Sunday, May 1, 2016

Karl du Fresne: Trump vs Clinton - a democratic malfunction?

You have to say this much for Donald Trump: no aspirant for political office in America has created so much interest in distant New Zealand.

In fact you’d probably have to go as far back as 1964, to the contest between Lyndon Johnson and his arch-conservative Republican rival Barry Goldwater, to find a US presidential election that aroused more interest worldwide. Trump can take credit for that, if nothing else.

The difference with 1964, of course, is that he isn’t even the candidate yet. The Republican convention that will choose the party’s nominee is still three months away, but already Trump is the subject of conversation around the water coolers (or would be, if our workplaces had water coolers).

New Zealanders have watched the rise and rise of Trump with fascinated loathing and horrified disbelief. Distaste for him cuts across the usual political boundaries.

A recent UMR poll found that 82 per cent of National Party voters would back Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton over Trump. Even if it came down to a choice between Trump and Clinton’s “socialist” rival Bernie Sanders, National voters would support Sanders by a margin of 76 to 13 per cent.

New Zealanders can’t understand why so many Americans seem to love an uncouth sideshow barker. It tends to reinforce the common perception that all Americans are crass and ignorant. But America wouldn’t be the world’s strongest economic power, and the pacesetter in every field from technology through to art and entertainment, if it were populated by idiots.

We tend to forget that voting in the presidential primaries involves a relatively small number of people, and that Trump’s backing comes from a disillusioned faction within that minority. Far more Americans dislike him than like him.

A better picture of his standing among Americans generally is provided by an NBC-WSJ poll earlier this month that showed only 24 per cent of respondents gave him a positive rating compared with 65 per cent who saw him in a negative light.

So Americans don’t want Trump. They don’t want Clinton either, judging by the same poll which gave her a 56 per cent negative rating. Only 32 per cent liked her.

That leaves us with a puzzling question: how can a country so rich in human capital deliver such a dispiriting set of candidates for the most powerful office in the world?

You have to wonder whether we’re witnessing a failure of democracy. It’s not working the way it’s supposed to.

Trump and Clinton are polar opposites politically, but in their own way, each represents a democratic malfunction.

Clinton is the consummate political insider – a cold, calculating, slippery, artful schmoozer. Polls show that Americans don’t trust her, and neither should they. She can barely shut her closet door for all the skeletons rattling around inside.

Trump, on the other hand, makes a virtue of being an outsider. He feeds off a deep and widespread sense of alienation.

By posing as a man of the people, which he demonstrably is not, he has harnessed resentment of the political elite. Unfortunately, not being part of the political establishment doesn’t, by itself, give him presidential credentials.

And what of the other contenders? There’s Sanders, whose pitiful ignorance on crucial policy issues was shockingly exposed in a recent newspaper interview. And then there’s Ted Cruz, a repugnant Texan fundamentalist who manages, against the odds, to be even less attractive than Trump.

How has it come to this? How could American voters be faced with a choice between candidates so few of them want?

And what happened to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F Kennedy? All articulated noble visions for their country, even if their personal lives – especially in the case of the alley-cat JFK – didn’t always bear close scrutiny. But we’ve heard little in this presidential campaign that has been either noble or visionary.

Democracy seems to be on its knees in Australia, too, where the brazenly opportunistic Malcolm Turnbull seized power last year from a wounded Tony Abbott and is now floundering in the polls himself, raising the prospect of yet more political convulsions in a country that’s starting to make Italy look like a model of stability.

There are common factors here. Democracy, supposedly the property of the people, has been hijacked. Power now resides with elites, factions, spin merchants, wealthy donors, lobbyists and politically partisan media outlets.

It hasn’t happened here, at least not on the same scale – but that’s not to say it won’t.


mitch morgan said...

Thank you for your article , Karl, but I beg to disagree.
The world of politics needs a drastic shakeup. Western countries are being inundated with Muslim 'refugees' whose first loyalty is to Islam - not to their adoptive country. Relative breeding rates will ensure that eventually Muslims will become a majority in those countries and Sharia law looms as an inevitable consequence. Obama and Hilary Clinton can only assure us of more of the same as they bow to political correctness.
Donald Trump is the only politician with the guts to tackle the problem head on and face up to the reality of this threat to the free world; the only one willing to confront the corruption of the banking system - and the only one who is not beholden to big-money influences pulling the strings from behind the scenes.
Try looking past the personality flaws and look instead at what this man may accomplish.
As one philosopher put it; "There are some first class bastards out there doing first class jobs."
If the world keeps going downhill as it is at present then where will we be in twenty years time? What legacy are we leaving our children?
Love or hate the USA - if America falls then that is the end of the free world.
Cometh the time, cometh the man. He'd get my vote.

paul scott said...

