By Patricia H Kushlis
Last spring when I was in London, I watched the run-ups to the British local elections in April and the Brexit referendum in June. The politicians who most impressed me were the up-and-comers - human rights lawyer, Sadiq Khan who was elected mayor of London, Muslim son of a Pakistani immigrant bus driver and seamstress mother, and three very smart and articulate Scottish women including Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party.
The least impressive were the silver tongued Nigel Farage and eccentric former London mayor Boris Johnson who lied their way to an outcome they had not expected and were completely ill-prepared to handle - leaving the clean-up to a woman, in this case, Theresa May, elected the new head of the Tory Party in the wake of Cameron’s biggest colossal blunder of his life. The Tory Party needn’t have held the referendum in the first place: it was an intra-party feud, should have stayed that way and Labour, under Corbyn, didn’t bail them out for a change.
On the other side of the aisle, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s left wing leader who was recently re-elected by a vote of party members, was about as impressive as Farage and Johnson, just far less glib.
Fast-forward to fall 2016 and the US.
Donald Trump, the GOP presidential candidate, comes across as the third clown in the third ring of Barnum and Bailey’s three ring circus. But circus clowns intentionally make mistakes to make the audience laugh. The best ones draw sympathetic laughter - don’t we all make mistakes and hope that those observing us in the process are forgiving - laughing with us, not at us. Trump, in comparison, draws attention to himself - well apparently to draw attention to himself presumably under the misapprehension that any free publicity is good publicity regardless of the kind.
That may work for golf courses, but not for elections. Then he blames everyone but himself when his behavior produces the laughing at, not laughing with, kind as happened most recently during his first debate with Hillary Clinton. Yet no one on the GOP side of the aisle had been able to counter him effectively resulting in his unlikely nomination.
What made Trump think that he, a novice to debate and US policies and politics, could amble in unprepared and score simply by throwing spit balls at an experienced well schooled lawyer and former cabinet secretary who had studied and practiced assiduously before appearing on the stage? Let’s face it, American women still face gender discrimination as they climb that professional ladder and the best way - and perhaps only way - to overcome it is to be better prepared and experienced than the men against whom they are competing. What did Trump expect? For the first time he had met more than his match.
As it turned out, his performance was an embarrassment to the country - not to mention the party, his campaign staff and his own family - and polls are now reflecting that voters are catching on.
But how accurate are the polls? They weren’t in the UK in June. Or does it matter? Is Donald Trump being held to a different standard simply because he is a political novice even at his advanced age?
The problem is that a Trump presidency is no laughing matter and there are still five weeks to go in this seemingly interminable election cycle. He has important, if unsavory, allies including the men in the Kremlin, the publisher of WikiLeaks as well as the same men who brought Brexit upon Britain in June. So who knows what spit balls he’ll find in his arsenal to lob during the next few weeks.
Yet, the man is totally unqualified for the oval office - and media investigative reporting finally is underscoring his lack of qualifications and temperament for business as well as politics. Is it any surprise that the Democrats are having their best month in terms of fund-raising - taking full advantage of Citizen’s United which the GOP brought upon this country thinking albeit erroneously that it would be to its benefit? So who’s having the last laugh now?
Trump should never have won the GOP nomination but the fact that he did tells a lot about the strange state of that party’s coalition of very wealthy business men and under-educated, angry white males who have come to dominate its two wings. From an ideological perspective, this makes no sense at all. It’s purely tactical - and in the past the former have controlled the latter but not this time around.
Nevertheless, perhaps if the GOP nominating committee had simply set a couple of basic requirements - namely anyone running for the GOP nomination would need to agree to public release of his or her tax returns plus make public the results of a thorough physical (including mental stability) conducted at a place like Walter Reed or another top tier hospital like the Mayo Clinic before a candidate could become a candidate the GOP would be set to take over the White House in January. Come to think of it, shouldn’t these also be qualifications for all presidential candidates in the future including of course, the Democrats but the minor parties as well?