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Latest #USElection Scandal comes as Manna from Heaven for #Trump campaign

Nearly every ‘normal’ person I’ve spoken to on my current trip to the USA is fed up by this election. And they’re stressed out and anxious about it too.
The latest twist in the saga has ensured that the contest will probably be a lot closer than envisaged – and it brings with it a fittingly seedy tinge to cap off an election in which most people feel that political culture has reached the gutter.
Up until last Friday, a landslide for Democratic Party presidential candidate Hilary Clinton over rival Republican Donald Trump looked a certainty.
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Trump was trying to appeal to key demographic groups but his campaign seemed to be hitting the same old barriers.
Importantly, his standing amongst women has been consistently poor and last week it seemed to be business as usual. Take his daughter, Ivanka Trump, who owns a clothing brand. Her fashion line was last week hit by a Twitter campaign – #grabyourwallet – a play on her father’s incautious remarks about where he might like to grab women. Trump fought back by assembling the entire family for a television interview during which he insisted he didn’t care about his brand, he cared about the country. And he respects women, too. In fact ‘no one’, he claimed, respects them more than him. He then followed this up by surprising his wife Melania live on camera, telling the Slovakian former model she’d soon be giving 2 or 3 speeches. She looked shocked at the news. Hot on the heels of this came Newt Gingrich, former house speaker and prominent Trump supporter, telling a female news anchor she was ‘obsessed by sex’. The Trump campaign seemed to be stuck in the same old patriarchal ruts.
Republicans I met confessed that the election outcome may well be more disastrous for their party than anyone previously realised, worrying they’d not only lose the presidency, they’d lose control of Congress too.
Everyone’s focus last week seemed to be on what the next Clinton government would look like. It was reported that current Vice President Joe Biden was being lined up for the Secretary of State job. Such was the certainty of a Hilary victory that I popped into Biden’s local deli and tried his trademark sandwich: maple turkey, fresh aragula, champagne mustard.
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As I munched on the ‘Joe Biden Special’ the champagne in the mustard seemed appropriate: a Democrat victory was assured.
Yet even before the latest scandal there came troubling signs for Democrats. By Thursday Trump was narrowing in on his rival in the polls.
And then on Friday, completely unexpectedly, the scandal around Hilary Clinton’s email was cranked up several notches by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) when it announced that an ongoing investigation into the husband of a top Clinton aide had yielded yet more emails from the private email account Hilary controversially used while Secretary of State.
This latest revelation is likely little more than a storm in a teacup, but the news comes as manna from heaven for what was a faltering Trump campaign.
Speaking on a whirlwind tour of midwestern states in the last two days, Trump has used the scandal as further evidence of what he says is the corruption of the Washington establishment. Speaking in Colorado, he did nothing to allay fears that his supporters will subvert the democratic process should he lose. The language was zero sum. ‘This is the last chance’ – he told supporters – to right the wrongs of a corrupt elite, a once in a-lifetime chance. To chants of ‘lock her up’ and ‘drain the swamp’, Trump called his ‘one of the great movements of all time’. And he returned to a familiar theme: his campaign’s financial support comes from him and his humble $61 donors alone; Hilary’s comes from ‘the politicians’ and her wealthy Wall Street donors.
Trump’s now outdoing Clinton on the road, putting in an eye-reddening rollercoaster tour of western states. He seems energised by the latest scandal and his party is breathing a collective sigh of relief. Trump is also playing the strongman. Joe Biden? Trump claims he’d blow at him and he’d fall over, for Biden is ‘almost as exhausted as Hilary’; Trump insists his rivals have no toughness, no strength, ‘no physical stamina’.
But we are also seeing a milder Trump. Today he reached out to African American voters – ‘give me a chance, what have you got to lose?’ was the message. In an effort to claw in those stubbornly opposing him he said he wanted ‘clean air’ (although he still backs fossil fuels) and wants to win over women. There’s been a consequent upsurge in ‘Women for Trump’ rallies organised by his daughter in law, featuring lots of women of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds in pink ‘Women for Trump’ blazers. In Colorado on Sunday Trump even held up a rainbow LGBT rights flag.
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Despite the recent shot in the arm for Trump, Hilary Clinton should still win the election.
Hilary’s team claims that, in his recent intervention, the FBI Director was in breech of the Hatch Act which prevents FBI officials from attempting to sway an election.
But what is alarming for the Clinton team is that the polls had started to shift towards Trump before the FBI scandal. Twenty percent of Americans have voted already, but there are seven states where you can change your vote if you’ve voted as an absentee. The Hilary Clinton team, panicked by all this, will now up their game on the ground among minority voters.
Meanwhile, while Trump has surged in Florida, he is still behind in two states critical to any Electoral College comeback: North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
With a little over a week to go, however, the latest scandal to rock the Clinton campaign has ensured it is still all to play for.
When it comes down to it, the upshot of the recent brouhaha is likely to be a Clinton Presidency achieved by a narrower margin and tainted by the malodour of corruption and beset by legal challenges from the outset.
Therefore, while the majority of Americans may anticipate the coming end of a horrible race, as they do so there are ever more troubling signs for the future of US democracy
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Trump’s #Gettysburg Address and the #USElections

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Donald Trump’s Gettysburg Address

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is a fairly bleak place; next to the tiny town are flat fields dotted with the occasional memorial and ambling tourist group stretching as far as the eye can see. But there are few places more emotionally moving for Americans than Gettysburg. It was here that the bloodiest battle of the American civil war took place, in 1863; here where President Abraham Lincoln sought to heal a divided nation with his famous ‘Gettysburg Address’.

