2016 Elections and the Startling Trends in U.S. Politics

By Prof. K.C Abraham

2016 US Presidential election has heralded a change in the nature and the content of American Politics. These symptoms have been visible in the Party primaries and are certain to witness in the ensuing Presidential and Congress elections also. There is an explicit reordering of political thinking in America. It has produced some un-American / unusual trends in American political systems – jingoism, personal slandering / scandal mongering, anti-establishment etc.

Arousal and Stirring of National Spirit

The election of 2016 is inadvertently stirring up the US national spirit. Hitherto American jingoism was used to assert American dominance in the world arena, and many a times against its perceived enemies. Both Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee and the Democratic nomination challenger Bernie Sanders carry the spirit of Americanism, but from different perspectives. Both appeal to the disgruntled Americans smitten by economic recession.

Trump’s Americanism is based on exclusiveness while Sanders nationalism is inclusive.

Trump sees the cause of all the contemporary America’s ills in Hispanics. To root out this malaise, he wants the infections, i.e ’Mexicans’ to be ejected out of the US land. His call for the building of walls to block the entry of undesired people from border countries, especially the Mexicans, is nothing but a manifested racism. He claims that the outsiders are robbing the American people of their well being; their job, income and security. However, Sanders national interest is equitarian. Hence he calls for equality of opportunity to all living on the American soil.

Growing Resentment Against Establishments

The elections to the US President and the Congress in 2016, is also marked by popular discontent toward the establishments; the party and the government. If Hillary Clinton stands for and stands by the Establishment, her primary challenger Bernie Sanders and Republican opponent question the credibility and fairness of the government; and their respective Party Establishments. Both contend that their Parties are captives of ‘vested interest’. Trump succeeded in this open challenge to the Party boss and overcoming their disenchantment towards his policy and personality, became the undisputed winner. His opposition to the government establishments is that they over-care, over-tax and over-interfere.

If Trump could overcome his party bosses in Washington, Sanders couldn’t have ever shaken the party establishment and that is evident from number of super delegates that support him; a meager 48 against the overwhelming 574 for Clinton.

Rightly, Sanders and his ardent supporters are vehement in their attack of the Democratic party Establishment, on the unfair privilege of the coterie that controls it.

Trump could overcome his party bosses, steamrolling through the party primaries and now the party, that was very nauseate towards the personality and pronouncements of Trump is compelled to accept his candidacy, through a risk. He overcame the party opposition, but the party couldn’t. In the Democratic party Sanders couldn’t overcome the party Goliath.

Bernie Sanders, rode on his popular attack on the economic establishment controlled by the Wall Street. The American youth, overwhelmingly is attracted, allured to his ‘Left position’, when he called for social equality, economic equity, wage hike, job security for Americans and breaking the dominating forte of the Wall Street. He is opposed to the flow of American capital to outside, but that too generate employment to Americans.

Un-American and Un-Americanism

The Presidential campaign in 2016, is characterized by un-American elements both in its style and content. Social segregation, that has been hounding American quality till 1970’s, but in a much subdued degree in later years, has become a talking agenda for this election. The whole wrath of Trump for the contemporary American problem is directed against the Mexicans and Muslims. Even in the height of 9/11 terror attack, no American leader, called the Muslims “villains of global terrorism”, and hence their entry to the country was to be banned or Americans of Muslim descendants to be kept under surveillance.

Public expression of contempt for casting aspersions on a community is a blot on the much acclaimed American pluralism. It is not only un-American, but more so anti-America.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Public expression of contempt for casting aspersions on a community is a blot on the much acclaimed American pluralism. It is not only un-American, but more so anti-America.[/su_pullquote]

Un-Americanism is intent in the foreign policy pronouncements of the Presidential contenders, especially, Donald Trump and to a lesser degree Sanders. There is a general sense of submission among the Americans that ‘American Pride’ has been on the wane in the recent years. American addiction with ‘Policeman of the world’ and the rightful ‘Arbitrator of the world order’ has received series of setbacks, and now it seems to be in a helpless withdrawal syndrome.

Sensing the mood of Americans and responding to the declining conditions of the American economy impacted by its costly engagements abroad, Trump coined the slogans like “America first”, “Make American economy strong again”, “Heavy duty on Chinese made goods”. He goes to the extent of offering an olive branch ‘Evil’ Nations like North Korea and Iran. On the other hand, Bernie Sanders takes the principled stand of a “Non Interventionist”, “Non Policing” America.

Interestingly, both Trump and Sanders oppose Trade Treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership(TPP), Trans Atlantic Free Trade Area America(TAFTA) initiated with the countries of Pacific and South Asian regions, and the European Union for further easing of the trade movement among these countries. They call for the cancellation of these agreements, contenting that this would adversely affect the American economy, but benefiting the other partners against American interest.

Sanders oppose the unrestricted flow of American capital to cheaper markets. He is committed to increased wages, closing the income gap, free education upto graduation and total health care. His virulent attack on the impregnable Wall Street is the echo of the ironic situation of 1% versus 99% (1% of the super rich dominating 99% of the rest). All these attack on the American ‘mantra’ of Free Trade, Free Market and Free Capital coupled with a withdrawn America, is nothing but ‘Un- Americanism’.

Negativism and Scandal Mongering

2016 U.S Election campaign is dominated by negativism and personal slandering. There is hardly any serious debate or discussion between the two presumptive candidates or among the leaders of the parties on various issues engaging American society and economy, least the turmoiled regions of the world. Unsavoury words and undignified language are hurled at each other. The body language of Trump smack of a street fighter, than a leader of stature and dignity. His utterance lacks of qualities of poise and class. His understanding of the world and issues go begging. On the other hand Hillary Clinton carry less conviction in her speeches. Integrity of her office is under serious questions on many counts; especially her clandestine relationship with the Wall street.

The tussle between candidates | Photo Courtesy: Visual Hunt

The two leaders dare to debate on serious problems engaging the American society nor do they present any credible solutions. Instead or due to lack of it, they trade accusations and allegations. Hillary merrily calls Trump a “Fraud” and unfit to be president of America. Trump retorts angrily with “liar”, and most corrupt public person etc.


The voting behaviour of the American people in the ensuing Presidential and Congressional elections is more than a one million question.  Assumptions of the probable result could be formulated in the light of the personality of the two presumptive candidates and their policy perspective. In the true tradition of the American Presidential elections the candidacy of Donald Trump stands lesser chance of going ahead with his pronouncements and speeches which are antithetical to American political tradition. As timed he stoops down to the level of a street fighter. His economic policies are shallow gimmicks, social policies are divisive and at times racist and his foreign policy erratic and irresponsible. If the American discomfort go astray in a decisive way an adventure risk President will enter the White House. Adventure could lead to disaster, not only for the U.S but for the whole world.

Hillary Clinton, though her official integrity more mistrusted than trusted has wider acceptance across America. She has emerged as an inevitable alternative choice to the ignominious candidature in Trump. She is compelled to include certain crucial programmes of Bernie Sanders to satisfy the demands of his supporters and thereby win their votes. Sanders himself has declared that his mission is to stop Trump from becoming the President of America. He and his supporters will be compelled to accept the lesser evil. The Orlando type massacre or social turmoil can hold chances for Trump’s victory. The party establishment facilitated the winning of Ms. Clinton, though Sanders stands much ahead of her in general public opinion poll. Trump walked over the Republican establishment. This constitutes the irony of U.S democracy.

The Author is Academic Director at CPPR.

This article was originally published on Centre for Public Policy Research.

Featured Image Credits: Pixabay