By Raeesa Khan
When Donald Trump announced he would be running for President, hardly anyone believed he had a realistic chance of becoming the Republican nominee let alone entering the White House. At first glance his egomaniacal persona, reality TV star status, and extraordinary receding hairline made him all but unequipped for the job. Trump’s demeanour certainly did not conform to the traditional characteristics of a President and it would be an understatement to say that he was viewed somewhat as a campaign joke by his opponents. However, the joke phase of Trump’s candidacy was short-lived when on 19th July 2016 he stunned the world by becoming the first ever non-politician to be selected as a presidential nominee of a major party since Eisenhower in 1952. #Trump2016 was now official and whether you liked it or not, Trump had successfully become a serious contender in the presidential race.
Within the space of a little over a year Trump has single-handedly managed to defeat 16 candidates fighting for the Republican presidential nomination and transformed the scene of American politics for better or worse. He has continued to surprise all sides of the political spectrum with his abhorrent views including ambitions to build a wall along the US-Mexico border and banning all Muslims from entering the country. What’s even more remarkable is that in spite of these disgraceful comments, many Americans have openly championed the ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign in the belief that he is the right man to take control. For his supporters, Trump represents the long-standing grievances of the white working-class who are convinced that he will ironically be a ‘safer’ choice than the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Only recently the former head of UK Armed Forces, Lord Richards, claimed that a Trump victory would make the world safer because it would reinvigorate relations with Moscow. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein echoed similar sentiments when she said Trump was less dangerous than Clinton because he does not want to go to war with Russia. Trump has certainly not shied away from the fact that he wants to build a better relationship with Putin and has sought to find new ways of working together with the Kremlin. And in Trump’s own view, if Clinton was elected into power she would trigger a ‘World War Three’. Nonsense, right?
Actually, no. As ludicrous as the above statements may sound they raise an extremely important argument. Clinton’s hawkish approach towards foreign policy has casted doubt in the minds of voters and this could potentially cost her the election providing Trump plays his cards right. Her willingness to use military force in Syria, decision to support George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, approval of CIA led drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, active support for the Libya intervention, and authorisation of a $60 billion arms deal – the biggest arms deal in the world – with Saudi Arabia illustrate the warmongering nature of her personality. If history is anything to go by then there is a strong possibility that Clinton would escalate US military commitments. The US is currently bombing 7 countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria). Under a President Clinton this number may well increase to 8, 9 or 10.
Then there’s the emails. Eleven days before the election the FBI decided to reopen its investigation concerning Clinton’s private email server. The disclosure came at probably the worst political time for the Clinton campaign and subsequently played a huge role in damaging her lead in the polls. Around a third of likely voters said they were less likely to support Clinton following the FBI probe while intention to vote for Trump increased. Over the past nine months WikiLeaks has uploaded over 30,000 emails from Clinton’s server to its site and in his most recent interview, Julien Assange revealed that wealthy Saudi and Qatari officials who were supporting the Clinton Foundation were also helping to fund the activities of Daesh. According to Assange, Clinton was secretly aware that members of the Saudi and Qatari family supported Daesh and yet chose to turn a blind eye to the apparent terror funding. The leaked emails have also drawn attention to the 2012 Benghazi scandal where four Americans, including a US Ambassador, were killed. Had Clinton acted decisively in Benghazi there is a likelihood that the deaths may have been prevented.
Despite her hawkish attitude towards foreign policy and the email controversy that has taken a strain on her presidential campaign, latest election polls are suggesting that Clinton is ahead of Trump though only by a narrow margin. With only 24 hours to go until voters head to the polls the eleven battleground states will prove to be vital in determining the final outcome of one of the most controversial elections ever. Florida and Ohio are considered to be the most important swing states since they have a good record in election cycles of picking the president and Clinton will need to do all she can to convince the last few undecided voters that she is the right candidate for the job.
While Trump’s road to victory may be unlikely (he would need to win most of the swing states to reach the magic number 270 whereas Clinton is already leading in the states she needs to win) it is frankly too early to rule out his chances especially after the Brexit vote demonstrated that not everyone was willing to stick with the status quo. Throughout his campaign Trump has detailed Clinton’s failures in foreign policy – most notably in Libya, Iran, and her approach towards Daesh – and made it adamant that she would be a poor leader of the United States. Clinton may be ‘the lesser of two evils’ to her supporters but there is no denying that her foreign policy performance and email scandal have tainted her reputation. If she is elected, she will need to regain the public’s trust and that will be a lengthy process.
Only time will tell if Clinton’s hawkish reputation will cost her the election. But for now the question voters ought to be asking themselves when they head to the ballots tomorrow is who they really think would make a good ‘leader of the free world’.