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Mrs Clinton Deserves No Pity

10/11/2016 12:35

If there's any triumphalism from the anti-imperialist Left at the result of the US presidential election then it should be somewhat bittersweet - if there is any sweetness evident at all. That the choice should ever have been whittled down to the two deeply flawed individuals offered up is a savage indictment of what passes for democracy, and that this was the best that the country which holds itself up as the greatest in the world could produce is troubling. In one corner a woman so hawkish as to make the likes of McNamara seem conciliatory, her record blighted by scandal and under open investigation by the FBI. In the other a demagogue effortlessly personifying the nonvirtue of obscene financial wealth, whose advocacy of racial and religious profiling drew white supremacists to his rallies like moths to a flame.

It is true that Trump's hands are devoid of the blood in which Mrs Clinton's are dripping, and that on the surface he appears to stand for a more isolationist foreign policy than does she. Indeed, the world knew what to expect from her. To Clinton, Muammar Gaddafi's grisly death was a source of amusement, the resulting failed Libyan State and the luckless inhabitants residing in it undeserving of any serious concern outside of calculated strategy. Such was her attitude towards Iraq before it and Syria after it, more or less consistent with the majority of her predecessors and contemporaries in Washington.

In terms of foreign policy the world has little idea what to expect from Trump. Outside of his legions of jubilant supporters confidently awaiting him to make good on his promise to ''Make America great again'' expectations range from cautious optimism to fearful despondency. Splendid isolationism, considered by many to be long overdue in regards to the military sphere, is but a fantasy. It's been offered to the American people before in the form of Ron Paul and rejected. Paul's timid suggestions that foreigners might not like having America invade and occupy their countries sadly failed to resonate with his party and he thus never got the chance to put it to the wider electorate, refusing to run as an independent. His mistake perhaps was that his argument wasn't accompanied by a brash appraisal of domestic and global issues, sparse on facts but heavy on patriotic appeal, chiming with the cherished belief in American exceptionalism. It lacked convenient scapegoats and encouraged voters to look inwards rather than outwards for a source of blame. This remains a fatal electoral error - it remains a prerequisite for anyone seeking elevation to the Oval Office never to ask paradigm-shifting questions on foreign policy.

An outsider, devoid of any political record, Trump has a bigger blank cheque than any of his vanquished opponents. This unpredictability might perhaps go some way towards explaining why so much of the Republican establishment didn't want him to begin with, yet it is difficult to see them being disappointed. He has spoken disparagingly of the nuclear deal that the Obama administration reached with Iran, approvingly of illegal Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank, and seems to approve of the man who has made a mockery of that short-lived hope of Egyptian democracy, President Sisi. None of this should cause much alarm in the Republican camp.

In domestic terms Trump's already done much to normalise bigotry and prejudice. His campaign was the most divisive in living memory, and the fissures in American society are already deepening and multiplying. His running mate and soon-to-be vice president Mike Pence, a darling of the religious right, has an agenda utterly hostile to the LGBT community. Ethnic and religious minorities have already suffered the repercussions of Trump's rhetoric at the hands of emboldened racists. Whether Trump will rein in any of his language now that he's been elected remains to be seen, but the damage is already existent and pervasive. The fear and anger felt by many on its receiving end is justified.

Mrs Clinton does not deserve pity. Her own record coupled with an ill-deserved sense of entitlement to the top job in US politics was her undoing. A great deal of Americans however, whether they believed in her or otherwise, do deserve pity. America is not deaf to the language of moral imperatives, so absent in Trump's speeches. There are some who believe in an inclusive vision of togetherness and mutual respect, but at the crucial hour they lacked a candidate who embodied those values with credibility.

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