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Opinion

Opinion: Clinton or Trump - an election without winners

There will only be losers when the US elections are over. And the political establishment is to blame, Ines Pohl writes from the US.

The world is nervously awaiting Tuesday, when the United States will elect a new president. And it is still possible that Donald Trump may move into the White House with his wife Melania and other members of his family empire. That possibility itself is deeply unsettling. How could this happen? What is wrong with the Americans? How could they possibly consider electing a man with absolutely no political experience to what is still the most powerful political office in the world?

Obama leaves a mountain of unfinished business

The unfinished tasks that President Barack Obama will be leaving to his successor are daunting: both on the domestic and the foreign affairs front. His health reform is incomplete, and the country's education system and infrastructure are both in a disastrous state. Syria is just one example of the kind of power vacuum that occurs when the global police force USA withdraws and no one - except Russia - is willing to step up and fill the void. Especially when the US fails to get the European military support upon which Obama built his new strategy of restraint.

DW Mitarbeiterin Ines Pohl (DW)

DW's Ines Pohl

In the end it is still likely that Hillary Clinton will win the election. Her lead may be melting, but thanks to the peculiarities of the US election system, she still has an important advantage in terms of guaranteed votes from the Electoral College.

Yet regardless of the result, it is already clear that there will be only losers when this undignified spectacle ends. Over the last several months the United States has turned into a country shaped by conspiracy theorists and demagogues. That has a lot to do with Donald Trump. He is a man with no idea whatsoever about the business of politics. But he does possess the rhetorical ability to turn worry into hate, fear of loss into xenophobia and insecurity into fantasies of unlimited power. And he is able to present himself as the country's only possible savior. That is the demagogue's winning formula.

Only interested in his own success

As a result, many people across the globe are focusing their frustration and concerns about the situation in America on Donald Trump. They see him as the man responsible for setting the US on a path to ungovernability.

But that is incorrect, at least in a political sense. Trump is not a politician - someone who by definition is engaged with improving the common good and who becomes culpable when he or she fails to do so. Trump is a businessman. Therefore his main interest has been how he can turn things to his own advantage. That is how he has run his real estate business, and that is how he won the Republican nomination. Ultimately, this approach may even land him in the White House.

Brutal two-tier system

So are the Americans themselves to blame for being so gullible or too stupid to see Donald Trump's true interests? That is wrong too. Anyone who travels the country with an open ear can listen to large numbers of Trump supporters with real justifications for their vote. Those who venture outside America's big cities soon experience first hand the misery of this land of opportunity. One meets people living in run-down neighborhoods. Old and sickly people who don't know how they will make it through the day. Children that are born into hopelessness and who will never have a chance in this utterly brutal two-tier system. 

Symbolbild Gegensatz von Armut und Reichtum (picture alliance/U. Baumgarten)

A symbolic picture of a brutal two-tier system: wealthy women on New York's 5th Avenue stand next to a homeless man.

As if that were not enough, the publication of hacked emails over the last few weeks has only confirmed what Trump has so successfully instrumentalized in positioning himself as an outsider. These emails illustrate just how corrupt the Democratic party is, clearly showing how close its ties with the Clinton family are - and how both used their power to torpedo a candidate who actually stood for real democratic change.

Out of touch with the base

In this fateful year it seems that the political establishment is paying the price for its own arrogant selfishness. Republicans were so intoxicated with the success of their blockade policies that they simply did not care if urgent decisions could be made or not. Detachment from their own base meant that many Republicans refused to take Donald Trump seriously, until in the end they were forced to nominate a man who could eventually destroy their party. Even if Donald Trump loses the election, his millions of supporters will not go away. They will shoot down every attempt to reach compromise with the Clinton administration - from outside the party and from within its political committees. And there are no Republican leadership figures that appear strong enough to channel voters' disappointment and rage. How Republicans intend to remain capable of acting is an open question.

Therefore, even if Hillary Clinton wins she will have little room to maneuver despite all her experience and political talent. This situation will be compounded by the fact that her long-held hopes of winning majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate - thus making it possible to actually govern - will not come to fruition. All this spells disaster for the citizens of the United States. But also for a world that needs a functioning America.

 

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