The 2016 United States Presidential Election heralds the end of an era, the presidency of Barack Obama, and is the coming of a new leadership for the most powerful country on Earth. It is also one of the most unusual elections in recent memory and to put it frankly, one of the most undesirable. Early on, the Republican Party hosted an astounding 17 candidates, the most in American history, while the Democratic Party had six. Every Republican candidate except Donald Trump quit prematurely, leaving Trump to win the nomination for president unopposed in late May. Meanwhile, by the beginning of February 2016, all Democratic candidates except two dropped out, leaving Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to contest the nomination. Hillary won the nomination. Both the candidates America is now left with are among the most unpopular in recent history, according to polls, so that it seems Americans have to choose for president the person they dislike the least. The contest between the two contenders has been intense and bitter.
It may increase our nostalgia for the Obama administration, especially for a millennial like me, whose entire political memory goes back to the 2008 race and has known Obama as the president since then. These were tranquil and rather good times, but now, by law, it will have to change, and we are uncertain about what is going to come next and what the future holds in store. The outlook is not very optimistic and the next four years may be just as unpleasant as the election. Let us take a look at the two people who are vying for the presidency, both of whom may make the Americans sorely miss as uncontroversial a president as Barack Obama.
Hillary Clinton has plenty of political experience, including being the First Lady and Secretary of State under Obama, and her views have been generally moderate. But she has been embroiled in many scandals. Her response to the massive Monica Lewinsky scandal that plagued her husband, Bill Clinton, while he was president, in which she defended him against the allegations of an extramarital affair and then chose to remain in the marriage when the affair was proven, were not controversial at first and indeed made her most popular. It would however, come back to haunt her, as would her defense of Bill Clinton against allegations of sexual assault. As Secretary of State, the terror attack on a US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, led to a massive controversy over how she dealt with it, concerning her sending the ill-fated officials there and not giving them appropriate help. Her organization the Clinton Foundation was dogged by allegations of corruption and inappropriate ties to the State Department. Then, there came the email scandal. It was uncovered in 2015 that she used a private email account for official communications while Secretary of State, which was against government protocols and laws, particularly governing recordkeeping. It was bad on that front because many thousands of emails were deleted by her. There were also allegations that those emails contained classified information. She faced the possibility of criminal prosecution for over a year until July 15, 2016, when the FBI concluded that no charges needed to be filed.
Donald Trump has never held any sort of office. Nor has he had any political experience. He is the first candidate of this kind since 1940. He has only been involved in business, real estate, and entertainment. Many instances of his life have come back to haunt him, such as his behavior towards women and remarks made about them, particularly involving his hosting of beauty pageants. He has called women he does not like, “fat slob, Miss Piggy, dog, disgusting animal, etc.” Women he does like he tended to objectify. He even objectified his own daughter. He was alleged to intrude on women’s changing rooms at the pageants. His many failures in business also do not advance his reputation. His first major involvement in politics has been very controversial: his pushing of the birther theory that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was born in Kenya.
Apart from the timing of the email investigation, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign itself has been mostly noncontroversial. But the same is far from true for Trump. Right from the start, when he first announced his run for president on June 16, 2015, he said of Latino immigration into America, “”When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with [them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” This was extremely controversial, as was his promise to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. After the November 2015 Paris attacks, to deal with the threat of terrorism, Trump called for a database of American Muslims surveillance and after the San Bernardino attacks, he said that when he is elected as president, he would ban all outside Muslims from entering the United States until his administration got a better grasp on anti-terrorism policies, and held onto that position for a long time, causing an intense backlash.
