Vox Populi

Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry

W.J. Astore: Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump this fall?

Tuesday’s primary results suggest it’s Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump come this fall. What does this mean for America?

Hillary is the easiest to gauge. She’s been in politics for a long time and possesses a lengthy and controversial record. She is of course a transformative candidate, the first female candidate for president from a major party. That’s where the revolution begins — and ends. Hillary is a pragmatist who promises a continuation of Obama’s policies. Even more so than Obama, she is an establishment candidate, well ensconced among Wall Street financiers, K Street lobbyists, and all the other special interests that rule America today through money and power. If this were 1976, you could well imagine her running as a moderate Republican against a Democratic candidate like Jimmy Carter (or Bernie Sanders). With respect to foreign policy, she promises a hard line and the continuation of perpetual wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

Many liberal Democrats, and more than a few Republicans, will likely vote for her with noses held and fingers crossed. Mainline Democrats will vote for her based on certain issues, such as Supreme Court vacancies, her pro-choice stance on abortion, and so on. In a normal election year, an establishment Republican would have a good shot at beating her since Hillary’s negatives are so high. But this is not a normal year.

Enter Donald Trump. If Hillary promises more of the same, Trump promises unpredictability. His simplistic rhetoric about making America great again has obviously resonated, just as Obama’s similarly simplistic message of “hope” and “change” did in 2008. Trump is a man of (certain) people: unlike Hillary, he’s not a career politician. Unlike Hillary, he’s not tied to the political establishment. In essence, he’s part wild card, part joker, and his outlandish statements on Muslims and Mexicans and walls and women suggest he’s not playing with a full deck.

No one really knows what a Trump presidency would look like. I don’t think even Trump knows. Trump has a habit of speaking off the cuff, of making statements that are more than a little grandiose, partly because he loves to grandstand. He’s easy to dismiss — all too easy — yet look where he is now, closing in on the Republican nomination despite long odds.

Trump, as I wrote back in July 2015, likes to pose as a proto-fascist. He likes to boast that the military will follow his orders even if they’re illegal. (He backed off that statement, but the fact he made it speaks loudly about his judgement.) On occasion he says something insightful and honest, as when he insisted the Iraq war was a mistake, costing the nation trillions of dollars, or when he attacks poorly negotiated trade deals as hurting working-class Americans. But with the good comes lots of bad.

A big challenge for Trump this fall will be appearing presidential. So far his policy knowledge in debates has been a mile wide and an inch deep. He’s gotten away with this because of the size of the Republican field, but Hillary, the consummate policy wonk, will make mincemeat of him in the fall debates if he continues to speak off the cuff and glide over specifics.

Clinton versus Trump: it’s a grim choice for America. An establishment oligarch versus a quixotic autocrat. More of the same versus God knows what. What they collectively represent is both the decline of progressivism and of conservatism in America.

For now I’m putting my crystal ball aside, except to say that one day (perhaps very soon) Americans may look back with fondness on the eight years Obama was president.

Copyright 2016 W.J. Astore

rs_1024x759-150709052426-1024.Donald-Trump-Hillary-Clinton-JR-70915_copy

3 comments on “W.J. Astore: Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump this fall?

  1. daniel r. cobb
    June 5, 2016

    I’m already dreading the departure of Barack Obama. In spite of the wall-to-wall Republican obstruction, Barack Hussein Obama set the contemporary standard for what an American president can be. Intelligent, mature, visionary, level-headed, worldly, compassionate, dignified. This election, let’s make these traits our prerequisites.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. berolahragamatras
    March 20, 2016

    Nice Post very usefull,Thnks For Sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia A. Nugent
    March 18, 2016

    It seems contradictory to write, “Hillary is a pragmatist who promises a continuation of Obama’s policies” and then end with “Americans may look back with fondness on the eight years Obama was president.” I will not be holding my nose to vote for Hillary. I’ll do so with pride that a woman of her stature, experience and intelligence wants that god-forsaken job. If we are to prevent a Trump dictatorship, we’d better get over our Hillary-jones. She’s not perfect but who is? Let’s stop beating that horse if Dems are to prevail against fascism.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: