US polls: Battle to conquer White House intensifies

Maswood Alam Khan: Life in America is funny. Here, one wears, says or thinks anything that can garner him loads of attention. You can dress as you like, you can behave as you wish, and you can kid anybody you choose. Americans don’t hesitate to call in public any powerful government functionary or a high political figure a madcap, a prank or even a clown. In today’s America, as the saying goes, anyone having little or no experience in governance can also become the President just by firing the imagination of the general public, if only he or she simply wishes to be. But the candidate must have money or the ability to raise money from fans, supporters, and sponsors.

The present trend of American Presidential election race portends a dramatic shift in the choice of the next President. The list of people running for president includes, without any quality control, a neurosurgeon, a socialist, a billionaire, and, of course, two family members of two former presidents. Some of them however have already faded out. Two Democrats and six Republicans are still in the running for their party’s presidential nomination.

Voters arrive to cast their ballots in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire presidential primary at the Chichester Town Hall in Chichester, New Hampshire on February 09, 2016

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Republican candidate Donald Trump both have tasted victory for the first time in a Primary Election held on February 09 in New Hampshire. Earlier, almost a similar victory was experienced by Hillary Clinton, former US Secretary of State, the Democratic hopeful, and Rafael Edward Ted Cruz, U.S. Senator from Texas, the Republican hopeful, on February 01 in the Iowa Caucuses.

The 2016 primaries and caucuses have thus begun. The Presidential candidates are now to win delegates from other U.S. states and territories in order to capture their respective party’s nomination for the presidency.

To many observers at home and abroad, America has gone absolutely mad and Americans are in the throes of a nationwide nervous breakdown if one looks at how anybody of any background is gaining traction in the presidential election race. From statements made by presidential hopefuls like Sanders, Trump and others one can only surmise that the establishment in Washington, as if, in collaboration with the money managers on the Wall Street has driven the US economy off a cliff.

People in America are generally known for having a positive outlook on life. But of late, Americans in general, especially the elderly ones, are extremely worried. American political establishment is so bitterly divided that they even doubt whether there would ever be any bipartisan agreement on whether the sun will rise in the east every morning as usual.

Many observers have looked askance at the latest victory of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire presidential nominating contest.

Neither of them, they wonder, is an Obama or a Reagan. Both are defying the modern laws of political gravity. One is an egoistic billionaire and the other is too simplistic a democratic socialist. Both are aged, perhaps too aged. Can anyone of them be the US Commander-in-Chief, one may ask?

Some leaders are recoiling in horror at Donald Trump’s careless populism, his offensiveness and his frequent trampling over conservative causes. Trump, a real estate tycoon, they think, stokes more fear than hope. He as President, if elected, would construct a massive wall along the Mexican border to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and compel the Mexicans to pay for it. He flouts his wealth and doesn’t have much to convey other than the vacuous injunction to “Make America Great Once Again”. Donald Trump however is a great showman and an expert in front of the cameras.

The 74-year-old rambling socialist Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is not even a fully-fledged Democrat! There is not much difference between Sanders and Trump in terms of their language and styles. Sanders has promised to bring an unprecedented political revolution in the American governance. But his promise may be difficult to be translated into reality.

There are fears and hopes that Donald Tramp and Bernie Sanders may win nominations and anyone may ultimately become American President, sending a pleasant or maybe an unpleasant shockwave around the world.

Why are so many Americans taking it on trust that Trump or Sanders is capable of running the most difficult and the most powerful job on this planet? The answer: frustration and anger of Americans against the establishment and against the conventional politics. Their anger explains the success of non-mainstream candidates such as Trump and Sanders.

Nevertheless, there is a tough fight waiting for Republicans in South Carolina’s February 20 primary and for Democrats there on February 27. The primary results in this state of the American South will have an immense effect on who the Democrat or who the Republican will ultimately get the presidential nomination from their respective parties. Meanwhile, the Republican Party Presidential Caucus in Nevada will be held on February 23 and its result will also impact the nomination process. The month of February is politically very crucial for the presidential hopefuls, if not astrologically.

It’s however too early and too imprudent to predict who will be fighting against whom in the presidential election on November 08.

The democrats by and large believe their candidate is still Hillary Clinton, who speaks and behaves with an aura of a President and whose experience may equip the White House with an extra weight and flavour. Hillary Clinton as the next American President could also offer some Americans an extra vanity to say: “Hey! We had the first African American as our President and now we have the first woman to grace the powerful chair.”

Hillary represents continuity, but the modern and young US electorate wants change. She has charm no doubt, but she has failed to fire up both men and women with the promise of America’s first woman president. She barely won in Iowa by a little margin and now she looks pretty wounded after being defeated by Sanders by a big margin in the latest primary election. After Iowa and New Hampshire, the Clinton campaign is clearly getting nervous and becoming increasingly desperate.

It may not be a surprise if US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, now fighting in the third place, is catapulted to the first. Ohio Governor John Kasich and US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas have reasons and grounds to climb up the ladder all the way to fight against a democratic nominee.

Both Republican and Democratic parties wish the opposition camp nominated a weaker or capricious candidate, who has an imprecise plan for the presidency. So, Hillary, if nominated by her own party, could be happy if Trump gets the nomination from his own.

Voters who helped Sanders win the primary in New Hampshire perhaps had dreamt a sweet dream, rather a poetic dream, that Sanders as the future President would smash the Wall Street, break up all the big banks and have the government pay for free college tuition. That’s easier said in an election campaign than done after becoming an American President. “One campaigns in poetry”, as Hillary Clinton once famously said, “and you govern in prose”.

With the US presidential election just nine months away and potential candidates battling it out in primary elections, a man, like me, born in Bangladesh, should be puzzled by the fabled beauty of the American humour in choosing colourful presidential candidates who are now on a frenzied rush to capture the White House.

Those humorists who only the other day painted Donald Trump as a prank and Bernie Sanders as a clown are now feeling like they have got a frog in their throat. It is, to them, unbelievable that a man who was just a joke is going to be the commander-in-chief of the strongest nation on the planet. The American electorate, however crazy they may act or sound, may succeed to pull anyone of them – a prank or a joke – onto the White House.

The main job of a clown in a circus party is to make the people in the gallery laugh till they cry. But a clown also makes an audience gasp in amazement. Spectators are suddenly surprised by the way a clown stretches their expectations. When a clown shows his superb abilities of a sterling acrobat or of a stunning aerialist, spectators realise that a clown does not just make people laugh. He is also a wizard. He sells magic. He sells happiness. That’s why Americans often look out for unbelievable performances to be delivered by unsuspected talents.
from Maryland, USA

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