Trump has built his case as the “Voice of the voice­less” while Clin­ton is pre­sent­ing her­self as the “change-maker.” Now, it is up to the Amer­i­can vot­ers to de­cide who will be their 45th Pres­i­dent

The Star (Kenya) - - Big Read / US Elections - MUKURIMA MURIUKI @Mukurima

The race to the White House is now at the hands of vot­ers as Amer­i­cans go to the bal­lot box to­day. On the cards are nom­i­nees from the two ma­jor par­ties Hil­lary Clin­ton (Demo­cratic) and Don­ald Trump (Repub­li­can). Two other can­di­dates - Green Party’s Jill Stein and Lib­er­tar­ian Gary John­son are yet to garner the 15 per cent thresh­old in polls that would al­low them to be con­sid­ered for pres­i­den­tial de­bate and con­cur­rently a free ticket to me­dia ex­po­sure. For the time be­ing, the elec­tion, as tra­di­tion­ally has been the case, is a two-horse race pit­ting Clin­ton and Trump.

What has been unique about this elec­tion, is its un­con­ven­tional na­ture. A lot of me­dia cov­er­age for ei­ther can­di­date has been spent on ex­plain­ing virtues or vices as op­posed to poli­cies that the Amer­i­can peo­ple al­ways yearn for. Democrats or Repub­li­cans are de­fined by dis­tinct poli­cies, prin­ci­ples and ide­olo­gies. In terms of phi­los­o­phy, Democrats tend to be lib­eral and left-lean­ing while Repub­li­cans are known for con­ser­vatism and right-lean­ing. This means Repub­li­cans pre­fer smaller govern­ment, less reg­u­la­tion and ser­vices that are catered for by the pri­vate sec­tor in a free mar­ket. Democrats pre­fer more reg­u­la­tion and open to a free uni­ver­sal health­care pro­vided by the govern­ment to all cit­i­zens. In terms of eco­nom­ics, Repub­li­cans hold the view that govern­ment should tax less and spend less, while Democrats are for big govern­ment and those earn­ing high in­come should pay a larger per­cent­age of their in­come as taxes.

Trump has built his case as the “Voice of the voice­less” while Clin­ton is pre­sent­ing her­self as the “Change-maker.” All in all, it has just been words. For the most part, these lines of thought seem to have been thrown out of the win­dow in this elec­tion by Trump, Clin­ton and their sur­ro­gates as the can­di­dates get per­sonal on each other.

It is how­ever, not un­prece­dented in Amer­ica for an elec­tion cam­paign to be laced in grotesque re­marks and in­nu­en­does that seek to de­stroy than build. The 1964 elec­tion had sit­ting Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son against Repub­li­can Barry Gold­wa­ter. It was marked in his­tory as one of the nas­ti­est in the 20th cen­tury. Two con­flict­ing bumper sticker slo­gans of that time summed up the cam­paigns. GOLD­WA­TER SUP­PORTER: “In your heart you know he’s right.” JOHN­SON SUP­PORTER: “In your heart you know he’s nuts.”

Trump has been on the of­fen­sive whether in the Repub­li­can pri­maries or in his con­test with Clin­ton. Dur­ing the pri­maries, he had nick­names to al­most all his chal­lengers: Jeb Bush was bap­tised “low-en­ergy;” Marco Ru­bio be­came “lit­tle Marco;” and Ted Cruz nick­named “ly­ing Ted.” In spite of the un­con­ven­tional cam­paign, Trump eas­ily de­feated his chal­lengers who to­gether had over 100 years in pub­lic ser­vice ei­ther as gover­nor or sen­a­tor.

Sec­re­tary Clin­ton has re­cently come un­der fire os­ten­si­bly for mis­han­dling the 2012 Beng­hazi at­tack where the US am­bas­sador to Libya Christo­pher Stevens and three other US na­tion­als were killed. Fur­ther­more, Hil­lary’s cred­i­bil­ity has been wa­tered down by her use of per­sonal emails to trans­act of­fi­cial cor­re­spon­dence, which in­cluded clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion. The FBI’s de­ci­sion to start an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the mat­ter threat­ened to de­rail her cam­paign ef­forts and Trump did not hes­i­tate to push his agenda call­ing Hil­lary “un­re­li­able”, a “liar” and “un­fit to be pres­i­dent”. And just 48 hours be­fore the elec­tions, it has surely come as a re­lief to the Clin­ton cam­paign af­ter FBI direc­tor James Comey is­sued a state­ment on Sun­day say­ing that the new batch of emails war­rant no crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing.

