will Clinton be trumped?Donald Trump being eyed up by fellow Republican presidential nominee Ted Cruz

By Guy Collender
(Modern History, Keble)

It is impossible to avoid the Donald Trump phenomenon and the frantic build-up to the election when visiting the American capital. From endless media coverage about the latest controversy to plastic figurines of the presidential hopefuls, there is no respite from what has become, for many, a source of national embarrassment. Hoardings mischievously read ‘Coming 2016, Trump.’ They refer to Trump’s new hotel, guaranteeing him a presence on Pennsylvania Avenue regardless of the outcome of the race for the White House a few blocks away. Meanwhile, as well as campaign T-shirts and badges, nutcrackers in the shape of Hillary Clinton are on display amongst the souvenirs. The bright packaging reads: ‘No more nuts in the White House.’

Washington DCThis febrile atmosphere shaped much of the discussion at the Alumni Weekend in North America – the first Alumni Weekend to be held in Washington DC. From the views of politicians and scholars during the academic programme to dinner table conversation, politics was the talk of the town. Washington DCEagerly anticipated, The State of American Politics was one of the most popular sessions. Despite the ongoing uncertainty in the presidential race, Democratic Congressman Jim Himes claimed to be ‘bizarrely optimistic.’ The former Rhodes Scholar called for a historical perspective. He said: ‘As an optimist, I think people get sensible when electing a president. The populism will come down.’ The alumnus, who completed an MPhil in Latin American Studies when studying at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, acknowledged long-term political challenges ahead, including climate change, but voiced support for political institutions. Congressman Himes added: ‘Don’t take my optimism the wrong way – there are fundamental problems. The question is do we have the apparatus to solve them. I have this sense that the US and the UK share a set of genetic antibodies against fascism.’

Washington DCNutcrackers in the shape of Hillary Clinton are on display among the souvenirs

Professor Lisa Miller, John G. Winant Visiting Professor of American Government at Oxford University, recognised the fractures within US politics and the electorate’s frustrations, but she also regarded the extreme candidates as representing a passing phase. She said: ‘We will see the pendulum swing back. The public are not as polarised as the parties are.’ Professor Miller emphasised that competition is healthy for democracies, and she spoke of growing interest in politics.

Washington DC

At the earlier plenary session, called the Politics of the Extremes, journalist and commentator Dr E.J. Dionne said it was unlikely that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination, and even if he did so, he would get ‘clobbered’ in the general election. The former Rhodes Scholar, who completed a DPhil in Politics at Balliol College, Oxford, spoke of Trump dominating the national debate and grabbing the media attention. Dr Dionne highlighted that globalisation has led to lower wages for the most disadvantaged in rich countries, and he spoke of the challenge to identity from mass migration. He added: ‘We should pay attention to discontent because it speaks to hurt in our country, but we should not exaggerate. Everything is not broken in our country.’

Washington DCFormer Democratic Congressman and Rhodes Scholar, Tom McMillen with Guy Collender

Similar sentiments were also expressed in the Alumni Voices podcast series recorded in Washington DC. Basketball legend and former Democratic Congressman, Tom McMillen, predicted that Hillary Clinton will win the election, but he acknowledged that US politics is ‘very messy.’ He said: ‘The American people are very frustrated. There is a huge element of the American electorate that wants to kick the kitchen table over.’ The former Rhodes Scholar, who studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at University College at Oxford University, also criticised the ‘endless’ campaign cycle in the US.

All these subjects will resurface with more urgency closer to election day when Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, speaks at the Alumni Weekend in Oxford on 17 September. The alumnus, who studied PPE at Corpus Christi at Oxford University, will deliver a talk entitled The 2016 US general election: will Clinton be trumped? Booking opens on 27 June.

 

Guy Collender is Deputy Director of Alumni Relations

Read more on Oxford Today:

The Trouble with Oxford? Famous dons get short shrift from Stefan Collini

Her Dark Materials: Costa Book Winner Frances Hardinge

Images © Guy Collender, Erin Hughes, Shutterstock

Comments

By Mike Duignan
on

The USA is a highly divided and broken country. The American people have been broken by vast economic and social inequalities caused by de-industrialisation, globalisation, automation and political corruption, the top 5% control over 50% of the wealth and income, the massive financial crash caused by wall street and their whores in Washington DC, several cities and states are broke, racism and disrcrimination against african americans is widespread and promoted by big business and wall street, new illegal immigrants are driving down wages and working conditions, the neo cons who support these inequalities have created wars around the world where Americans have been slaughtered and subjected to growing levels of terrorism. Its a mess. Obama was a failure. Vote for Donald Trump and for a return to old American values of fairness, justice and reason.

By David Anderson
on

The framing of the article is very questionable.

I personally have no problem with the premise that you'd have to be feeling extremely frustrated with the universe to begin to even consider that Donald Trump is the answer to your problems.

However - why is Hillary Clinton given a free pass in this article, as the representative of sanity? As with Trump, I ask - if Clinton is the answer, then what exactly is she the answer to?

