By Shashi P.B.B. Malla & Chandra Bahadur Parbate
After a grueling year of primaries and caucuses on both the Democratic and Republican parties, the presidential race has now finally reached the phase of the general elections between the presumptive presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump. Both, of course, will only be officially nominated at the partiers’ national conventions in July in Philadelphia and Cleveland respectively. Trump was the lone survivor among the Republican candidates, and Clinton finally clinched the (unofficial) nomination after last week’s primaries in six states and two union territories (six to two for Clinton against Bernie Sanders). Sanders still threatened to take the fight to the National Democratic Convention, in part by wooing the overwhelming number of super-delegates that were still supporting Clinton. But last Tuesday, Clinton had not only won a majority of the popular votes by a large margin, but also a preponderance of states and territories, and finally a lion’s share of the pledged delegates – the nail had finally been driven in the coffin of Sanders’ candidacy. There was no other way out for him than to gracefully concede to Clinton (which he had not yet done until Tuesday this week). He is probably waiting for the results of the primary in the capital area of Washington, D.C. this very Tuesday.
At his own request, he has already met with President Barack Obama at the White House last Thursday. According to reports, Obama has stressed the crucial necessity for Sanders to now channel the energy of his campaign’s millions of supporters behind the Party’s presumptive candidate, and to play a central role in shaping the Democratic agenda. Obama had to show the way because the primary campaign had left many of his supporters bitter and disillusioned. He took a step in the right direction by announcing that he would soon meet Clinton to seek ways and means to cooperate to defeat Donald Trump. In the meantime, the Democratic establishment is giving the Vermont Senator time and space to digest developments and to make his own decision in due course.
Obama reminded Sanders that he could play a constructive role in re-energizing the Democratic Party by supporting candidates for the House of Representatives, the Senate and Governorships. Moreover, he could also utilize the influence and stature that he has attained during the campaign to advance his policies and the ‘political revolution’ not only within the party, but also in the U.S. Senate. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic Minority Leader met with Sanders immediately after Obama and indicated that Sanders was on the right course and would no longer strive for a contested convention. If Sanders plays his cards right, he may be able to put his imprint on a party that he had only adopted to seek the presidential nomination (previously he was an Independent in the Senate). He would also have his say in both policy and process within the party and government (if Clinton wins). He could vigorously promote the liberal platform and also strive to reform the Democratic presidential nominating process.
After clinching the nomination, Clinton quickly garnered the support of influential Democratic leaders like Vice-President Joe Biden (who himself had also considered a presidential bid), and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a luminary of the party’s liberal left wing. President Obama himself already congratulated Hillary Clinton last week Tuesday after she had convincingly wrapped up the primary contest, in which he had remained diligently neutral. Now he moved swiftly to unite the Democratic Party and heal the wounds of the protracted primary. After meeting Sanders, he quickly endorsed Clinton’s candidacy for the highest office of the land. He praised her effusively and spelled out her competence profusely: “I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office”, he said in a personal statement. He was definitely going to play a very active role until November 8: “I’m with her, I am fired up, and I cannot wait to get out there to campaign for Hillary” [!], he said in the video.
The close contact between Clinton’s campaign and the White House became evident when she announced promptly that their first joint campaign appearance of the 2016 race would take place this Wednesday in the state of Wisconsin. This has now been postponed because of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida (see below). Obama’s wholehearted support was definitely the start of an intense campaign thrust that would be intensified in the coming months and culminate in nearly daily appearances for Obama on the campaign trail as the dateline in November approaches. Last Thursday he congratulated Clinton for “making history” and underlined compellingly that he had personally witnessed her qualifications for the Oval Office: “She’s got the courage, the compassion and the heart to get the job done,” he said authoritatively “I have seen her judgment, I’ve seen her toughness, I’ve seen her commitment to our values up close”.
While Clinton’s qualities and qualifications are clear and evident to the Democratic establishment and especially its supreme leader, it will still be difficult to convince independents and Sanders followers, and persuade them to actually vote. After all, like Sanders, Donald J. Trump has also mobilized millions of new voters who are totally convinced that he has the magic formula to cure their perceived economic and cultural misery, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary. Not only Democrats, but now an increasing number of Republicans and Conservatives are convinced that Trump’s elevation to the highest office and as commander-in-chief would be an unmitigated disaster for the country. The Republican Party on its part had failed miserably in stopping and dumping Trump, a candidate unqualified in every respect in the business of politics. By supporting him, even half-heartedly, the Republican establishment (which Trump reviles unequivocally), is playing with fire.
In the latest incident of mass shooting last Sunday in Orlando, in which a man (an American citizen of Afghan origin) who allegedly pledged his loyalty to the Islamic State shot down nearly 50 people at a gay nightclub and injured at least 50 more, the character differences between the two candidates have come to the fore. Trump reacted in a triumphant and aggressive manner, implying that he had been right about Moslems all along and thanked all the people who supposedly congratulated him on his foresight! He even attacked President Obama for disgracefully ignoring ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ and called for his immediate resignation (in fact in all the years, he has been a role model as consoler in chief). Clinton, on the other hand, was empathetic and sorrowful, and again stressed the necessity for stricter gun laws. Trump has clearly sought to capitalize on the national tragedy: “in a demonstration of his willingness to flout convention and engage in a style of demagogic politics rarely displayed by a presidential nominee” (INYT). Clinton was typically restrained and reassuring: “we need to redouble our efforts to defend our country from threats at home and abroad”, focusing on the threat of terrorism. Late last month, a Washington Post/ABC News poll asked registered voters the question as to which candidate ‘better understands the problems of people like you’. 47 percent chose Clinton, while 36 percent named Trump. On the question of who better represents ‘your personal values’, 48 percent chose Clinton, and 37 percent went with Trump.
According to American political pundits, Trump may have won the Republican primary campaign convincingly by being politically incorrect, but the general election is fundamentally different – the general electorate is significantly larger and more diverse than in a Republican primary. As of now Clinton, leads Trump 47 percent to 39 percent among voters ages 18 to 39. Among non-white voters, her edge was massive: 69 percent to 21 percent. The Republican establishment is now deeply troubled that Trump’s continued antics – even attacking Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, as having “choked like a dog” – may not only cost them the presidency, but also the majority in both houses of Congress.
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U.S. Presidential Elections 2016 XIX : No Holds Barred between the Stateswoman & the Bumbler?
By Shashi P.B.B. Malla & Chandra Bahadur Parbate