This US presidential election has proved that American democracy is bankrupt

Whoever wins tomorrow will preside over a divided nation unprepared to accept the legitimacy of the winner

The election of the first female president in Hillary Clinton would not mark the departure for American democracy that some hope
The election of the first female president in Hillary Clinton would not mark the departure for American democracy that some hope

In the red corner we have The Donald – a xenophobic, misogynist demagogue. In the blue corner we have Hillary Clinton – the Washington establishment candidate.

The Trump movement represents a populist backlash against globalisation framed in the discourse of anti-immigration. It is a grave mistake to complacently assume that he cannot triumph today. If a significant proportion of the 90 million Americans who do not normally vote turn out then a Trump victory is very plausible.

It is no surprise that Trump is drawing parallels with Brexit. Across Europe, we can see the same nativism. Poland has an anti-immigration government. Hungary is now in the grip of the authoritarian Orbán. The Czech government is nationalist. The tide is spreading. The re-run of the Austrian general election could see the first far-right leader elected in Western Europe since World War II. The French and German elections are next year. A Le Pen victory for the National Front is not inconceivable.

Trump is rightly denounced by moderates, and there has been all manner of apparent soul-searching from within the Republican party. But it is worth unmasking the hypocrisy at play here. It was the folksy Bush presidency which prosecuted the war on terror, responsible for up to 1.3 million deaths according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. The Bush presidency legitimised a climate of Islamophobia. The Obama presidency extended the Bush national security doctrine. Obama is a Nobel Peace laureate who has bombed seven countries. The right wing media, including Fox News and shock jocks, have whipped up intolerance in the US.

Are we really expected to believe that this same establishment has suddenly grown a conscience?

The Trump phenomenon is the product of a dysfunctional system. He is the logical extrapolation of this process. The difference is that Trump is explicit with his rhetoric and invective.

The decay of democracy has set the United States on a dangerous road. There has been hysteria around the prospect of the Donald having his finger on the nuclear button, yet when British Prime Minister Theresa May was asked if she would authorise a nuclear launch killing 100,000 innocents, she replied (without missing a beat) “yes”. The difference between the UK Conservative Government’s rhetoric on migration and Trump is merely one of tone and tenor. Trump is uncensored, unfiltered.

So what would a Trump presidency mean? Economic policy would entail protectionism. He is anti-free-trade agreements and in favour of putting up tariffs to trade and barriers to immigration. Clearly, the corporate and financial elite are not in favour of such measures. This would likely mean that the EU-US trade agreement (or TTIP) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership are dead in the water.

On foreign policy, he appears to favour a more conciliatory approach towards Russia. However, Trump is also dangerously dismissive of climate change and in favour of lowering corporation taxes. Such neoliberal trickle-down economics will not improve the lives of his supporter base.

US Election: Hillary Clinton in profile

Should Clinton win, there will be many metropolitan liberals breathing a sigh of relief. Yet the idea that a Clinton presidency would somehow be a godsend is misguided.

Clinton is a foreign policy hawk on Russia. The current escalation towards confrontation with Russia is alarming. Both sides are playing massive war games, which increasingly look like they are building up to the real thing. Only last week, British defence secretary Michael Fallon stated that the UK would be ready for war with Russia in two years.

Clinton overrode the Pentagon over the Nato bombing of Libya. The Pentagon correctly predicted that a bombing campaign with the overthrow of Gaddafi would lead to anarchic chaos. She would be similarly hawkish on Syria and more likely to authorise a full-scale war. Clinton’s proximity to the US elite and global network of clients is demonstrated by the astronomical fees paid for speeches and for access through the Clinton Foundation. She is viewed by many Americans as captured by Wall Street.

Trump v Clinton: US Election forecast - November 7

Unsurprisingly, both candidates have very high negative ratings with much of the US electorate not particular keen on either prospective leader. Whoever wins will preside over a divided nation unprepared to accept the legitimacy of the winner.

The power of the executive will also be contained by the gridlock of Congress. The US president is further constrained by powerful interest groups. Wall Street and other corporations influence policy on the home front. On foreign policy, the intelligence agencies and defence corporations are formidable lobbies.

It would certainly be progressive step to witness the first black and first female US presidents take office back-to-back. However, the notion that a female president will simply make the world better is wishful thinking. Identity politics cannot address these deep-seated, structural and systemic problems.

The hope invested in the Obama presidency has evaporated curdling into despair. What America really needs is a progressive candidate supported by a mass movement. This prospect now seems a long way off.

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