2016 U.S. Elections / Political Commentary
By Eric K. Williams
New York – The U.S. Presidential Elections are now in full swing, with the national political conventions slowly receding into the distance. What lies ahead of us now promises to be one of the nastiest of contests, for the highest office in the land, ever. While all of this plays out, somewhere, disgruntled supporters of Vermont U.S. Senator, Bernie Sanders, stew in anger. And even further away, in Australia, supporters of that country’s first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, are watching the American presidential contest with keen interest. We’ll get back to Gillard, and what happened to her, and what may also happen to Hillary Clinton, in a moment. But first, a look at the players, and parties, in the general election now unfolding on U.S. Shores.
The speeches at both the recently concluded Republican and Democratic national conventions in July were stirring, emotional, and pointed. Yet, the words and visions offered by the leaders of both parties could not be more stark, and different. Indeed, the stakes in this race could not be higher, with new and even shocking comments made in the days since.
First, Donald Trump. The Republican Party standard bearer, once accepting his party’s nomination, offered a view of a nation in deep crisis. It was, in short, the classic vision of ‘us verses them,’ with matters of race, and race relations nationally, being a strong undercurrent. The Trump speech, or rant, as some might call it, included a picture of porous borders to the south; newcomers from Mexico offering nothing but petty crime, rape and social pathology; a view of Russia and China as both military and economic bullies; an American nation in peril with terrorism reaching its shores; a picture of America’s military as weak; political allies as unreliable; and lastly, a vision of the nation as rudderless, without a clear direction in Washington leading the country to an economic and social abyss. He said, and continues to say, that he wants to ‘Make America Great Again.” These were themes that did not differ from the standard stump speech Yet, Trump did not offer his plan, or elaborate on his party’s platform, as to how he would go about making the country great.
Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech took a far different path than Trump. She spoke to a racially diverse audience of a country that continues to welcome newcomers, and evolve. She spoke of her work and career in public service, and an America that is already great. It was largely a positive and upbeat address that focused on the road forward for women and Americans in general. not all a rosy picture, as her address also pointed to the many flaws in the so-called ‘recovery’ economy that millions continue to suffer in. Clinton’s convention speech was perhaps the best of her life. It made this writer ask a rhetorical question out loud…… “where has this candidate been over the past nine months??!!”
Yet, overall, it was quite striking at how Democrats had used, if not stolen, some of the same images, chants, and messages Republicans have used at their national conventions that date back to the 1970’s. The message of the ‘shining city on the hill’ and, the vigorous waving of American flags. Speeches that talked of American exceptional-ism. References to Republican party figures like, Senator John McCain, a Vietnam-era prisoner of war, who had been derided by Trump as “a loser.” A direct ‘stick to ’em in the face’ of the opposition party. The presence of leading big city Police Chiefs, and retired Military Generals, making passionate pleas of support for Clinton in their respective addresses. Of special note, chants by convention delegates of “USA! USA! USA!” that had interrupted speeches made by Vice President Joe Biden, former president Bill Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even President Obama. It became the norm. All of the above were Democratic party convention initiatives this year, that at one time, and in decades past, had been derided by Liberal Democrats, and other progressives, as showy, camp, and even corny moves played out at Republican conventions. But it seems to have worked.
What could be, and should be, a ‘shoo-in’ victory for Clinton in the November general election, is also an unnecessarily tight contest. Part of this is her own fault, with new disclosures about the government and private E-mail disclosures surfacing, fading, and then surfacing yet again. She is sharp and thinks on her feet. Her record of public service speaks for itself, it is, in fact, impeccable, but, Clinton is also a stiff, uninspiring public speaker. And these dumb-assed moves she continues to make, (Oh my God!!!!!) like, for example, retaining the controversial Florida congresswoman, Debby Wasserman-Schultz, to a staff position in her campaign.
Wasserman-Schultz is a woman hated by the Bernie Sanders crowd for perceived tinkering with the state primaries this year. That disclosure came to light with the release of thousands of embarrassing E-mails on the eve of the national convention. The E-mails were issued to the national media, and suggested a calculated plan, circulated among Democratic party officials, which appeared to show a coordinated effort by Wasserman-Schultz to help Clinton at the expense of her rivals during the Spring primaries. It was stunning news that came to light on the eve of the Democratic National Convention through the controversial news source wiki-leaks. Wasserman-Schultz stepped down from her post as Democratic National Committee Chairwoman, a key party operative post, once news of her misdeeds became public.
I see this as just self-defeating. I also see the election shaping up, and the millions of ‘fence sitters’ in this contest, as a result of the decades-long bashing of Hillary Clinton that is constant, consistent, and egregious. This public bashing of Clinton reminds this writer of what happened to Julia Gillard during her tenure as Australia’s Prime Minister.
What I find interesting, if not disturbing, is the very similar treatment of Hillary Clinton during this election cycle, as to the way the former Australian prime minister was treated during her tenure. Australia is not the United States, and that is true on so many different levels. But what is strikingly similar is the overall treatment certain elected officials receive who happen to be women. In the case of Hillary Clinton, the harsh treatment she has received dates back years before to what is now her second run at the White House. It is an extraordinary decades long bashing that began when she was the First Lady to then President William Jefferson Clinton.
Which brings me to a rather remarkable book on the similar bashing of Australia’s Prime Minister titled, ‘THE STALKING OF JULIA GILLARD,‘ by Kerry Anne-Walsh.
For 15 years I covered City Hall here in New York, reporting on three different mayors, David Dinkins, Rudolph Giuliani, and Michael Bloomberg, respectively, and a lot other stuff, including the workings of the City Council that goes through that building. Also being at City Hall it gave me the opportunity of working alongside some of New York’s, and America’s greatest writers, and reporters. So, I really related to your book, colleague. It made me think differently, and because of who you are, a greater credibility in the telling of that inside story.
One part of your book, for example, the reportage of one Michelle Gratton, a reporter who I had high respect for, and how what she wrote shaped the public and political discourse. It did influence me greatly. I was also a member of the Melbourne Press Club, and got to meet and befriend a lot of folks working in the business in your country. One, who I will not name, happens to be an Editor at The Age, who said that Gratton was ‘easy to work with,’ compared with other reporters at his paper. To me, that ‘easy to work with’ stuff, is a trait of the great reporters I’ve met here, who are not, nor tend to be, prima donnas.
Yet it was Gratton, who willy-nilly, became part of that chorus of reporters who helped to undermine a sitting Prime Minister in a way most of the public was unable to grasp. That, also, included me.
I have found in my career over here that it is the reporters who are ‘difficult to work with’ that tend to be not as good as they think, and not as good as others outside of the business may perceive them to be. This same editor said that Kevin Rudd was a ‘son of gun’ to work for, and also a nasty piece of work.
Anyway, as I told Mary, I am going to write a piece about your book with the U.S. Presidential elections about to kick off in a few months. Hillary Clinton is going to run again. No doubt about it. While not many people here do not know, or remember, who Julia Gillard is, or was, there is a lesson to be learned out of what you wrote. That is, it is not only about Aussie politics, the media and so forth…. it is also about politics, and the role of the media, in many quarters, and in too many countries, when one talks about nations being led by women.
In what should be a clear cut choice for American voters in this election cycle, and following both national conventions, is not so clear.
Looking back and a year removed, Gillard got a raw deal, in my humble opinion.
Last edited by Eric Williams on August 11, 2016 – Posted Posthumously on November 11, 2016 with no edits – A predictive commentary on the U.S. Elections this week