One of your more meaningless raves Karl . Most of the media are like you. Pejudiced nonsense

Brian said...

Trump verses Clinton and/or the World?
This is the most interesting Presidential election for decades; no candidate more than Trump, has excited more venom, more critical analysis from our Press/media and the New Zealand public than this man. Mind you in an egalitarian New Zealand he was doomed from the outset by being rich; decades of socialistic indoctrination assured this from the start.
It is entertainment, and comparing it to what faces us all every night from the box it is a great relief from the repeat adverts, programmes exalting the sickening constant love of “what- we- have- done- for everyone type soaps”. The USA election process in contrast stands out against our rather puerile elections especially on who will eventually govern. We have little need to crow the word democratic, when we actually vote for just over half our representatives in Parliament. With the elected party having the “help” of a minor party to pass its legislation when that party knows in reality, it alone holds the balance of power!
If Trump wins the nomination, and if Clinton is defeated and they are still big Ifs; the real question will he Trump, modify his outbursts and vocal policies to suit a more moderate Presidential style. The answer is quite simply Yes he will. Does anyone in their right mind really expect Donald Trump to send back the 30 million Latinos, or any of the existing huge number of illegal immigrants now domiciled in the U.S. back to their own countries? Not to mention erecting another Hadrian’s Wall. ( Which in fact never kept out either the Scots or the English!)
What he will do is to “modify” Obama Care, probably taking it out of the hands of Government,(thus ensuring a reduced of costs and some well needed checking on just who qualifies for welfare.) For sure he will stop the downgrading of the U.S. military; and hopefully take back the leadership of the Western World which has been so sadly lacking since Obama and Clinton came into power. (No more Benghazi episodes!)
.Oh dear! I can almost see the left wing chardonnay drinkers pardon me “thinkers” spilling wine out of their glasses onto the sidewalks; and as for the New Zealand hard left, they probably will still be in intensive care after a Trump election!
Karl, if I recall Ronald Reagan was also not liked by the majority, a second rate actor from B movies come on! Who would actually expect him to be a President of the United States, well the people of America did.
Yes the perception might be that democracy itself is failing in the West, well it is not democracy that is at fault; it is the conniving of our political sect, the avoidance of democratic procedures that we now see in this country which belittle it, and undermine its basic function.
Can we gloat over the American system with our method of “appointments” to the House of Representatives? The pressure now being placed on Councils to allow one only ethnic group to bypass the electoral voting system to gain access on Local Bodies.
Karl, your two last paragraphs indicate that you are a little behind the eight ball!
“There are common factors here. Democracy, supposedly the property of the people, has been hijacked. Power now resides with elites, factions, spin merchants, wealthy donors, lobbyists and politically partisan media outlets.”
“It hasn’t happened here, at least not on the same scale – but that’s not to say it won’t.”
Here I beg to differ; it has happened here, and it is accelerating right before our eyes!
Brian Arrandale.

Charles said...

I have been studying the alternative media reports for many months now on the election process in America. One thing is certain, whatever the mainstream news outlets say, it is all heavily biased, outright lies or simply rubbish, presented to an undiscerning and myopic public long dealt to by their 'government' and the lobby groups. 'Follow the money" is an apt phrase to understand what is happening. Millions of dollars have been spend by Clinton and her cohorts including Cruz who is a Clinton pawn from way back in an attempt to stymy Trump. He has a cocky and abrasive style which many find offensive, but considering the very real threat he now faces of being assassinated, I consider him a brave man. Standing up to the lying deceitful filth that has for too long sucked America dry takes extraordinary courage and I wish him well. The GOP elite- Republican (grand old party) have indicated they would rather give their nomination to Hillary Clinton the most corrupt politician in America today than see an interloper, neither Mason nor Insider, get the job and are amazingly, willing to see the destruction of their own party to ensure this. It speaks volumes on the amount of cash that filters into the willing hands of these bods who claim to represent the people. Obama will not allow Clinton to be indicted for her many criminal activities since he is deeply involved in the destruction of the USA. It is a fascinating phenomenon. A Muslim president surrounded by Jews with their loyalties mostly to Israel, engineering a now not so hidden agenda of Global Governance. Trump wanting to audit the Federal Reserve alone would be sending shudders of fright through the ranks of the elite who presently run America. Trump will never be President. He lacks the infrastructure and the hard cash to destroy the criminals presently in power. He would never be capable of organising a government. For starters, he has no vice president of stature, honesty and integrity available from the rat bag assortment of deadbeats in either party. We saw the same thing when Rand Paul put himself forward for office. Equally, there is a very strong possibility that Obama the Great will continue to trash what remains of the Constitution and after engineering yet another false flag operation, declare marshal law and continue his destruction of the country. Fascinating and terrible times!