In Quest of Leadership
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