All throughout his campaign, Trump had held very controversial political positions and has made many controversial remarks. He has also frequently changed positions and flip-flopped on issues, which is perhaps necessary for him but also gives him a bad rep for inconsistency. He said he would deport all illegal immigrants en mass. He said that women should be punished for having abortions and then, the same day, he said only the physician should be punished. He apparently mocked a reporter’s disability. He said that Vietnam War vet John McCain should not be considered a hero due to the fact that he was captured and made a POW and that he only likes soldiers who were not captured. He said that the US should kill terrorists’ families. He mocked the looks of Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiona, saying, “Who would vote for that face?” After an argument with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, he said, “There was blood coming out of her eyes. There was blood coming out of her… whatever,” which people took to mean he was talking about her menstruation. At the Democratic National Convention, the Muslim parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in the Iraq War stood up to verbally attack Trump for his views on Muslims, with the father saying that Trump has a black soul, that he has never read the constitution, and that he has sacrificed nothing and nobody. Trump then insulted the Gold Star family and said, ““I think I’ve made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard,” he said. “I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs — tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. I think I’ve done a lot.” At a debate, he interrupted Hillary by saying, “What a nasty woman.”
It was on October 7 that Trump’s campaign hit rock bottom in one of the biggest October surprises ever. A video released by NBC from 2005 when Donald Trump was getting off a bus to go onto the set of a soap opera. In it, he boasted of trying to seduce a married woman and just before meeting a soap actress, he said, ““I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” And then several women came forward to accuse Trump of sexual assault. When I saw him Trump attack his accusers and joke about one of them on TV, that she was too unattractive for him to want to grope, the feeling really rubbed into me that his campaign is sinking badly. Fortunes were reversed as the final October surprise was reserved for Clinton; a revelation by the FBI that they had found emails from an unrelated case (which involved possible child pornography charges against Anthony Weiner, no less) which appear to be related to Hillary Clinton and that the investigation into her email usage had reopened, making her a candidate who faced the possibility of criminal prosecution. Donald Trump also has such a problem, as he was scheduled to go on trial for fraud and child rape after the election.
The bad reputation of both of the candidates has been seized on by each other to make the election bitterly contested. In a typical election, the candidates simply disagree with each other and tout themselves as being better as president. But this election is unusual in that both Trump and Clinton have called each other unfit to run for president. Trump has even said that when he becomes president, he will send Hillary to jail. From the start, Trump’s presidential campaign has continuously suffered from protests. One of his events in March, 2016 was cancelled because of protesters. The possibility of violence and rioting among the American people during and after seems to be real. Perhaps the most serious election trouble is the concern of Russia interfering in the election. In late July, computer systems of the Democratic National Committee were cyber attacked by what are believed to be Russian foreign intelligence groups, creating fears that Russia is trying to either sow chaos in the US election or trying to help Donald Trump, who has shown affability towards Russia’s Putin. In addition to this are allegations of ties between Trump and Russia. Finally, when we all wake up on the morning of November the 9, it may not be the end of the saga. The Trump campaign has started to believe there is widespread voter fraud slated in favor of Clinton and Donald Trump has said that if he loses by a narrow margin, he will contest the election results.
Many of the issues in the election have been of a secretive and unknown nature. One does not know the full truth of the new Clinton email matter, the FBI has still refused to disclose all that they know, one does not know if Trump was a sexual harasser, it is uncertain what hand the Russians may be playing, and unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud are being made. This uncertainty is the worst part of the election. It makes Americans unsure if they can make the right choice. It makes them apprehensive of what is going to happen.
When it comes to the question of who will win, opinion polls in this election constantly fluctuate, but generally show Trump and Clinton to be close. It is now only two days before the election, yet it is impossible to predict who will become president. Right now, the polls show that Clinton has a lead by three points over Trump but it is decreasing. Even with such little time left, there is good possibility that people’s opinions will rapidly change as has been the pattern.
Whatever the uncertainty in what is going on, at least, one generally thinks that the one thing we can be certain of is that in two days, Americans will cast their ballot and will learn the next morning who will be president of the United States for the next four years. But even this is not so, as we may face the possibility of a cyber-attack preventing an easy determination of the results, the loser contesting the results by going to court, and the president may not remain in office for four years. An election is usually about the people’s choices, but in this election, it looks like the American people have no choice, or their choice is not entirely secure and valid. One thing that is likely is that a lot of people probably wish by now that the term limit could be repealed and that Obama remains our president.