Confused Clarity :The US Presidential Elections (November 2016)

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

 – Thomas Sowell

I must admit at the onset of this article that, with some semblance of self-proclaimed wisdom, often forced upon one by age, that this US presidential election seems a lot more significant to me than those in the past. I remember reading somewhere during President Obama’s first campaign, that his first election could be a turning point in the country’s history with respect to cultural tolerance and equality, tenets that the USA has long (proverbially) stood for. In the same vein, I’d like to propose that, in my eyes, this election is being fought for America’s very soul, with the two main candidates being ideological opposites of each other. A battle that will unmask the very frank, and possibly horrifying, truth about what America truly stands for.

A little about Donald Trump now. During many points while researching or writing this article, I’ve  found myself wondering why we would honour this man with our time and energy. The fact that a  party as old and prestigious as the Republicans, with eighteen past Presidents, could find a candidate even more revolting and divisive than George W Bush says a whole lot of the extreme power vacuum within the party. Trump has succeeded so far only due to extremely polarizing views towards immigrants, women, basically anyone that’s not on the ‘Trump for President’ bandwagon. Without stating that every American President has had a virtuous past, even the strongest proponents of Trump’s campaign must face the fact that Trump’s signature style of outrageously false allegations that align with what the crowd wishes to hear is appalling, to say the least. And the same man has boasted about possibly not having paid federal taxes in years. A man to whom feminism is nothing more than a word in the dictionary not yet searched and, Trump has even tried brushing off a highly controversial tape of him bragging about sexual assault as ‘locker-room’ talk.

All that said though, Trump winning the upcoming elections might not be all bad for India. I admit his

speeches on correcting trade imbalances and reducing out sourcing would both affect India in the short-term, but the bigger, geo-political picture to keep in mind is that with Trump’s vicious stand on Islam, it’s doubtful Pakistan, who Trump called ‘probably the most dangerous country’, would find favour with him. Also, his election slogan about “Making America Great Again’ would require jobs to be brought back to the country, which would mean reducing China’s trade advantage drastically. Hence, with the China-Pakistan nexus falling short on his list of priorities, India might seem like a good bilateral partner in Asia. Also, a strong US-India relationship would also help disrupt the Chinese economic advantage.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand, the lesser of two (ideological) evils, has been a career politician. First Lady for eight years, Senator for eight, and then Secretary of State for four years, there are few women – nay, individuals – who have constantly been this close to the seat of power. In a world that is fast shrinking, Clinton is extremely savvy about matters of foreign policy, unlike so many candidates who knew less than nothing, such as Romney. Furthermore, a woman President would be good for a country that grew somewhat more accepting of racial differences after electing a black President. Also, despite his share of controversies, Bill Clinton was a much-loved President in his time and would be of immense support to a President Hillary Clinton.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, Hillary Clinton does have her own share of shortcomings as a probable President. To begin things, although Clinton has always enjoyed a good relationship with India, her take on the highly combustible Indo-Pakistan scenario would not be much different from her predecessor – a steady and non-committal stand on the issue. Clinton has never been perceived as a major agent of change, one who turns scenarios on their heads. At best, she has shown that she could be a very efficient administrator, one who ensures that laid-out plans are accomplished to the T. She is also not seen as very-pro middle-class, especially not at the expense of the likes of Wall Street. Also, her personal mail-server controversy also caused a trust-deficit in the minds of the junta that she was capable of hiding facts, giving her a clichéd politician’s image.

With the amount of uncertainty ahead of the elections, the US Dollar has seen a fair amount of weakness against most major currencies worldwide. The USD/ INR has been acting rather lackadaisical over the past month, with investors and banks on the fences ahead of the big day. The INR could move irrationally based on either outcome of the November 8th elections, with a slight bias towards an appreciating Rupee in case of a Trump win, though the longer-term outcome on the USD would not be too harsh.

The people of America need to realise that voting is not only a right but also a high obligation, and  more importantly, that the Presidential elections are not a reality show that can be turned off at night before bed. To sum things up, I feel that either candidate brings to the table his/her share of baggage and possibilities, but so as not to make the article completely diplomatic in nature, the author would like to end with the expression “A known devil is better than an unknown angel.” Who the reader chooses to believe is the devil and the angel, is left wide open for interpretation.


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