Democrats had hoped that after the Republican Party had nominated Donald Trump at their convention in Cleveland in July, the Republicans would be stuck with an unpopular nominee. More and more it now appears that it is the Democrats who are wondering if they are stuck with a flawed nominee.
After the Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia in July, Hillary Clinton had opened up a double digit lead over Donald Trump nationwide. According to the best election prognosticator in America, Nate Silver, by August 14, Hillary Clinton had an 89% chance of winning the presidency.
All the swing states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Iowa, and Nevada -- were solidly in her column. Even states Clinton was not supposed to win -- Arizona and Georgia -- had turned slightly blue (Democratic). The election seemed all but over.
Since August 14 though, it has been all downhill for Hillary Clinton.
Her attempt to run out the clock on Trump with 80 days to go before the election, backfired. Trump did not give up. He fired his campaign manager, hired a new one, and a new campaign CEO who belongs to a fringe far right group.
To soften his image, Trump attempted to reach out to the Latinos, visited an African-American church, and even made a quick trip to Mexico.
Trump is on television 24-hours a day. He has numerous surrogates omnipresent on TV, who defend every outrageous gaffe by Trump. Hillary Clinton is conspicuous by her absence from TV, and has very few surrogates defending her.
Clinton’s email scandal is also taking a toll on her poll numbers. As the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton had installed seven servers at home. What initially looked like taking work home, now appears as though Clinton attempted to make her home the State Department.
The drip, drip poison of the email scandal is having a corrosive effect on Hillary’s trustworthiness, already historically low
As the FBI Director James Comey said in his harsh critique of Clinton, she was grossly negligent in handling classified material. Astonishingly, Clinton claimed that as secretary of state, she did not know that a “C” on top of a letterhead meant “classified”!
The drip, drip poison of the email scandal is having a corrosive effect on Hillary’s trustworthiness, already historically low.
Donald Trump believes that no publicity is bad publicity. Although his new team has managed to keep him on script most of the time, occasionally he does go off script, such as with his bromance with Vladimir Putin, a fellow strongman.
But, it does not seem to cost him. On the contrary, his omnipresence on TV has made him a “normal” candidate. His calling illegal Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals, and drug dealers, proposing banning Muslims from America, manhandling African-American protesters at his rally, and his misogynistic history does not seem to matter anymore. Trump has normalised the outrageous.
Trump is riding a wave of white identity politics, or more precisely, white nationalism. Browning of America is making it a diverse nation. One-third of the Americans are now non-white. To many working-class whites, “America is our country.”
They are not going to accept America’s demographic transformation without a fight! The election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, was a reminder to them of how much power they had lost.
Starting with Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” in 1968, Republican presidential candidates started sending subliminal messages -- racially-coded dog whistles -- to working-class whites, especially in the South.
Ronald Reagan kicked off his presidential campaign in 1980 from Philadelphia, Mississippi, where in 1964 three students -- two Jewish, one black -- who were registering blacks to vote, were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan.
George H W Bush aired the infamous “Willie Horton Ad” in 1988, implying falsely that the Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis’s policies resulted in black criminals on furlough raping and murdering white women.
Donald Trump has tossed aside the dog whistles and done away with niceties. In 2011, Trump fathered the “Birther Movement” which claimed that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, therefore, is not a legitimate president of the US.
From the time he descended the stairs of Trump Tower in New York City in June 2015 to declare his candidacy for the presidency, Trump has used the language of the working-class whites to connect with them -- illegal Mexican immigrants are rapists, criminals, and drug dealers who must be deported back to Mexico; Muslims are terrorists who must be banned from America; the police must be empowered to deal with the violent blacks; women are bimbos who must be kept in their place etc.
Trump’s popularity shot up to near 40% immediately after he declared his candidacy, and has remained there ever since.
Currently 70 years and three months old, Trump will be the oldest American president if elected in November. Hillary Clinton is one year and four months younger. Yet, while Trump seems indefatigable, Hillary Clinton’s health is now becoming an issue.
She momentarily lost consciousness, fell, bumped her head, and spent some time in the hospital near the end of her tenure as the secretary of state.
Last week, suffering from pneumonia, she had to leave the 9/11 memorial in New York, and was seen to be collapsing as she entered her limousine.
Her stamina and her ability to match Donald Trump’s efforts on the campaign trail will be a decisive factor in who wins in November.
According to Nate Silver, as of writing this piece, Hillary Clinton’s national lead over Trump has shrunk to 1.8%, and she now has 61% chance of winning in November.
However, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa have now moved into the red (Republican) column.
Good candidates win elections; bad candidates lose. Bill Clinton was a good candidate; Barack Obama was an excellent one. They are both two-term presidents. Michael Dukakis (1988) and Al Gore (2000) were bad candidates. Democrats are now wondering if Hillary Clinton is a good or a bad candidate.
Dr Fakhruddin Ahmed is a Rhodes Scholar.