IN AN earlier commentary, I used the term “circus politics” to characterize what was going on in the American political campaign for the presidency of the United States.
Now, less than three months before the general election on Nov. 9, the campaign has gone down into the gutter. What is happening?
At the core of the gutter is Donald Trump, the nominee of the Republican Party. He has called his opponent, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a “world-class liar,” a dishonest and untrustworthy person, a temperamentally unqualified candidate for the presidency. These are Trump’s words that I’m quoting verbatim, so I will refrain from using the quotation marks so that this commentary will not be bogged down in quotes.
Not being a pushover herself, Clinton, a former secretary of State, New York state senator, first lady to Bill Clinton, and now the Democratic presidential nominee, has lobbed a flurry of bombs in the escalating mudslinging contest, which is exhausting and disgusting to watch.
What’s at the root of this never-ending war of words and invectives?
It’s usually personal accusations that are impossible to prove nor worth discussing? Trump has called Clinton a pig, believe it or not, a big cheat who has transformed personal politics into an art form by receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from big corporations in Wall Street and donors to her campaign expenses. He is never at a loss to come up with one fabrication or another to hit Clinton.
But behind all these personal brickbats is the fact that the critical issues in this election are lost and never discussed even with some seriousness. The apathy, corruption, voting turnout are given short shrift because the battle between Trump and Clinton is bound to occur as soon as they face the media. And it goes on and on and on.
Even Trump’s fellow Republican leaders have threatened to dump Trump if he does not reform his incendiary language, and replace him with his presidential running mate Mike Pence. Pence, the Republican leaders say, is more civil and less combative in his manner and language.
And no less that President Barack Obama himself has joined the fray to campaign for Clinton, who Obama thinks will carry on his presidential legacy well into the future. At this endpoint of his last term as president, Obama is determined to leave a memorable legacy. Clinton has been his ally since the campaign began.
Clinton is also determined to win because her victory will be historic. If she wins, she will be the first woman to be elected president of the United States, which is long overdue.
Fortunately for Clinton, she is leading by significant margins in surveys conducted in key battleground states like Ohio, Virginia, Florida and Michigan. She is trending in other key states, which is a good sign for her.
Trump, on the other hand, is sliding downward into the gutter alarming his Republican colleagues, who are prominent in the hierarchy of the party like US House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Experts and pundits have predicted that Clinton is trending quickly to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. And she can get even closer to that magic number because she is an excellent debater while Trump stutters and tends to be repetitive and shrill.
However one looks at the upcoming US presidential election, he or she will think that it will go right down to the wire.
Dr. Belinda A. Aquino is currently professor emeritus at the University of Hawaii at Manoa where she served as professor of political science and Asian studies and longtime founder of the Center for Philippine Studies.
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