We seem to have candidates

Because I am a foreigner, maybe I should not comment on the current US presidential election cycle, but I can’t help myself. After all, even if I am not an American, this is of significant interest to the rest of the world because the US is such an important country. So, what do we see happening? From my point of view the result seems almost bizarre: the presidential fight will most likely be between two candidates who are basically unliked. There have been varying attacks on Hillary Clinton for the last four years, and one cannot help but suspect that a lot of these were orchestrated by the Republicans. However, just to make this a sporting contest, it would seem, the Republicans have latched onto a candidate that even they really don’t like, and to make matters worse, that candidate has based his program so far on seriously annoying at least 70% of the potential voting public.

What I would have thought would be the most unlikely candidate, Sanders, now appears not to have a chance at nomination, but he ploughs on. He might complain about the party machine, but as far as I am aware, if the super delegates were removed, he would still lose. Notwithstanding that, he has done something quite remarkable, at least in my eyes: he has stood as a socialist (well, he calls himself one, although some Europeans would probably think he was more a slightly right wing social democrat) and nearly succeeded. That goes against what used to be considered the American way of life.

From my point of view, policy now becomes interesting. Hillary Clinton seems to represent the establishment, more or less, but it seems the majority of the electorate is tiring of the establishment. The top of the establishment is doing very well for itself, but at the expense of many at the lower end of the social structures. The American dream used to be that America was a land of opportunity, and even if you were at the bottom of the heap, you could fight your way up. There were ways to the top. They may not have been easy to find, but they were there. And even if you could not get to the top, you could get somewhere very comfortable, if you made the effort. There still are ways to the top, but they are becoming harder to find, and much harder for those below average, which means half the population. Worse, thanks to the exporting of jobs, the middle has been hollowed out, and there are far fewer ways to get comfortable. Sanders campaigned, as far as I could see, to give those at the bottom and possibly the middle a better deal. Many commentators thought his plans would not work, but they still thought he was worth supporting. What I found interesting was that it was the young who were supporting the oldest candidate. That tends to indicate the young are unimpressed with the establishment. Maybe they always were, but to this extent? The question now is, will those young support Hillary? Will Hillary bring herself to adopt some of Sanders’ policies, and if so, will she gain by doing so?

Meanwhile, on the other side, Trump seems to have made an art form out of insulting everyone, and has been very light on policy, apart from wanting to build the modest wall of America, and to keep Muslims out. His verbal lashing out by calling a judge a Mexican seemed bizarre, especially since the judge came from Indiana, or is Trump intending to give Mexico some more states?

Which raises the question, how should people who wish to rule be elected? This problem goes all the way back to Plato, who was opposed to democracy and opted for an enlightened prince. That, of course, leaves aside the problem of how to find one, and what to do if the enlightened one turns out not to be and you get the anything but benign dictator? The advantages of the Republic form of government we have include the option to turf out the disasters after a given period of time, coupled with the fact that if the government is really bad, an awful lot of politicians will be cleaned out too. Their self-interest tends to minimize a disastrous leader.

That may seem to be ideal, but I am far from convinced it is. An unfortunate problem has arisen in many parts of the world: too many politicians have opted for this as a career early on, and as a consequence, have a lot of experience at being a politician, but not much at anything else, so their chances of really understanding a problem they have to make decisions on is slim. What we have done is to find a method to get the politicians into power who are the best at winning elections, but not necessarily being any good at anything else. We appoint people to the most responsible of all jobs, the running of our country, by ignoring whether any of the skill sets required to do the job are actually present.

So, what will happen? Your guess is probably better than mine, however my guess is not encouraging. So far there has been a lot of mud thrown, and there is likely to be a lot of general disgruntlement at the end of November. Unless a very serious healing process takes place, I suspect whoever wins may find the White House something of a poisoned chalice.