Opinion: The US Presidential elections – Signs of a broken system?

Americans now have what I think is an appalling choice of candidates for the next US President. In a post on my own website some time ago I suggested that the best outcome was for senior figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties to introduce a compromise candidate who would be universally acceptable and charismatic enough to attract the support of the ordinary voter – if such a person exists! However, even if they did exist I think the time for other candidates has now well and truly gone. Americans are faced with the choice they already have.

Who will win?

I think that is not as clear cut as some might suggest – could be either Trump or Clinton. I think many people have nightmares about the possibility of a Trump Presidency – and not just Americans – but the man can speak and hold a crowd and is not afraid to lead with his chin. However, he is ideologically bereft – what does he actually stand for? – and the wild ideas he comes up with clearly have not been thought through in terms of how they would be implemented in practice.

Hilary Clinton would worry me for different reasons. Health has been raised as an issue for her but I would discount that, given the almost intolerable rigours of campaigning in the US. As a President she would be more in control of her situation despite the burdens of office. I am more worried about the lack of judgement she seems to have shown in the past, eg the email saga, the propensity to play fast and loose with the truth (but then don’t all politicians?), and the lack of genuinely fresh ideas. There is also the thought that the real President pulling the strings behind the scenes, but without any accountability, will be Bill Clinton.

I would have to say that one of the best candidates that I have seen who is not running – and probably never will – is Michele Obama.

So how can it have come to this?

After all – this is America –a huge and wealthy country and the Leader of the Western World.

Some would say – and I have suggested it myself – that what is happening is symptomatic of a broken system. And in many ways the system is broken, e.g. the extent to which vested interest lobbying dictates what happens is quite frightening. The gun lobby being the prime example.

But I think it is more complex than that.

The problem the Americans have is that they have a system that was absolutely fine and “fit for purpose” when it was designed, but has not moved on to accommodate the realities of the modern world. To be blunt it is no longer “fit for purpose”. At least in NZ we recognised that risk some time ago and made the change to proportional representation. I personally don’t think we have that quite right yet but it is better that what we had.

Change in the US is much more difficult, for several reasons:

• The reluctance of the establishment to change and that includes then lobbyists as well as the two existing Establishment parties.

• The reverence in which the Constitution is held as the founding document, despite its short comings (and it is the Constitution which is at the root of the system problems)

• The unassailable positon of the Supreme Court in upholding the Constitution and preventing more than incremental change.

I think the need for change will eventually over-ride these constraints. The questions are where the drive for change will come from, and whether change will then be supported by the American people. The worst outcome I guess would be a serious split in the electorate on the question of change leading to civil unrest and the breakdown of civilised society. Recent experience certainly indicates how disastrous that could be.

I think a lot hinges on the outcome of the election. A Clinton Presidency would probably avoid an immediately meltdown and there might then be room for progressive change. With a Trump Presidency anything is possible including a meltdown which forces change!!!!!

There is not too long to wait to find out.

Start a discussion on this topic…

This is another of Bas Walker’s posts on GrownUps.  Please look out for his articles, containing his Beachside Ponderings.