It’s still 397 days to the next presidential election and much can happen before November 8, 2016. So far, what I have found most remarkable in the presidential race is that Republican candidates are running full speed against their own party’s blueprint for winning.
In 2013, a few months after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama, the Republican National Committee issued a 97-page “autopsy” report on what went wrong and how to get it right the next time. The party must be more inclusive; court Latinos, women and young people, and “champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
As we’ve seen as the current campaign has gathered pace, these are not the priorities of the party’s extremely conservative base whose members actually pick nominees in primary and caucus votes.
Donald Trump’s ratings shot up after he announced his plan to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. That prompted his rivals, with the exception of Jeb Bush, to harden their anti-immigration positions. None of the candidates is making special efforts to appeal to millennials, who are more liberal than older generations on such issues as gay marriage and immigration.
The 2013 autopsy noted that young people are “rolling their eyes at what the party represents.” They still do, judging from a survey of more than 10,000 Americans by the Pew Research Institute. Good news for the Democrats.
In a little over 15 months, the United States will say goodbye to its first black president, a man who did not come from wealth and sailed into office to the cry of “Yes, we can!” Under his leadership, U.S. unemployment has shrunk steadily since the end of the 2007-09 recession and stood at 5.1 percent last month.
Yet apparently we are headed for oblivion. Nearly two thirds of the country thinks it is on the wrong track, data from Chicago-based polling aggregator Real Clear Politics show. In one poll, 34 percent of participants ranked unemployment and jobs or a decline in real income for workers as the most important issue the country faces and another 11 percent chose the Islamic State as the biggest concern.
It is against that backdrop that the Republican horse race starts to look a little less like an unfunny high school pantomime.
Donald Trump, purveyor of sexism, xenophobia and unpopular pledges to build a wall between us and Mexico, appeals to a time when the United States outranked China in spending power, before wage stagnation took root. Promises to “Make America Great Again” and “Put American Workers First” tend to hold water when they come from a man worth billions – even if it is disputed how many billions.
But the audience may still get the last laugh. The Donald’s support among Republicans appears to be slipping, and 15 months is a long time in politics. A very long time. With plenty more room for Internet cats sporting Trumpian combovers.
It’s far too easy to dismiss the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign as Kabuki theater. That’s an insult to the Japanese people and an art where much is conveyed in simple, stylized gestures.
Oh dear, I liken it more to being in a car crash where you can somewhat see what is coming, recoil in horror and yet remain transfixed by what is happening.
Never mind the second GOP primary debate, where many tuned in to just to watch Trump lampoon rivals.
Oh no, I’m referring to little gems sprinkled along the campaign trail like when Hillary Clinton was asked on Extra TV whether Kim Kardashian (queen of the selfies and the woman who tried to break the Internet with pictures of her bare butt) was a good role model for women.
Clinton skillfully hid any smirk and replied, “I think all of us in our own ways can be inspirational or aspirational for people … and I certainly think many people see her as someone who gets up every day and tries to figure out how to make that day successful.”
My advice as we face even more earnest election posturing? If you’re feeling down, just Google in images “Best Trump tweets.”
Jim Wolf (writing from Shanghai)
Republican and Democrat presidential hopefuls have been bashing a rising China. It’s a persistent pattern in White House races until the winner’s rhetoric typically gives way to greater diplomacy reflecting the world’s top two economies’ many shared interests.
With President Xi Jinping holding forth at a UN summit on women’s rights after a state visit to the U.S., Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton lashed out on Sept. 27 via Twitter. Pointing to criminal charges brought against Chinese feminist activists earlier this year, Xi’s role in the summit was, she said, “shameless.”
Donald Trump, who heads the Republican field, has made China into a regular punching bag, accusing it of “raping” the U.S. and painting Beijing as an outright foe. On the stump, Trump and other Republicans blast President Barack Obama for what they portray as kowtowing to Beijing on trade and security issues.
But whether Republican or Democrat, the next U.S. president will face inescapable realities, not least China’s growing military and economic clout relative to the U.S.
Diplomacy will also be important for the next White House occupant because of such shared interests as counter-terrorism, curbing the spread of nuclear arms, fighting climate change and cooperation on several global security issues.
And while a new U.S. president may be changing the drapes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in just over 15 months, President Xi probably won’t be bowing out any time soon. The most powerful Chinese leader in two decades is expected to return after the 2017 Party Congress for another five-year term.
For our decoder on the U.S. 2016 presidential election, click here.