As an American expat in Israel with the right to vote in a US presidential election I am figuring out the attributes of the two frontrunner candidates. On balance, one is a real estate tycoon with a big mouth and the other was an unremarkable Secretary of State. To his credit, the mogul with the megabucks and the proverbial Trump card knows how to come out on top; to her credit, the former First Lady knew how to hold her head up under the most trying circumstances. Be that as it may, neither of these pretenders for the presidency has demonstrated a capacity to lead, i.e. resolve divisive issues such as mass immigration and gun control, nor restore America’s shattered credibility.
But luckily for both, leadership aptitude is not what occupies the hearts and minds of many American voters whose main concerns seem to be either loyalty to a political party or the vagaries of the times. And with a voter turnout of only 58% in the 2012 elections (a 3% drop from 2008) Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are now facing a whopping 42% of eligible American voters who need to be “roused” to show up at the polls. To make this wake up call, the two rivals have adopted diametrically opposite approaches: Unabashed political incorrectness vs. excessive political correctness. Each reflects the conflicting attitudes that keep disparate types of Americans at loggerheads.
Trump riles up average American rednecks who no longer bother to vote by offending everyone from Moslem and Mexican immigrants to women in general. His recent tasteless remark about Hillary’s visit to the lady’s room during a Democratic Party debate, along with his sexual innuendo that in 2008 she was “schlonged” by Obama, was probably received with derisive laughter in seedy truck stop bars all over the USA. There is logic to this madness: Trump communicates what Archie Bunker once expressed in the 1970s TV sitcom “All in the Family” as he sang about the good old days when “girls were girls and men were men.” High up in the Trump Tower you can almost hear the big honcho paraphrasing mobster Tony Soprano with a crack like: “Outdoors it’s 2015, in here it’s 1915!” For a rational person, this is jingoistic drivel. For many non-voting folks with old allegiances to the Republicans, a whopping proportion of that 42%, this longing for an older version of America when one could say “nigger” and “waitress” out loud makes perfect good sense. Trump, who knows how to identify potential markets, also knows how to bait and reel in would-be voters.
At the other end of the political spectrum, Hillary’s gambit for reclaiming old supporters is no less simple: After nearly two terms in which President Obama never put the words “Moslem” and “terrorist” together in the same sentence, along comes Hillary with politically correct one-upmanship in her shocking remark: “Moslems have absolutely nothing to do with terrorism!” I’m not so sure that Hillary actually believes that sweeping statement. But she says what’s necessary to reach certain Left-minded folks who, if they vote at all, will probably vote Democrat.
In effect, both presidential hopefuls are running unsophisticated campaigns designed to win over the confused masses with simple, easy-to-remember messages. That’s what elections have come down to in America and other modern-day democracies. Style is an advantage, substance is beside the point.
With all due respect for Hillary’s lady-like bearing in the face of Trump’s snide remarks, if the two leading candidates are nominated to lead their respective parties we may be looking at one bitterly fought election campaign. I believe that Hillary will win, not on account of her contrived political correctness but with her track record on women’s issues and on the strength of the women’s vote. This can be good news, not just for the ladies whose time has come, but for all those Americans, Europeans, Israelis and folks everywhere who are fed up with – I won’t mince words: fanatical Moslem terrorists. Once the elections and all the campaign rhetoric are behind her, Hillary may just have the people skills to face the moderate Moslem community and say loudly and clearly: “let’s work together to defeat terrorism. “ She may not say “Islamic terrorism” but that’s what everyone will understand. When an American President draws the line between moderate and radical Islam, in actual practice if not in politically correct doublespeak, and once interfaith groups start cooperating openly and with resolve, we might finally see a turning point in this war of civilizations.