Nigel Austin 

author of The Robin Gibson series

​​​Posted 4th November 2016

Waiting with bated breath

Even by the standards of US elections - not renowned for attracting the cream of intellect, integrity and capability - this campaign has lowered the bar to a degree previously inconceivable, throwing up (!) main candidates that don’t deserve to be described as a ‘choice’. The Democrat is under a cloud - several clouds - of suspicion, whilst  the Republican has all the credentials of a pantomime villain, except that a third of the audience is cheering him instead of booing.

For a man who is extremely fond of using the epithet ‘Crooked Hillary’ (amongst many abusive remarks about his opponent), the narcissistic Donald Trump seems, typically, incapable of recognising his own crookedness over decades of lying and cheating his way through business deals and leaving a broad spread of victims in his wake, including contractors, customers, local authorities and countries. But then, he has never encumbered himself or his dealings with the need for honesty and truth. History is littered with examples of lies being told so often and so convincingly that they are accepted as fact. It’s a strategy (to call it anything less would be to understate its scale and impact) Donald Trump has employed since the start of his campaign for the Republican nomination. He has a lifetime of practice from which to draw and truth can’t even take a back seat because it’s not allowed on the bus. In recent weeks, he has added “the media is biased” and “the election is rigged” to the list of issues to receive his alternative brand of ‘truth’. 

Though making a lot of noise about the media being “so biased” he fails to appreciate that, thus far, the same mainstream media have given him a free pass concerning the upcoming court hearing relating to his alleged rape of a 13 year-old child in 1994. It’s been doing the rounds on social media for months but has failed to gain the sort of traction required to thrust it into the glare of election campaign scrutiny. Even if it had surfaced or, worse, irrefutable evidence had been provided before the election, one wonders whether that would have been enough to dampen the ardour of many of his core supporters, for whom, literally, he can do no wrong.

His other claim about voter fraud and a rigged outcome has been enthusiastically embraced by his followers, whom he has also incited to monitor polling places on election day. However impractical (and illegal) that would be, it suffices to reinforce the message and perhaps to intimidate some voters. It’s unfounded and unprecedented but so has been most of his platform so that’s not going to stop him now. It’s fuel to his fire.

Together, his rhetoric about media bias and election rigging is designed to instill fear and resentment in his support base and a belief that, if he loses, they will have been cheated out of their entitlement. His refusal to say whether he would accept a result that went against him capitalises on that fear, preparing the ground for a response that could go far beyond what is normal when baby has a tantrum and throws its toys out of the pram. And if that wasn’t enough, senior Republicans are now discussing plans to impeach Clinton, should she win, for her use of her private email server and peddling influence through the Clinton Foundation. That’s just for starters - they have plenty of time to find more; after all, it’s not as though they are ever required to work for a living!

The last week has seen the polls narrow and the prospect of a Trump win not nearly so impossible. Of course, it remains just as unthinkable but raises an interesting question. Whilst Trump has caused a furore in anticipation of losing, reinforcing the hate-driven divide he has striven so hard to create, one should consider how the Democratic Party and Clinton voters would react to a Trump victory. After all, it is their - and most of the World’s - worst nightmare. They would feel just as disaffected as the opposition in that scenario. 

The nationwide acceptance - or the appearance of it - that normally follows Presidential elections is an expectation too far this time. The rift is potentially too great for the usual healing process to occur, whatever the nation decides on November 8th. The day after is unlikely to bring certainty either for the USA or those of us consigned to collateral damage status. To argue either result will be sub-optimal would take understatement off the scale but the real drama will lie not so much in the outcome but in what happens over the ensuing days and weeks. As we hold our breath, we can only hope the fallout isn't lethal.