To my thinking, this is looking like being a run-off between someone with few principles beyond worshipping themselves, and someone with few principles beyond worshipping power. Neither has a track record of consistently doing the things they promise. The key principle that drives both, as judged by their records (rather than their rhetoric) seems to be naked self interest. Neither should have ever got close to this position. So, I certainly question the article's premise that the choice in November is between sanity and lunacy.

David

By Daud Khan
on

That Trump is talking to real pain is clear. But if he gets elected will he address deep underlying problems such as growing income inequality?

I live in Italy where another successful businessman came to power promising to clean up poltics, restore alw and order to the inner cities, take on the Eurocrats, etc.

Mr Berlusconi di none of the above.

By Jame Cortes
on

Will Clinton be trumped? I am afraid to say that she will probably lose to elections against the Donald. People have a very short memory with Hillary or are simple too naive. She might have more experience, perhaps she is a more balanced politician. However, she previously lost the democratic nomination to Barack Obama. Most people didn't know much about him. He was a community organizer, newly elected senator with limited political experience, and definitely a demagogue with populists radical ideologies. He ended up becoming President of the USA, was re-elected despite performing very poorly with the economy.

By Barbara Ritchie
on

The problems currently existing in the USA as outlined above certainly exist. america seems to be "going down the tubes" rapidly. I am (was, that is) a US.Citizen (born n Cleveland, Ohio in 1945) who does not want to re-visit "home" (and, with all the increasingly prevalent gun violence everywhere, is almost afraid to go back there!!) However, the vulgar, misogynistic, divisive "bubblehead" that is Donald Trump is NOT a solution to ANY of America's sadly,
very REAL problems!

By Brian Towers
on

In the 2008 Democratic primaries Hilary Clinton's biggest backer was ... Donald Trump!

Are Americans going to have a real choice in November?

By RH Findlay (SEH...
on

Strangely enough this article, as has most of the western media, ignores the strong public support being given to Senator Sanders whom consistent polling has shown to be far more likely to defeat Donald Trump than does Hillary Clinton. Senator Sanders has raised his campign funds not from hugely powerful coporate donors, but merely from the people in the street and has raised enough to have offered a serious challenge to Clinton. This, in itself, speaks volumes about what the average American sees as important. It also appears that the USA's election system is well and truly designed to disadvantage Sanders and others of similar ilk; 1250 000 voters were denied the vote in Brooklynm alone and this is not the first instance of dubious electoral practices. Clinton also commands what are known as "super-delegates" who are basically unelected party hacks in the Democrat Party who have more than their fair share of votes for the forthcoming Democrat Party Convention.

Senator Sander's platfom is a very reasonable platform, one that would have been supported by the types of Conservative governments headed by Sir Anthony Eden and Sir Harold Macmillan in the 1950s; this platform includes the revolutionary notion, for the USA, of a single-payer government-funded medical system such as was the former British NHS. However, such notions are now seen as "extreme left-wing" by most of the USA's pundits, and no doubt by Britain's popular press, although how any self-styled Christian country can refuse a properly funded, national health-care system would annoy even the Good Samaritan.

One would have hoped that an article written by a learned Modern Historian would have given some thought to the reality behind Senator Sander's very successful and inspiring campaign.

By RH Findlay (SEH...
on

ERRATA: 125 000 voters were disenfranchised in New York City's Sanders v. Clinton primary, not 1250 000. Sorry. Which leads then to a comment about the USA's primary voting system for the Party's delegates who may turn up at the Party's convention to yahoo and holler whilst releasing ballons and ticker-tape on behalf of their favoured candidate for the presidency. Some primaries are open to all voters; others are closed to only those voters who are registered Party affiliates who are required to register their affiliation at some time in advance of the election, which varies from State to State, with the Party so that they may vote. This is a system wide open to error and also serves effectively to exclude minority groups. It is hardly democratic. Sanders has run into this problem in a number of voting precincts, New York City being a prime example. This makes it very difficult to assess the worth of the candidate as based on the primaries and the number of delegates "scored" by the candidate; possibly in the case of Sanders v. Clinton for the Democrat Party nomination, the cash raised and the source of the raised cash would be the more telling. As noted, Sanders has performed as equally well as Clinton in raising election funds; Sanders is funded by the average American whereas Clinton's funding has been predominantly from big business and meals-and-speeches meetings where one is obliged to pay thousands of dollars a plate just to meet her. Irrespective of who gains the Democrat nomination to run for the presidency, Sanders clearly has powerful support from the average American and clearly the average Democrat-voting American wants Sanders' policies instituted.

By Wallace Kaufman
on

First conclusion on reading these April comments: expert opinion is not any better than opinion you can find in the hair salons or taxi cabs or on rural porches and urban door stoops across America. Trump easily won his party's nomination. As I write he is even in the polls with Hillary Clinton.

The problem with such expert opinion is that experts are almost all from the upper social and economic levels, often from that very 5% that controls 50% of the wealth. While class structure and mutual misunderstanding has diminished in the UK, it is increasing in the US. As we say here, the experts "just don't get it." Because they are not and most never have been in it--the frustrated lower middle class and blue collar society.

Who will win the election? Don't ask me. That's a more honest answer than you will get from almost any expert.

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