On July 31,2015 in this newspaper, this columnist drew scorn among other US-watchers by suggesting that the 2016 Presidential race in the US could be a “battle of extremes” between billionaire Donald Trump and “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders. From the start of the present election cycle in the world’s most powerful country, these columns have expressed doubts over the sustainability of the Hillary Clinton campaign, and predicted that it would end in defeat. This caused some scorn and much anger among the many within the media and in academe who regarded it as fore-ordained that the spouse of William Jefferson Clinton would romp her way to the Democratic Party nomination.
More than the fact that her husband indulged Wall Street while he was President, it is the insult-filled campaign Hillary waged against Barack Obama in 2008 that has cast a shadow over her chances at the nomination. The impression which the party gleaned of the former First Lady was that of a ruthless pol whose ideology was simply power, high office secured any which way. Of course, she had a fearsome machine on her side, well-paid professionals primed to take down opponents and to promote their candidate.
The Clintons are not known to take prisoners, and those who display any symptoms of disloyalty are almost always punished in a manner that makes clear that such a fate has been caused by their “disloyalty” to the Clintons, which in Clinton speak means backing any candidate other than those promoted by Hillary and Bill. If Bernie Sanders escaped till recently the full dose of the toxicity of the Clinton attack machine, as indeed did Donald Trump, it was the view within their confidants that the Senator from Vermont was a joke who would fizzle out in the final stretch, while Trump was seen as the ideal Republican candidate to go head-to-head against Hillary. That they would both emerge as strong contenders for the Republican and Democratic nominations never entered into the Clinton calculus.
Interestingly, as in 2008 until it became clear that Barack Obama had an edge over Hillary Clinton among white voters in the party primaries, the African-American community has been the most loyal support group of the former First Lady of the United States. This is despite the fact that most of President Clinton’s support for the community comprised of hot air, with few additional benefits flowing to African-Americans, a talented group of individuals short-changed by a system which handicaps all of them because of the misdeeds of a few.
Interestingly, although John F Kennedy did very little for Black Americans while Lyndon Baines Johnson did much, it is the form who is idolised by African Americans rather than the latter. Just as the Taliban had its roots in the Clinton administration beginning 1993, so did the 2008 financial crash, which was caused by the abolition of Glass-Steagal and other Wall Street-constraining laws imposed in the US during the 1930s after the collapse of 1929. George W Bush carried forward the Clinton legacy, thereby precipitating the 2008 crash which wiped out $ 6 trillion of investor value owing to the greed of a handful of financial institutions, which today have got back much of the influence they had before the financial catastrophe.
Judging by his campaign rhetoric, it was expected that Barack Obama would ensure that those guilty of the theft of trillions of dollars from the pockets of millions of investors would be prosecuted and their fortunes seized as penalty for the dishonesty and greed shown by them. Instead, in his first term, he followed the path of Bill Clinton and gave a free pass to Wall Street, appointing apologists for the billionaires in key positions in his administration and keeping out almost all the idealists who had powered his run to power. Hopefully these financial depredators will open their wallets for the Barack Hussain Obama Library that will be set up once a new President of the United States gets sworn in on January 20,2017.
That would be Obama’s reward for having ensured immunity to those who have brought the global economy to the edge of collapse. Of course, it needs to be added that in Jack Lew, President Obama appointed a Treasury Secretary whose integrity is beyond question, and who - unlike his predecessor- prefers Main Street to Wall Street. Had Obama Mark II emerged in his first term, the political and economic history of the US would have been different. The absence of accountability for the 2008 financial disaster gave the Republican Party an opportunity to dust away its responsibility for the crash and portray the afflictions created by it as being the creation of the Obama administration rather than that of its immediate predecessors. With her eye on the 2016 Presidential race, Hillary Clinton sought to improve her credentials as a policymaker by strong-arming Obama into giving her the prize job of Secretary of State. Subsequently, she stepped down soon after the 2012 elections in order to prepare for her bid at the top job in the world, that held by the occupant of the Oval Office. Unfortunately for Hillary, the bad decisions she took have established that Hillary Clinton is unsuited for taking the 3am phone call, or indeed a 3pm call in the White House. Whether it was accelerating the 2011 changes in Egypt, Libya or Syria, the legacy of Hillary Clinton is a much more unsafe world and a more unsafe US.
The temperamental flaws which led to such toxic policy plus the negative perceptions about lack of sincerity and connect with the average voter caused by the failed campaign against Obama are likely to lead to either her defeat in the Democratic Party primaries or in the November elections. US citizens are by and large very decent people, who turn away from the extreme hunger for high office displayed by Hillary Clinton. And what would be the forecast for a Trump versus Sanders battle? Should the US economy still balk at visibly improving the lives of the poor and the middle classes, it would be the Democratic Socialist rather than the billionaire who has the edge. However, if better times dawn, ironically voters may turn to Trump, despite his being from the same party as George W Bush, the man responsible for completing the destruction begun by Bill Clinton.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.