By Eve McInerney
This is not just another election. This is an important moment in the story of the nation. Americans are asked to choose between two major candidates who represent alternative realities.
As a British citizen, I cannot vote for U.S. president. But I feel strongly that I have a stake in the outcome of the American election.
The candidate I endorse, Hillary Clinton, represents the mainstream of American life. She believes in a strong America. But she believes that America’s place in the world should not be based primarily on its military power. She believes that America is a great nation. But she believes that improvements are also necessary.
Despite the conspiracy theories and the barkings from talk radio, Mrs Clinton represents a wish for political consensus. As a U.S. senator, she was widely recognized as someone willing to reach across the aisle to work with her opponents.
Although she is the first woman endorsed by a major political party, Mrs Clinton is not an exceptional politician. She is not a messiah and has occasionally made poor decisions. But she is a centrist and can be considered in the same stratum as Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and George H. W. Bush. Her website explains her platform of 38 policy proposals.
If elected, I would expect her to try to implement those proposals. Due to an almost inevitably obstructionist Congress, I assume that with some proposals she would succeed and with some she would fail. If she is elected, I would fully expect that at the end of her term a substantial part of the population would still despise her. But I also expect that by then America would be a safer and more prosperous nation, the Constitution would be intact, and so would a free press.
HER OPPONENT, Mr. Trump, is a different matter. His first words when announcing his candidacy stated that Mexico is sending people who are “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” He relies on appeals to emotion rather than to intellect. No evidence has ever been presented that Mexico is sending rapists to America, but with Trump that does not matter. He beat his primary opponents not by countering their arguments with more compelling ones, but by giving those opponents childish names. He replaced political discussion with knockabout showmanship. Alternative views on important issues such as amnesty, barely registered. The audiences instead waited for the next outrageous Trump putdown.
His coarseness affected the political process. Americans learned to accept that a candidate for the Republican Party would tell his audience to “knock the crap” out of protestors. Americans were not surprised when he said that we should kill the families of terrorists, or use torture. Large crowds were invited by Mr Trump to turn around to taunt the representatives of the press. If he won, Americans were told, libel laws would be changed. If the press printed negative articles, “we can sue them and win lots of money.” He said he could stand on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, “shoot somebody” and still not lose voters. He has revealed his complete lack of respect for women. He has expressed his admiration for Putin. He has invited Russia to hack his opponent’s computers. He has expressed indifference to the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Remarkably, Mr. Trump has managed to take many of the American people with him on this mad ride, and he undoubtedly has a grip on some part of the American psyche. America has faced tribulations before, but as a nation Americans always have moved forward. They fought for their independence and won it from my native country, England. Americans fought the Civil War to end slavery, and paid a terrible price to do so. The Greatest Generation overcame the Great Depression and defeated Germany and Japan. They saw through the sad buffoon Joe McCarthy and shrugged him off, and they gave all citizens voting rights after Selma.
NOW AMERICANS face the real prospect that they might, as a nation, put their faith in Mr. Donald J. Trump. We cannot tell where this would lead. We do know that Mr. Trump’s personality is unusually transparent. If he is flattered, he becomes compliant. (As Mr. Putin will have noted). If he is criticized, he becomes sullen, spiteful and defiant. If bait is laid for him, he cannot help but paw at it, as Mrs Clinton has gleefully confirmed with her Miss Universe gambit in their first debate. Mr Trump, in short, can be gamed. His ignorance, lack of global knowledge, and thin skin would make for a very uneasy world after January 2017 were he to win this election.
As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I have recently witnessed — with the June 2016 Brexit referendum — the ability of demagogues and dissimulators to persuade the discontented and the overlooked to the point where a dangerous and potentially fateful decision was made on behalf of the whole British people. It could happen here.
I support Hillary Clinton to be elected as president of the United States. There is no alternative.
Eve McInerney, a junior political science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is an exchange student from Canterbury, England.