The 2016 US Election: Where Unity Came to Die


The 2016 U.S. Election race has been one of controversy and conflict. From the primaries to the party conventions, there has been daily criticism and cynicism surrounding the two major candidates: Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.

This year’s election has been particularly divisive and controversial, and there are two reasons why this is the case. First, it has become very clear that the parties are too big, and cover too many voter bases, to be considered unified. Second, the quality of the candidates has been poor and the remaining two have serious flaws that, for many people, are hard to swallow.

Donald J. Trump has never had any political experience. He has run multiple businesses that have failed, and is more known for his role on The Apprentice USA, and for appearing on WWE. Should a man who has never had any major political experience be able to wield the immense power that the U.S. has at its disposal?

In my opinion, the answer is no. I do appreciate that anyone with enough money can run for president, but that person should have some political know how because – after all – the president is in charge of the armed forces, and the president has control of the USA’s nuclear weapons. I, along with a majority of people in Britain, cannot imagine Donald J. Trump having – as future presidential hopeful Kanye West put it – all that power.

A further issue with Trump is his extreme views. His call for a ban on Muslims entering the USA, his policy of a border wall with Mexico, and his plans for a closer relationship with Putin, have all resulted in raised eyebrows throughout the U.S., and indeed the world. Surely someone who is so divisive, and willing to promote intolerance, can’t become the leader of one of the founding nations of liberalism?

Of course, his supporters would respond by saying ‘why not?’ Yet his recent comment about a deceased Muslim U.S. Captain has resulted in serious backlash from voters and politicians alike. G.O.P. figures such as John McCain and Paul Ryan have come out against the candidate’s remarks. Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewitt Packard, and G.O.P donor, claimed that Trump’s demagoguery has led prompted her to donate to Hilary Clinton’s campaign. The growing number of controversies seems to suggest that the answer is no; someone who is that divisive cannot be the 45th president of the United States.

Despite the clear division within the party, Donald Trump is still able to appeal to a huge percentage of Republican voters; clearly indicating there is a strong difference of opinion between the voters, and their representatives.

Furthermore, Hillary Clinton’s Democrats are no different when it comes to party polarisation. Her primary race was a lot more competitive than Trump’s, and this was due to the wave of support given to Senator Bernie Sanders, who falls very left of Clinton on the political scale. The primary race showed, and continues to show, a very clear dividing line between the electorate, and those elected.

Even though Clinton and Sanders are members of the same party, and the latter has now endorsed the former for president, many of those that supported Sanders have no intention of voting for the Democratic presidential candidate. And those supporters taking this approach protested around the Democratic National Convention.

But how can this be the case when both Democratic candidates are liberal and part of the same party? It comes down to the size and span of the party. Much like the Republican Party, the Democrats have huge polarisations, which until recently haven’t been fully realised, with the Democratic Party seeming quite unified under the Obama Administration.

On the other hand, the blame for the Democrat’s divisions could lie solely with Clinton herself. Despite having vast experience as a politician, and First Lady, she does not have a clear support base. Yes, being the first female presidential candidate of a major party will could attract a lot of women’s votes, and her decision to have Tim Kaine as her Vice-President nomination will attract Hispanic people, but she fails to appeal to many other sections of the Democratic base such as strong liberals, and especially young people.

She is a career politician; someone who has dedicated her life to the political sphere. But unfortunately she doesn’t have a perfect record. Her support for her husband’s conservative marriage legislation – the Defence of Marriage Act – her support for the Iraq War, and her very poor misuse of email servers, all add to a long list of reasons why many Democrats, and indeed Americans, would not trust her as president.

Much sympathy can be given to those that supported Sanders, who are now faced with the decision to go with Clinton, or to a third-party. They supported a man who had very different values to Clinton, and someone who had clearly supported liberal policies in the past, which is debatable with Clinton. Maybe this election has opened the eyes of certain Democrat and Republican voters, who may now feel that their views are not represented by their respective parties.

Sanders and Clinton are not compatible. They have many differences now, as in their voting records as Senators. Furthermore, following the leaking of DNC emails by WikiLeaks, there is clear evidence that the Democrats had no intention of allowing Sanders to be their candidate. Moreover, Trump is not compatible with the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Rand Paul, yet they all fall under the same banner.

I feel it would be better for the two major parties to split, in order for people to be more accurately represented, which would make U.S. politics more competitive and it would allow politicians to be held more accountable.

Ultimately, this election has sent a clear message about U.S. political parties – they are too big and cover too many support groups to be seen as unified. Maybe the USA could follow the path of the U.K. and develop a more pluralistic approach to party politics, in which polarisation is decreased in parallel to the size of the parties.

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr.

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