After a long and extremely messy sideshow of a campaign that can be summed up by the expression “all bets are off”, the 2016 US presidential election is finally upon us. Tomorrow, Tuesday 8th November 2016, is voting day and in less than 48 hours the US and the wider world will know who will lead earth’s most formidable economic and military power for at least the next 4 years. Gone are the days of neatly Manichean political contests; the choice that awaits the American electorate this time in the ballot booth is between “rock” and “hard place”. Both candidates are considered to be badly tainted and are reviled by some section or other of US society. This is a contest that pits the unbelievably unqualified madman Donald Trump against the unbelievably untrustworthy apparatchik Hillary Clinton.
Trump has no shortage of points against him, but it has to be said that he has miraculously weathered the unforgiving storm of the protracted affair that is a US presidential run in a way that a lesser candidate could not have. For proof one has only to look back to the 1990s when the palaeo-Trump, H Ross Perot was a fixture on the presidential election circuit, running unsuccessfully in 1992 and 1996. Like Trump, the billionaire Perot was anything but a political insider and his speaking style, which one could politely describe as candid, was soundbite fodder throughout the final decade of the last millennium. Both Perot and Trump have made the cover of Time and other magazines during their electoral runs – Trump has done so on numerous occasions, even before throwing his hat into the political ring – and Perot was, as recently as 2013, examining how to “reinvent America” for Forbes Magazine, about a year and half before Trump set out on his quest to “make America great again”. In the end, HR Perot fell by the wayside and became a minor footnote in US political history. Win or lose, “Trump was here” has been indelibly etched on the wall of US electoral history. He has either re-written the book, or at the very least added a must read chapter.
Trump the loudmouth is a walking train wreck, Clinton the corrupt philanthropist is a walking oxymoron. Neither of these two facts has amounted to a hill of beans in the way of slowing down the momentum of either candidate. No matter what has been said, chronicled, shown, recorded, conjectured, claimed or downright proven in the way of negative points against them, nothing has been able to bring Trump or Clinton candidate down. Think tacit KKK affiliation, sexist “locker room talk”, and making fun of the disabled on the Trump side, and predatory practises dressed up as aid development projects in Haiti, calling black men super predators coupled with having a played in part of drafting legislation putting disproportionate numbers of black men in US prisons from the early 1990s onwards and, of course, the email debacle on the Clinton side.
Other than Ross Perot, another fixture among presidential hopeful also-rans on the opposite side of the political spectrum in the 1990s was Ralph Nader of the Green Party. He was once said “if you don’t turn on to politics, politics will turn on you”, in a clear warning against political apathy among the electorate. People seem to have heeded Nader’s call in a way, as apathy has given way to participation, albeit with strange patterns: Trump has Latino and Muslim-American followers despite characterising them inter alia as thieving, murderous invaders, Clinton has legions of women “with her” despite many being disappointed in her perceived non-reaction to her husband’s public marital indiscretions, and both have varying levels of support among African Americans (Clinton, to a far greater degree) despite not being particularly friendly to that slice of the US population in different ways over the years.
As such, the bottom line is that no matter whether the electoral college votes red or blue tomorrow, the winner of the 2016 US presidential election goes by one name and one name only, and said name is Teflon. Ronald Reagan has had quite a nice lengthy run with the moniker of Teflon president, meaning that no criticism or accusation could affect him in his day, but tomorrow will be the dawn of a new and even grander reign. And the evening and the morning were the first day.