US Election 2016: Its Hillary’s Advantage, But Trump’s Card

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L-R: Clinton and Trump IMAGE/CNN

US Election 2016: Its Hillary’s Advantage, But Trump’s Card

BABATUNDE LASAKI

Come January 20th 2017, irrespective of what happened at the Polls on Tuesday, 8th November, 2016, America will have a new POTUS. For the uninitiated, POTUS is an acronym for President of the United States.

The 45th United States President would be inaugurated on January 20th 2017 and America will join Nigeria and the UK on the ‘Change Train’.  Change in the sense that a new President would be taking over the rein of governance for another four years, after eight eventful years by the Democrat and the current President, Barrack Obama, the first African-American to hold such office. History would be made with the election of either of the Presidential candidates; Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, the Democrat flagbearer and Donald John Trump, the GOP leading light.

With Clinton Presidency, America will have achieved the greatest victory in the gender crusade and it will represents perhaps a monumental shattering of the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’. As it will heralds the first time in American history, where a woman will be assuming the position of the Commander-in-Chief.  For Hillary, her victory would be well-won and well-deserved. As President Obama rightly puts it “I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it. Infact, I don’t think there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office’. To put succinctly, Hillary Clinton would be by far the most prepared President America will ever had.

Her forays into governance started in 1979 as the Arkansas First Lady between 1979 to 1981 and then 1983 to 1992. She took that a notch higher with her husband election as the POTUS in 1993 to 2001. She served as the United Senator representing New York for Eight years, from 2001 to 2009, in between contesting for the Presidency in 2008. She served as the 67th US Secretary of State between 2009 till 2013. For a 69 year old, she has spent more than half of her years on earth serving in one capacity or the other, making her the most prepared, most groomed American President yet.

Her election come November 8th will also signpost another watershed in America history as the first ever elected Democrat President-elect in 150 years to succeed a sitting Democrat President. Since American politics evolved into what we know as the current two-party system, the last time voters elected a Democrat to the White House after a President from the same party had just served a full term was in 1856. And the last Democrat to succeed a Democrat president was James Buchanan, the 15th President from 1857 to 1861. Voters rarely elect someone from the same party for consecutive terms. Mostly, the White House flips back and forth like a metronome. Thus, Hillary’s faces an arduous task of reversing this entrenched trend and become the first Democrat in 150 years to succeed a sitting Democrat President.

For Trump, the divisive real estate magnate, the journey to presidency actually started in 2000, when he first sought to contest for the presidency on the platform of Reform party, but withdrew his candidacy before actual voting started.  However, in June 2015, the Forbes listed 324th richest man on earth declared his intention to run for presidency under the Republican banner and became the GOP flagbearer in July 2016. For Trump, his bid for the presidency have been greeted with mixed feelings and reactions, with some hard lined Americans rooting for him and echoing his campaign slogan of ‘Let’s Make America Great Again’. However, some established and centrist immigrant Americans see his style as divisive, deceitful and absolutely founded on lies, half-truths and miss-applications of facts and distortions.

As concisely puts by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria “He boasts and boasts and boasts about his business, his buildings, his books, his wives; much of it is a concoction of hyperbole and falsehood. And, when he is found out, he’s like that guy we have all met making wild claims at the bar, who when confronted by the truth quickly responds, ‘I knew that.'” Zakaria said. With American voters sharply divided whether to align with Trump’s sing-song of making America great again or entrust their faith in steely courage of Clinton, despite the hollow dots on her character as a crafty and nasty woman.

Trump task of emerging as the next United States president is as herculean as that of Clinton. In the history of American democracy, only five outsiders have ever been president. Outsiders here mean those without prior elective positions in government. Historically, most U.S. presidents served as a governor, U.S. senator, congressman or state representative before becoming president. Rarely have Americans elected an outsider for president. Infact, it has only happened four times directly and once indirectly with the last being Herbert Hoover in 1929 to 1933.

Hoover was an American businessman and millionaire who served as head of the US Food Administration during World War I, and became internationally known for humanitarian relief efforts in wartime Belgium. As the United States Secretary of Commerce in the 1920s he promoted partnerships between government and business and succeeded Republican Calvin Coolidge who declined to seek reelection in 1929.

Thus, should Trump triumph on November 8th, what would Donald Trump victory mean for Africa?  As Tatenda Gwaambuka posited “It has been long since the world witnessed the rise of a politician who inspires as much controversy as Donald Trump. Who is “The Donald”, as he is commonly referred to? The Donald could be a molecule: two atoms of Hitler for every single atom of Lady Gaga’s attention seeking streak. Donald Trump’s character is a peculiar concoction of unadulterated hatred, unapologetic ignorance, blatant racism and a mouth best kept shut. However, no man is that one dimensional and true to the fact, Donald Trump also has respectable qualities he brings to the table. If he wins the Presidency, what might happen? Africa could finally win the battle against terrorism as the deadliest terrorist group in Africa –Boko Haram is an affiliate of ISIS. The latter domiciled in the Middle East and if Trump‘s promises are anything, he will knock the hell out them.. Speaking on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Trump said, “I would knock out the source of their wealth, the primary sources of their wealth, which is oil. And in order to do that, you have to put boots on the ground. I would knock the hell out of them, but I’d put a ring around it and I’d take the oil for our country. “I WOULD KNOCK THE HELL OUT OF THEM, BUT I’D PUT A RING AROUND IT AND I’D TAKE THE OIL FOR OUR COUNTRY.

