The US Presidential Election and the Drive toward Political Apathy

Suppose you were to have something like the U.S. presidential election implemented for choosing the Japanese prime minister; how would Japanese citizens react? We are less than a month away from the Nov. 8 election date. The [second] televised debate – in typical American one-upmanship fashion – ended not in high-level political discourse, but in character assassination and mudslinging. The result was a creation by the media, which had set the parameters of the debate and fueled the mood surrounding this election.

The Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, developed her argument with a feeling of stability, highlighting her abundant government experience and abilities. She had a look of ease about her, and you could feel her skill in campaign strategy. As the potential first female U.S. president, expectations for her are high.

On the other hand, Republican candidate Donald Trump is a businessman with absolutely no government experience. How a fly-by-night candidate was able to come this far is explained by an inability with the current political climate to hammer out effective policy in the midst of expanding inequality and poverty.

The clash between Mr. Trump’s inward-looking principle of America first and Mrs. Clinton’s principle of international cooperation provides a clear illustration of a beleaguered America. Yet, what they both share is advanced age and being hated by the American people. You might say it is a battle between the hated ones. Attacking each other’s weakness, deficiencies and character, it’s like they are competing over which one is “bad” over which one is good.

In addition to suspicions of tax evasion and illegal fundraising in his foundation, an issue involving misogynistic comments toward women by Mr. Trump has come to the surface and Mrs. Clinton has been doggedly pursuing it. Republican heavyweights and party leaders have pulled support one after the other, putting Mr. Trump in a tight situation. Even traditionally Republican-leaning newspapers have risen up in revolt against him.

In the debate, Mr. Trump brought up philandering issues involving Mrs. Clinton’s once-president spouse and verbally attacked her, stating, “You’d be in jail,” in connection to Mrs. Clinton’s issues surrounding her use of a private email account when handling classified, work-related information during her time as secretary of state. But there is no doubt according to the polls following the second debate that he is the underdog.

The once-in-four-years presidential election is an important chance for deciding the course of the U.S. There need to be enriching and substantial debates from many policy perspectives about the issues faced by this world superpower.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is broadly agreed on by 12 nations under U.S. guidance. President Obama is looking to have the bill passed in the U.S. Congress before he vacates the office in January, but both candidates have clearly shown an opposing stance to it. Will the U.S. choose free trade or will it choose protectionism?

Furthermore, can the U.S. increase income for middle- and lower-income earners and recreate a strong middle class? How to deal with a China that is expanding economically and militarily, or a provocative North Korea developing nuclear weapons and missile technology? There is a mountain of thorny issues. President Obama’s announcing that “America is not the world’s policeman” will have an effect on policy in the future. If, as Mr. Trump demands, there is a change in the current situation and burdens are completely shifted to allied nations such as Japan, it may destroy otherwise cooperative relationships.

To talk about it in terms of political hues, Mrs. Clinton is an internationalist who seeks a policy in which inequality is corrected through the redistribution of wealth. Mr. Trump is a protectionist and isolationist who would be passive in military intervention. Unless, with the whole world watching, both candidates announce policies clearly and concretely during this election battle, the international influence of the U.S. will merely fade into the shadows.

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