A dirty campaign

On November 8 US voters choose a new president, after a sordid electoral campaign like no other

The US has seen a hurricane of denunciations, recriminations and threats Hillary has a good chance of winning; the electoral system is in her favour

The dirtiest and meanest election campaign in the recent history of the United States is coming to an end. In only days, US voters will decide who will occupy the most powerful position on the planet. It will also mean an end to the nightmare of watching two of the most unpopular candidates for the White House ever continue to fight it out. Like never before, lies and insults have replaced arguments, proposals and ideas. The electoral battlefield is littered with the remains of the Republican party, the credibility of the media, traditional electoral strategies, millions of dollars in ads, and a divided society.

The United States that at the beginning of next year either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will inherit, when either one takes up the post on the steps of the Capitol, is a different country from that in the Iowa caucus in February, traditionally the start of the presidential election campaign. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton –former Secretary of State, senator and first lady– had to beat off a challenge for the nomination from Bernie Sanders, a self-declared socialist, pretty much an anathema in American society.

For the Republicans, the candidates ranged from a brother and son of two presidents, former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, to the ultra-religious Ted Cruz, right-winger Marco Rubio and a big-mouthed magnate, Donald Trump. The unconventional Trump swept his opponents aside to become the party's official candidate during the convention in Cleveland in July. Since then, and until November 8, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November as tradition dictates, the US will have witnessed a hurricane of denunciations, recriminations, leaked videos and threats.

An aspirant to the presidency has never before been heard talking about how he got away with groping women because he was famous, intimidating an adversary with threats of prison or scorning blacks, Latinos, soldiers, homosexuals, journalists, judges... There is no precedent for a candidate who boasts about not paying taxes for years because it shows how “smart” he is, who questions the continuance of the defensive pillars of the West under NATO, who declares himself a friend of Russian leader Vladimir Putin or who announces his intention to build a wall across the Mexican border and expel 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country.

Trump's impunity

And all of this with a certain amount of connivance from the media, who have made hay from Trump. Through the apathy of some and the irresponsibility of others, he has became an out of control phenomenon that has not only ripped apart the Republican party but also seriously threatens the conservative party's majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, also up for grabs on November 8. However, Donald Trump is not an isolated case, he is just the latest example of a populism that is invading politics and that expresses itself in ways that are just as dangerous as those of the far right or left. As with the UK's Brexit referendum, in which the very next day the ‘leave' supporters recognised that their arguments had been false and that they had misled the voters, lies in a globalised world, in which information travels in real time, have lost their value in the market of politics because when a liar is caught out, he has already moved on beyond the uproar.

Pure politics

In the autumn of 1970 in Yale Law School, a unique alignment of the stars took place. A young bearded man with long hair met a short-sighted, politicised young woman. The first time she heard him speak, he was telling a group that Arkansas is the state that grows “the biggest watermelons in the world.” Yet it was not until the following spring that the two took a walk together. That was when she noticed his strong, attractive hands… and they fell in love. Yet, apart from love, that spring in Yale saw the birth of one of the most powerful political machines in history. Bill Jefferson Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton together are like ambition given flesh, greed and thirst for power and politics in a pure state. Bill and Hillary make an ideal combination to triumph in politics, a perfect marriage of appealing image and empathetic communication with ideological strategy. As they said during the 1992 presidential campaign: “If you vote for Bill, you get two for the price of one.” To make their dreams come true, the couple have had to overcome accusations of rape, harassment, criminal investigations, suspicions of corruption, suicides, murders and even a presidential impeachment process caused by Bill's inability to keep his flies zipped up.

Hillary's moment

This entire Calvary will have been worth it if on November 8 Hillary gains the presidency of the global superpower and becomes the first former first lady and the first woman to sit in the Oval office. The truth is that Hillary has a good chance of winning. The electoral system is in her favour and if she wins an important state like Florida along with the votes from another medium one like Pennsylvania, she will have enough. Yet, even if she loses Florida, winning Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania, for example, could be sufficient. In the complex game of majorities, there are more combinations favourable to the Democratic candidate than her Republican adversary. To all this must be added the inheritance Barack Obama will hand off to Hillary. The middle classes that were hit so hard during the crisis are recovering; unemployment is low, the average salary has risen 5.1%, only 9% of Americans lack health coverage and the number of people in poverty has fallen by 3.5 million. Faced with that, Donald Trump is armed with his conspiracy theories and an unshakeable commitment to law and order, a key point in a country that has still not got over the stigma of September 11, 2001. Alea iacta est.

A blessing for the television channels

Getting caught out lying is something that American politicians fear the most. It cost Nixon the presidency, almost cost Clinton his, while candidate Gary Hart was chased out of town by the media over his stretching of the truth. Yet, Donald Trump has largely remained immune. The explanation is to be found in the words of CBS president, Leslie Moonves: “It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS,” he said about the Republican candidate. Trump has been a blessing for the news channels, which have only gained from his antics. Each time Trump has opened his mouth to insult women, threaten Latinos, talk down to blacks, abuse homosexuals, question soldiers, ridicule actors or attack Muslims, TV news audiences have risen, along with revenue from ads. The morbid fascination of seeing the magnate in action turned the debates with Clinton in the most watched in recent history. The question is that whether for a few extra dollars, it is worth giving so much exposure to a figure as dangerous as Donald Trump.

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