In Quest of Lead­er­ship

Southasia - - COMMENT -

Don­ald Trump will be the Repub­li­can can­di­date in the next US pres­i­den­tial elec­tions - some­thing few would have pre­dicted a lit­tle more than 12 months ago – while Hil­lary Clin­ton will be the Demo­cratic Party can­di­date. When Barack Obama first walked into the White House in 2009, he was 47. He was the fifth-youngest pres­i­dent in US his­tory. For the com­ing U.S. elec­tion, one can­di­date - Don­ald Trump - has al­ready turned 70 while the other - Hil­lary Clin­ton - will turn 69 two weeks be­fore the elec­tion, thus be­com­ing the sec­ond-old­est pres­i­dent on inau­gu­ra­tion, if she is elected. A scan­dal over her use of a pri­vate email ac­count as sec­re­tary of state has dented Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pop­u­lar­ity and height­ened per­cep­tions that she can­not be trusted. How­ever, she has been first lady, se­na­tor and sec­re­tary of state and has been a pres­i­den­tial con­tender be­fore. As a lawyer she worked on the Water­gate in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Don­ald Trump is a bil­lion­aire and a real es­tate mogul in ad­di­tion to be­ing a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity but he has never held elected of­fice. He de­clares that if he is elected pres­i­dent, he will make Amer­ica great again. Hil­lary Clin­ton, how­ever, in­sists that Amer­ica is al­ready great and never stopped be­ing great.

In vir­tu­ally ev­ery pol­icy realm, Trump has vowed to put his coun­try’s in­ter­ests be­fore any other — redi­rect­ing Washington’s gaze in­wards in an age of glob­al­iza­tion. He has called for rip­ping up U.S. trade deals, build­ing a wall on the bor­der with Mex­ico and de­port­ing un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants en masse. He even called for com­pletely ban­ning Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the U.S. after the San Bernardino at­tack. To achieve his aims, he plans to change U.S. im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy. In fact, this has be­come his sig­na­ture cam­paign pro­posal. It is gen­er­ally be­lieved that Trump has yet to win the bat­tle for Amer­ica’s hearts. In the cam­paign so far, he has painted a dire por­trait of a law­less, ter­ror­ized coun­try and has said that Amer­ica has be­come a hope­less na­tion with a cor­po­rate class that is thrust­ing it into a per­ilous de­cline. Don­ald Trump’s can­di­dacy for pres­i­dent some­times seems like an epit­ome of the Amer­i­can Dream — he built his em­pire from the ground up, en­tered pol­i­tics as an icon­o­clast and now is a man de­ter­mined to re-write the rule book.

It is not quite clear though how Don­ald Trump aims to truly rep­re­sent and lead Amer­ica which achieved na­tion­hood on the very premise that it wel­comed im­mi­grants; Amer­ica be­came a na­tion through im­mi­gra­tion as, apart from the lo­cal Red In­di­ans, no Amer­i­can is a son of the soil. For the past two hun­dred years and more, peo­ple have con­tin­ued to mi­grate to Amer­ica from all parts of the world - mainly from Eng­land and Europe – and to­day com­prise the Amer­i­can na­tion.

Hil­lary Clin­ton, on the other hand, por­trays her­self as a strong sup­porter of im­mi­grant rights and has pledged to cre­ate the first na­tional of­fice of im­mi­grant af­fairs if she is elected pres­i­dent. She wants to en­act an im­mi­gra­tion over­haul that would cre­ate a path­way to US cit­i­zen­ship. Like Don­ald Trump, Hil­lary Clin­ton is a deeply di­vi­sive can­di­date and will need to work hard at the di­vide in the Demo­crat Party be­tween now and Novem­ber. Along with her cred­i­bil­ity prob­lem, she is also seen as an es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure, aloof and coolly dis­tant. How­ever, un­like Trump, she has a feel for the man­age­ment of the pres­i­den­tial of­fice, both as first lady and as sec­re­tary of state. The fact that she is a woman could also be to her ad­van­tage – or her dis­ad­van­tage. But it could be that sin­gle fac­tor that will ei­ther pro­pel her into the his­tory books or dump her.

The big­ger ques­tion for U.S. vot­ers, there­fore, is not about Trump or Clin­ton, Repub­li­can or Demo­crat. It is about how to man­age a chang­ing, less ho­moge­nous, less wealthy and less dom­i­nant Amer­ica in a highly com­pet­i­tive, of­ten chaotic and dan­ger­ous 21st-cen­tury world. The Amer­i­can na­tion is al­ready said to be liv­ing beyond its means at home and is in­creas­ingly fail­ing to pro­ject its will and in­ter­ests abroad. This is a se­ri­ous mo­ment and could even be a turn­ing point. Trump needs to un­der­stand this in par­tic­u­lar – he must rise above brag­ging, blus­ter and bul­ly­ing be­cause at this crit­i­cal hour, what Amer­ica needs more than any­thing else is lead­er­ship – and what­ever the out­come, it is clear that noth­ing will be quite the same again for this na­tion after the 2016 elec­tions.

Syed Jawaid Iqbal

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