He said this after confirming his support for the use of US ground troops to fight ISIS. If indeed Trump destroys ISIS, he will have weakened the allegiant (Boko Haram) which has resorted to using suicide bombs after the Nigerian army made inroads into its territory. Africa will be a beneficiary of The Donald’s firm hand. Though taking Middle East oil for his own country is not the noblest thing to do, Africa will be grateful if the parent terrorist organizations of African terror groups are eliminated.

Trump’s campaign slogan is ‘Make America Great’. Though not known as a man renowned for fact and robust policies, Trump’s campaign has struck a chord with relatively large portion of the Republican voters for his strongman language that will help American regain its big brother role the over.

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” about who he talks to on issues of foreign policy, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself; number one because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.” It is however not this foreign policy that should inspire Africa but the economic blueprint proposed by Trump. “We have been too afraid to protect and advance American interests and to challenge China to live to its obligations’ says Trump in his plan to reform the US-China relationship. Many African countries may want to borrow that simple principle from Trump’s campaign and wrestle our continent from the debilitating grip of China and other Asian exploiters.

Illegal immigrants will be deported and green card holders stay will be reviewed. Trump intends deport about 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the US and this effectively means illegal immigrants from Africa may find themselves on their way home once Trump assumes power. He also intends to impose tighter legal immigration limits meaning reviewing existing immigration status and limits. As the Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka recently reported to have said that he will hand in his green back if Trump wins at the polls.

A cheering news however is that we might have Hollywood recreated  in Africa as notable Hollywood A-listers have been reported to have vowed to relocate to Africa in the event of Trump’s triumph. Even though many diplomatic ingrained have predicted a third world war with Trump’s presidency, the world however waits with bated breath as events unfold.

Would Hillary Clinton offer Africa the best option?  To answer this question, only time will tell. In the run-up to the Obama election, Africans and indeed Africa were agog with feverish excitements and gushing expectations, but eight years down the line, the question remains is Africa better served by the Obama Administration. The responses obviously will differ from one country to another. Now, with Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former Secretary of State and another Democrat president on the verge of securing another four years, what hope does Clinton presidency hold for Africa?  In Maria Hengeveld’s article in June 2015, She said “When it comes to matters of international justice, Hillary Clinton, Obama’s Secretary of State during his first term and 2016 presidential candidate, has gathered inspiration and insights from a diverse bunch of sources the past few decades. One of them, apparently, is former US security advisor (’69-’75) and secretary of state (‘73-‘77) Henry Kissinger.

In spite of these ambiguities, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has thus far failed to ignite a substantial national conversation on how her presidency may affect the rest of the world, especially the African continent. There may be many reasons for this: American political culture’s insularity or her spin doctors’ fear that the right-wing smearing over Benghazi may flare up again.

In the main, we can expect Clinton, if elected, to reaffirm American exceptionalism. On more than one occasional, she has expressed a firm belief in the “indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order.”

Interestingly, in her public statements as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton appeared to break with that consensus. In August 2012, she showcased a stand against neo-colonial relations when she exclaimed that “[t]he days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind, should be over in the 21st century.” She also advocated for an exit of “autocratic rulers who care more about preserving their grip on power than promoting the welfare of their citizens.” A year earlier, in 2011, as reported by Pambazuka’s Isaac Odoom, she declared that “When people come to Africa to make investments, we want them to do well but also want them to do good… We don’t want them to undermine good governance in Africa.”

Let’s be clear: it is likely that all this talk was really side eyeing China, who the US sees as its rival for African resources and markets. It had little to nothing to do with Africans. At least, that’s what her three tours as former Secretary of State, and her last trip in 2012, suggest.

So as much as Hillary may talk about “relationship of partnership not patronage”, and of “sustainability, [rather than] quick fixes” and rhetorically commit herself to “a strong foundation to attract new investment”, the creation of “new businesses” and “more paychecks” “within the context of a positive ethic of corporate responsibility”, as she allegedly did in 2011, at the end of the day it’s about feeding the ‘Wall Street, Treasury, IMF complex’.

What Africa can expect from Hillary as President, then, is ever more extraction and exploitation, nicely packaged in the optimistic promise of sustainability, ‘good business climates’, partnership, democracy and ‘change’. These to some extent at least offer some semblance of hope and succuour to the large retinue of African immigrants in the US and as fleeting  and intangible the word partnership may sound, African leaders would earnestly hold on to it as it at least offer a window and door of engagement for further  handouts and paychecks.

Irrespective of where the pendulum swings, Africa will be at the centre stage either as protagonists or as the antagonists.  Till then, let’s hold our breaths for the euphoria of Clinton historic victory or the “Traumpma” of The Donald conquest of the free World.

Babatunde Lasaki is a media communications practitioner and a social commentator.

Follow him on Twitter @BabsGQ