Marian L. Tupy

Americans are unable to resist the siren call of Clinton and Trump

Imagine, if you will, two epileptics trying to share a bowl of noodles and you will get a sense of how messy and unappetising the contest between Donald Trump, a Mussolini wannabe, and Hillary Clinton, a Nixon in a pantsuit, is going to be. (Actually, let me preemptively engage in America’s favourite pastime and apologise to both epileptics and noodles. Doubtless, both would make more congenial dinner companions.) How on earth did we get here?

To start with, Trump and Clinton are not the beginning, but the continuation of the deterioration of American politics. That is not an uncommon development in mature, dare I say ‘sclerotic’, democracies. The Roman Republic gave way to the Principate of Augustus. The relatively competent Augustus was replaced by the degenerate Tiberius, then bloodthirsty Caligula and, after a brief Claudian intermission, insane Nero.

And so in our Republic, the relatively competent Presidents of the 1980s and 1990s gave way to the comedy of errors known as the Bush Presidency and the arrogant incompetence of Barack Obama. Ahead of us is a potential circus act that may see The Donald starting a trade war with China and Hillary dragged off in chains to a federal penitentiary for compromising the nation’s secrets. (Yes, in our celebrity-obsessed America, we now refer to our leading politicians by their first names.)

Trump and Clinton, one author has astutely observed, are:

‘The effect, not the cause, of the ways in which the two major parties have destroyed themselves by refusing to take their own rhetoric or govern seriously. The Republican Party said it stood for small government when virtually every major action it has pursued at least since the 9/11 attacks has yielded the opposite result. The Democratic Party … lays claim to the mantle of caring about regular Americans even as its last three major presidential candidates (John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton) long ago achieved escape velocity from caring about anything resembling everyday reality.’

Bush’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ saw government spending and regulatory agencies at their most incontinent.

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