World Review | Trump vs Clinton: U.S. democracy undergoing a deep transition

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Trump vs Clinton: U.S. democracy undergoing a deep transition

Trump vs Clinton: U.S. democracy undergoing a deep transition
Washington, D.C., March 1, 2016: figures of presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in a gift shop: (source: dpa)

ON JANUARY 21, 2017, the 45th President of the United States will be inaugurated. Changes of administration in Washington differ from those in other democracies. If the Republicans win the White House, up to 5,000 senior officials will be replaced. But next year will be even more of a departure from the norm: no matter who wins the elections on November 8, the U.S. will become a different republic, writes World Review Expert Dr. Uwe Nerlich.

Wise observers like the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. have often pointed out that “American democracy has been a method of evolution.” It is never to be regarded as a finished product but rather as an edifice that remains under construction – a process that causes “constant revision in the texture of our culture.” This time, change could turn out to be more disruptive.

With several weeks to go in the presidential primaries, the trend lines suggest that on July 21, Donald Trump will win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, while Hillary Clinton will be confirmed as his opponent a week later at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

After her five-state sweep on March 15, Ms. Clinton is two-thirds of the way to the 2,322 delegates she needs for the nomination. But even as the Democratic front-runner builds a prohibitive lead, she has lost a majority of young voters to 74-year-old Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-declared “democratic socialist.” Ms. Clinton’s candidacy is haunted by the threat of a possible indictment over improper use of her private e-mail server to send classified messages while she was Secretary of State. The spectacle of a supreme commander who disregarded the basics of national security will not help Ms. Clinton with conservative voters. Besides, during the primaries, she has been driven leftwards to capture her party’s nomination, but now must move to the center if she expects to win in November.

On the Republican side, the 162-year-old GOP is facing an existential crisis. The GOP establishment has pulled out all the stops to keep Mr. Trump short of the delegate count needed for the nomination. The dilemma for the Republican leadership is excruciating. Do they defend the party’s identity or adopt what many see as an independent candidate who has infiltrated the GOP? Donald Trump, for his part, appears unscathed by criticism from his party colleagues and most of the media. He has solidified his position as front-runner, doubling voter turnouts in the Republican primaries and diverting attention from the Democratic race.

Even if the GOP does manage to block Mr. Trump’s nomination, there is every chance he would run as an independent candidate. That would split the conservative vote and destroy any chance of a Republican victory, as the party establishment well knows.

Both parties clearly prioritize domestic affairs, though neither has proposed an agenda that promises to restore the country’s “bonds of cohesion,” whether in regard to political bipartisanship or social tensions. With Hillary Clinton in the White House, her concept of an American “village” with diminishing social distances will have to be translated into specific government programs. Donald Trump’s slogan “make American great again” also refers primarily to domestic repair, but it is even more diffuse and incoherent.

While Ms. Clinton is expected to pursue a middle-of-the-road pragmatism without creative power, Mr. Trump inspires worry not just over his policies (whatever they may be), but even more for his authoritarian attitude, which suggests he would not hesitate to take unprincipled or even illegal actions once in office.

This choice has serious implications for America’s global role. Neither uninspired pragmatism nor erratic authoritarianism will keep the U.S. on its evolutionary path as a democratic model for the world.

For a more in-depth look at this subject with scenarios looking to future outcomes, go to our sister site: Geopolitical Information Service. Sign in for 3 Free Reports or Subscribe.

Dr Uwe Nerlich

INTERNATIONAL security advisor Dr Uwe Nerlich is a founding director of the Centre for European Security Strategies (CESS) based in Munich, Germany. The centre provides an international n ...

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