And it was here, at the weekend, that Donald Trump delivered the landmark speech of his campaign. Trump has previously praised ‘Honest Abe’, contrasting the great Lincoln with his opponent in the presidential race, ‘Crooked Hilary’. The choice of Gettysburg was therefore telling. Trump is trying to present himself as the Lincoln of today, a fighter who will unite a nation at odds with itself, an outspoken champion of the many Americans who feel cheated by the political establishment and its commitment to pluralism.

Trump’s is a populist message in keeping with the resurgence of right-wing populism worldwide. He pits himself against the elite and his campaign calendar reflects this. A glance at the schedule of Trump and running mate Mike Pence reveals a very different agenda to that of Hilary Clinton, whose rallies are peppered with celebrity advocates like Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Bon Jovi and Jennifer Lopez.

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Trump’s theme of The People versus the corrupt elite was underscored most powerfully in his address to the charity Al Smith dinner last week. A traditionally jocular formal dinner where leading politicians indulge in self-deprecating humour, The Donald just about managed some self-deprecation (not his forte) before launching into gags at Clinton’s expense. His insistence that Hilary Clinton is corrupt drew boos and jeers from the tuxedoed notables in attendance but praise from his supporters, who relished this ‘roasting’ of the establishment.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only two minutes and 272 words long. Trump’s was much longer because it finally detailed policy: something which the Republican nominee has been previously criticised for not doing. For example, we learned that a Trump Presidency would see Mexican illegal immigrants given one chance after first being detained at the border; a second attempt to enter would result in mandatory two-year prison sentence, and those caught three times would get five years.

Emotion versus Policy

But, when they vote, do people care about such details? Do we vote with our heads or our hearts?

While some were outraged at the choice of venue, Trump’s Gettysburg speech drew quite a few plaudits for its combination of the emotive promise of fixing a broken country with concrete policies.

And yet, still, Trump is hamstrung by voters’ emotional responses to him. While some see him as a saviour, key demographic groups are revolted by him.

By way of illustration, American politics can be dirty. Television here is full of adverts commissioned by local candidates, both republican and democrat, seeking to dish dirt on their rivals. Most take the form of the exposé, with grave music and dark tones informing viewers that Congressman So-and-So is corrupt.

But among these muck-raking efforts, one stands out. It’s commissioned by the Hilary Clinton campaign and starts with a voiceover stating ‘autistic kids often flap their hands a lot’. It then switches to a mother, Jennifer Kohn, talking about her autistic son. Subtitles tell us she is a republican, yet in a heartfelt message she explains why she can’t vote for Donald Trump. Then we’re back to that infamous Trump rally in November 2015 at which the republican candidate mocked a New York Times reporter with a disability by flapping his hands wildly and slurring his speech. It finishes with the mother explaining that she’s voting democrat for the first time because ‘I can’t let my child grow up in Trumpworld’. It’s an advert that tugs the heartstrings, and it works.

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The latest polls put Clinton comfortably ahead of her rival. Women voters, especially, are resolutely anti-Trump. This speaks to the fact that mere mention of ‘Trumpworld’, for many, conjures up images as horrific as Hieronymus Bosch’s depictions of Hell. Trump has been damaged more than his campaign expected by allegations of sexual assault against him. He responded at Gettysburg by saying he will sue every woman who has come forward to accuse him of molestation (eleven so far and counting): hardly a pledge befitting the place or the occasion itself.

Nobody likes a Bully

These are testing times in Trumpworld. Chiefly because the ruler of Trumpworld, Donald J. Trump, can’t stop acting like a child himself. This was made clear yet again at the third and final presidential debate last week. After a rather dignified start, Trump began snapping at his opponent like the proverbial petulant schoolkid, taunting back ‘you’re the puppet’ at Clinton after she accused him of cosying up to Vladimir Putin. He repeatedly rolled his eyes, interrupted and – most damagingly – muttered into the microphone that Hilary Clinton was ‘such a nasty woman’.

He also resorted to emotional language of his own, claiming federal laws on abortion allow doctors to ‘rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month’. But while Trump’s bid for Catholic votes seeks to represent Clinton as pro-abortion, many Catholics support Hilary because of her social justice agenda. In a further example of colourful language, Trump pledged that ‘bad hombres’ would be deported under him: language which will please his core constituency but endear him little to Hispanic voters. While Trump scored some successes on foreign policy, Clinton came out of the debate appearing more knowledgeable and substantial on policy, hence Trump’s elaboration on policy days later at Gettysburg.

Prior to the debate, many people were saying that Trump needed something of a miracle performance if he was to reverse Clinton’s poll lead. Instead, the headline was Trump’s continued refusal to say he’ll respect the outcome of the election on 8 November. Once again, he came across as something of a petulant, bullying schoolkid.

It’s a shame that Trump can’t help playing the school bully, because for all his faults he has succeeded in putting the wind up the American political establishment, both republican and democrat.

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Even in the bluest [democrat-voting] areas I’ve visited, people talk with disdain about Hilary Clinton. In one of the most stinging moments of last week’s debate Trump called the Clinton Foundation a ‘criminal enterprise’, citing a $25,000 donation from a Brazilian bank and her dealings with a Saudi Arabian regime which – to quote Trump – ‘pushes gays off buildings’. He claimed she was hypocritical to talk about women’s rights while supporting the Saudis and told her to ‘give back the money’.

For all his bluster, Trump is right to hold Clinton to account on potential conflicts of interest surrounding her Foundation’s links to big business and foreign states. We now know that among the multi-million dollar donors to the Clinton Foundation who used Clinton-connected lobbyists at the US State Department were corporate giants Microsoft, Pfizer, Exxon Mobil and even Mexican TV network Azteca.

The problem is, these points are being made by Donald Trump.

And nobody likes a bully.

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