As an African keen on the Novem­ber elec­tion, I am aware that noth­ing mat­ters more in an elec­tion than the sat­is­fac­tion of shared in­ter­ests. The choice for Africa as rep­re­sented by the mil­lions of Africans liv­ing in Amer­ica should be premised on the can­di­date with a track record show­ing com­mit­ment to the well-be­ing of Africa in a mu­tual col­lab­o­ra­tive co-ex­is­tence. So far, Hil­lary Clin­ton has demon­strated to be that can­di­date. Ironic to say, but most of the ev­i­dence that points us to that di­rec­tion has been made avail­able cour­tesy of the emails made pub­lic by the state depart­ment. For ex­am­ple, we learn

that sec­re­tary Clin­ton was sad­dened by the death of No­bel Lau­re­ate Wan­gari Maathai. Upon be­ing no­ti­fied of her death, Sec­re­tary Clin­ton wrote the fol­low­ing to her chief of staff:

“PIs do state­ment from me and con­do­lence let­ter to fam­ily. Thx”

An­other email to Sec­re­tary Clin­ton from Carolyn Keene, the Un­der Sec­re­tary of State for Eco­nomic, Busi­ness, and Agri­cul­tural Af­fairs un­der Bill Clin­ton Ad­min­is­tra­tion so­lid­i­fies the no­tion that Hil­lary Clin­ton was in awe of Wan­gari Maathai and would do any­thing for her cause. Keene’s re­quest is for Clin­ton to do a short video for an event at the Dur­ban COP, honor­ing Wan­gari and sup­port­ing for­est preser­va­tion. She agreed.

In the po­lit­i­cal realm, Sec­re­tary Clin­ton has shown that she can­not be cowed by empty threats not geared to ben­e­fit the hoi pol­loi. Clin­ton and her team are cel­e­brat­ing an ar­ti­cle cov­er­ing her visit to a num­ber of African coun­tries. A para­graph from the ar­ti­cle that seems to tickle Clin­ton and her team reads:

“For­mer Kenyan Prime Min­is­ter Raila Odinga, speak­ing hours be­fore Clin­ton ar­rived, said Africa did not need to be lec­tured about democ­racy. Af­ter they met, she did just that.

“The ab­sence of strong and ef­fec­tive demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions has per­mit­ted on­go­ing cor­rup­tion, im­punity, po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence and a lack of re­spect for a rule of law,” Clin­ton said.

“These con­di­tions ... are con­tin­u­ing to hold Kenya back.”

Odinga switched to a more con­cil­ia­tory tone, say­ing African coun­tries could learn from Clin­ton’s ex­am­ple when she con­ceded de­feat to Obama dur­ing the US pres­i­den­tial pri­maries.

“That is a les­son Africa needs to learn se­ri­ously,” he said. “In Africa, in many coun­tries, elec­tions are never won, they are only rigged. The losers never ac­cept that they lost. If we do this, we will be able to de­velop democ­racy truly in the African con­ti­nent.”

This in a sense shows a can­di­date in this year’s elec­tion who is com­mit­ted to stand with the un­der­served and the op­pressed. I am aware of the lin­ger­ing ques­tion marks about Sec­re­tary Clin­ton’s hon­esty and com­mit­ment to what is true but from an African per­spec­tive, she has al­ready shown that she minds about Africa and Africans. Be­sides, hav­ing served in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, she is more likely to keep im­ple­ment­ing his poli­cies and en­sur­ing that those al­ready passed stay.

On the con­trary Trump has made clear his in­ten­tions to re­verse some of the poli­cies that Pres­i­dent Obama has signed into law if elected pres­i­dent. Namely the Ex­ec­u­tive Or­ders and con­ces­sions that have led to the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of re­la­tions with Cuba, Oba­macare and poli­cies on im­mi­gra­tion. Ex­ec­u­tive or­ders are nor­mally the eas­i­est to roll back on as all they re­quire is an­other ex­ec­u­tive or­der to take them back.

Un­for­tu­nately, though, Don­ald Trump has not shown Africa what he stands for. Dur­ing his first for­eign pol­icy speech on the cam­paign trail in April, there was re­ally no solid talk on what plans he has for Africa. He spoke about end­ing China and Asia’s un­fair trade poli­cies and get­ting the Mid­dle East “back in line with bet­ter deals”. No word on Africa.

I think the only ref­er­ence to any­thing African has been his say­ing that he would do more for African-Amer­i­cans in one year than Bar­rack Obama has done for the du­ra­tion of his term.

There is how­ever, a myth that dur­ing the Kibaki regime, Trump was to build a ho­tel in Nairobi, but some­one in govern­ment kept ask­ing for a kick­back and Trump bolted, and ended up pitch­ing tent in Dubai. If this is proved to be the case in the course of the cam­paigns, then one can ar­gue that the Don­ald means busi­ness when deal­ing with cor­rup­tion.

All in all, as the polling sta­tions open their doors later this evening, what is guar­an­teed is that the race will be tight and the out­come... well.. we wait and see.


Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump points at the gath­ered me­dia dur­ing his walk through at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Cleve­land, US on July 21.

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