Throughout history, the world has witnessed the rise, fall, and occasional crash-land of the careers of many American presidential candidates—and indeed of presidents themselves. For a job so powerful and important, it often manages to attract some of the most undesirable contenders.
George W. Bush, the 43rd President, was famous for his less-than-polished assessments of domestic issues. On the topic of America’s enemies he said, “they never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country, and our people, and neither do we”. The 40th President, Ronald Reagan, was so bored in certain cabinet meetings that he spent his time drawing stick figures instead of participating.
The 2016 US Presidential Election is proving no different, currently boasting two major opposing candidates who are arguably the most controversial of their kind. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have the potential to win the presidential nomination of their respective political parties and, although they continue to dominate election polls, many of their closest competitors fail to offer a more suitable campaign.
Only social recluses would have escaped exposure to Trump’s remarkable campaign—and how lucky they are. The 69-year-old businessman and television personality has attracted global attention in addition to the support of millions of Americans during his fight for power. Currently, he holds an impressive 39.4% approval rating in the Republican Primaries, according to a poll by the Huffington Post. Senator Ted Cruz remains his closest competitor, with a rating of 21.1% in the same poll.
So what is it about Trump’s campaign that is so controversial? Many consider his views on immigration and border protection extreme. If elected president, Trump plans to stop illegal immigration by forcing Mexico to pay for a “great wall” along the border between the two countries. That is assuming all undocumented Mexican immigrants are “criminals, drug dealers, and rapists”. He also plans to temporarily ban “foreign Muslims” from entering the US until security systems can adequately combat their supposed terror threat.
Trump is opposed to gun control, questions climate change theory and his vague stance on foreign policy has many political experts concerned. But perhaps it is his many embarrassing stunts—like trying (and failing) to prove that President Obama was not born in America— that have much of the world watching in disbelief.
Over in the Democratic Party, things aren’t much better. As former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, Hillary Clinton’s political career spans years yet so do her misconducts. The 68-year-old may be gradually losing support in the polls but she still leads the Democratic Primaries with a 53% approval rating, above Senator Bernie Sanders’ 38.9%, according to the Huffington Post. But one particular scandal continues to threaten Clinton’s campaign and astonish voters and the media alike—her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State.
By conducting official duties over an insecure server, Clinton could have potentially jeopardised classified information. Following the opening of a formal investigation into the issue, it was also found she deleted certain emails (citing personal reasons) before it could be determined whether they contained classified information. Although these emails have since been recovered, some of Clinton’s adversaries have labelled this a breach of the American right to Freedom of Information requests. It’s true that world leaders should be transparent, so is it any wonder why many voters are unwilling to trust Clinton?
It seems as though American voters find themselves in a situation where their votes for presidential nomination, and ultimately the election itself, are based upon the notion of which candidate is the least undesirable. Surely the US—with its large population of innovative and intelligent people—could produce more suitable, well-rounded contenders. Undoubtedly many of these people are deterred by the constant scrutiny and stress that comes with the role of President.
What is even more important is that Trump and Clinton are not only campaigning for people to vote for them. Voting is not compulsory in the US, so they are also campaigning for people to vote at all.
The state of American democracy is now up to these comical candidates. The best advice anyone could give to the American people is to exercise their rights, to vote for candidates who reflect their views and opinions, and to get involved with the democratic process of the country often proclaimed as the leader of the Free World.
Words by Ethan Minervini