself on not being a politician. And he can allow himself the freedom to say whatever he feels like because he does not need the party apparatus or donations to run a presidential race. He has gained the backing of 35 percent of Republican supporters, according to the latest polls, and his strongest rival, Ted Cruz, has still not even reached 20 percent. Everything about Trump is absolute buffoonery. And his attacks against undocumented immigrants, Islam, or homosexuals scandalize both a good part of Americans as well as international public opinion. However, whether he achieves his objective of being nominated for the White House or not, he has already succeeded in damaging the strategies of all of his rivals who have had to toughen their speeches on topics like immigration and other social matters so as not to lose face in front of Trump, something which has steered the party more and more to the right, leaving the center field open to the Democratic Party.
In the Democratic struggle, Hillary’s team has been getting nervous as it faces the momentum gained by the senator of Vermont. In the summer, Clinton was ahead in the polls by 40 to 50 points, a gap that seemed to leave her alone in the presidential race. Things have changed, and the latest polls keep Clinton as the favorite, but with a very narrow margin of less than 10 points in relation to her rival, the 74-year-old independent candidate. And both are going into the Iowa caucuses evenly matched. Going back to the paradox, as we said in the pages of the Chronicle, Sanders is a politician that declares himself to be a “socialist,” whose proposals — a public health system similar to Spain’s, free education and increasing the minimum wage — would be considered centrist in Europe, but, nevertheless, they place him in the near radical left in the United States. His pull is due to the resonance his campaign is having among young voters, the ones most affected by the economic downturn, and who fear a recession in the upcoming months. These young voters comprise an entire generation that no longer believes in the American dream and are doomed to live more poorly than their parents.
What is clear is that the exciting presidential campaign that is now beginning must serve, among other things, to bring back a certain prestige lost to politics, although it does not appear easy to do so amid a populist avalanche.
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