The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, American media and polling agencies almost unanimously declared Mrs. Clinton the clear winner; forecasting that the next two debates would go similarly.
But while it is fair to say that Mr. Trump was his ‘authentic self’, Mrs. Clinton had to significantly remodel herself to connect better with voters. She smiled, she laughed, she looked like she enjoyed herself – she looked like the winner.
This is what her minders wanted. But her minders could not avoid one thing that Trump did and did well. Trump seized on two simple and oft repeated messages, messages that catapulted him, from the start as the anti-establishment Republican candidate. Firstly, jobs are going overseas; and secondly, his point that Clinton has been in powerful political positions for years, and only now claims to know how average white and blue-collar workers feel and what they need to ease their lives.
While the left leaning media want Trump out, and are either deliberately or subconsciously conspiring to see this happen, they failed to pick up on Trump’s message to those he is pitching to – the rust-belt states where whole industries have either collapsed or have been farmed offshore. There is palpable anger in the American community. The slick Clinton remodeling does nothing to ease the pain of those living on struggle-street in US towns and cities. There is a part of the Trump narrative that track with a large part of the American community. Establishment platitudes regarding the creation of a more inclusive society ring hollow because, ironically, it comes from the same establishment that created the current raft of social, political and economic problems. And while we in distant Australia, itself a country run by a self-interested elite unable to connect to and deal with the reality of average Australian life, fears a Trump presidency, there’s nothing to celebrate about an impending Clinton presidency either.
It is a strange twist of fate that progressive ideology is becoming more staid and conservative, sclerotic even, while those who were once in the centre have migrated to the right or abandoned interest in politics altogether.
While we have two more debates to go, Clinton will have to try hard not to look too smug and superior. Trump is no quality candidate. He is a street fighter, crude and unrefined, but able to give voice to the concerns of many disenchanted Americans. He is what he is. Clinton on the other hand had to significantly remodel herself to have a shot at the White House. But now, buoyed by the American media’s love affair with her, Clinton will have to mind her hubris. This is an election that is hers to lose.
Author: Dr John Bruni, CEO, SAGE International Australia