Tue | Jan 23, 2018

The US election: reckless Right vs lunatic Left?

Published:Sunday | April 3, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Bethany Mead holds a sign on the street in Appleton, Wisconsin, on March 30, ahead of the start of a Donald Trump rally.
A supporter of Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders, waits for Sanders' arrival at a campaign rally in New York last Thursday.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump reacts to a compliment made about his kids by a questioner in the audience during a CNN town hall with Anderson Cooper in the historic Riverside Theatre on March 29 in Milwaukee.
Kayla Forshey (left) participates in a protest last Thursday to condemn Donald Trump's remarks about women and abortion.

Many Jamaicans are still in an election mode. Although the Jamaican general election of February 25 is over, many are still following the American election to elect the next president of the United States in November.

In Jamaica, thrills abounded from beginning to end. There were frequent changes in positions. Of the 32 winning candidates, 12 won with fewer than 500 votes, giving plenty of room for movement from the winning to the losing column.

A printout issued by the Electoral Office every two hours on election day, starting at 11 a.m., gave the public the opportunity to be properly informed. This was a good innovation that kept interest bubbling all day. But despite the official guidance every two hours, one party added to the momentum by using interviews on the media to give out fanciful information for one side: "We are ahead in 40 seats." And later, "we are leading in 36 seats"! No wonder so many people were surprised at the results!

Notwithstanding the shocks of the Jamaica election, the US election was offering even more bounce to the ounce. In fact, from time to time, comments in the campaign varied from stinging to appalling, destroying the purpose of providing good information for sound judgement.

The Republican front-runner and, hence, the one likely to win his party's decision to represent it in the presidential election in November is Donald Trump, a celebrated capitalist. He is the main culprit. As much as politicians sometimes play the fool on the platform, watching a right-wing billionaire (said to be worth $4.5 billion) acting out the big business version of 'politics' was both laughable and destructive to the national interest and image of the country.

As if this was not odd enough, Trump is well on his way to having a chance to lead the country and, consequently, have considerable influence on the world economy. Don't believe this can't happen. It happened before with the Great Depression of 1929, which followed the NY Stock Market crash in October 1928. This was the longest-lasting (10 years) economic downturn in the history of the Western industrial world.

The crash sent Wall Street into a panic and wiped out millions of investors. Over the next several years, consumer spending and investment dropped precipitously, causing a crisis of unemployment as failing companies laid off workers. By 1932, nearly half the banks had failed and 15 million Americans were out of employment.

US Import

restriction debate

The cause of the stock market crash that set up the Great Depression was a heated debate in the United States Congress in mid-1928 on cutting the import trade from particular countries because it was said to be harmful to the American economy. The population, with millions of stockholders, realised that this could lead to retaliation by the affected countries that would result in a contraction of their trade in world markets, including the New York stock market. The fears of investors became a reality and, in panic, they dumped their stocks, wiping out 94 per cent of the value on the stock exchange.

The same argument to control imports from specific countries is now being carried by Donald Trump, who could have the chance, judging by his success in winning many of the voting caucuses, state by state, and the same panic could set in, leading to international turmoil.

In a backhanded way, the Depression, which was still running after nearly a decade, was harnessed by President Franklin Roosevelt to strategise how to get America actively into World War II in the expectation that the production of ships, planes, tanks, transport vehicles, guns and ammunition, among other materiel, would put Americans back to work. And it did. Economic growth resumed. So, too, did employment, and the results were strong enough to drive the economy at full speed, although it still did not return to the level it had reached in 1929 before the crash.

The Republican Party is now faced with Trump, who could be a winner of the presidential election and consequentially a great danger as president, posing many embarrassing and damaging policies that could create great international turmoil and split the nation.

This does not make it any easier for the Democratic Party, even with Hillary Clinton, wife of former President Bill Clinton, as the prime choice of the Democratic Party to win the preliminary delegates' vote in caucuses by the states. There is also the worrying possibility of delegates selecting their own suitable candidate, Bernie Sanders, a congressman and democratic socialist. All socialists dream of being in a position to provide free medical care, free education, bigger social security benefits, and a higher minimum wage, among other goodies. This is also the Sanders wish list, although greatly unaffordable at one time, or even in stages. Implementing such a programme would not only wreck the American economy, but the rest of the world would feel the backlash, and a new depression could be the outcome. The rest of the world would feel the sting at a time when the global economic issues of debt and growth, austerity and prosperity, are all in a fragile position.

In the world of today with international bodies like the World Tourism Organization, International Monetary Fund and World Bank opening up trade and finance to secure growth and prosperity, there is growing interdigitation in the global structure. The world is not yet fully ready for that design, as we can see from the massive uncontrollable refugee problem of Asia and Africa spilling over into Europe which is already battling with its own debt and economic incapacity.

Although the American side of this is also intertwined with politics and realities, Trump is proposing that a wall be built across the US-Mexican border to keep Mexicans out. This is just another of his ludicrous positions which, if the pattern continues, might see an American presidential election between the reckless Right and the lunatic Left - just what the world wants to avoid.

The critical nature of this possible position would leave many countries, including the United States, facing a Humpty Dumpty threat:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the King's horses and all the King's men

Could not put Humpty Dumpty together again

This is a good reason for everyone to be concerned about the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

n Edward Seaga is a former prime minister of Jamaica. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.