Reflecting on the coverage of the 2016 American presidential elections, it has been disappointing at best and severely damaging to the future of the US, and the world, with its portrayal of the dichotomy between the Democrat and Republican candidates. The emphasis of the threat that Trump poses is emphasized by a press that has consistently glossed over its governmental oppression and state sanctioned terrorism. Moreover, from videos to articles, we were constantly told that Hillary Clinton was the better choice, despite some questionable decisions. She is accountable to the public, to a system with checks and balances. But how true is this, really?
From PRISM, the code name of NSA’s spying program, to Nabila Rehman’s grandmother, a civilian victim from Waziristan, to Mubarak Hussain Bin Abul Hashem, a torture victim from Guantanamo Bay, who in fact, was not even the suspect the CIA wanted, the list goes on for numerous people where “checks and balances” were useless. Clinton will not be the first to escape being held accountable; we have seen it happen before with presidents, from Bush to Obama, even.
Apart from the numerous bizarre policies that Trump would like to implement, his open support of despots, his Islamophobic rhetoric and his sexist comments pushed many voters towards Clinton, who continually emphasized on the “Good vs Bad” Muslims, the growing narrative that peace loving Muslims stand with the United States, even for “The War On Terror”. Unfortunately, as Erik Love so aptly puts it, “Trump’s rhetoric has become the yardstick by which everyone else remarks are measured.” We measured Trump’s bigotry by his rhetoric but Clinton’s track record was not very smooth either. Her hardline approach to Muslims abroad could be seen through her repeated criticism of Obama’s foreign policy, stating that it was not militaristic enough, her unwavering support for Israel despite their continued human rights violations, her aggressive stance towards foreign intervention and her support for the ambiguous “counter-radicalization movement”, which disproportionately targets Muslims, raised questions about whether Clinton was truly the better choice. Trump’s unconcealed Islamophobia is as bad as Clinton’s structural Islamophobia, which few of us outside the Muslim community realize.
Trump’s stances are unpredictable and liable to change based on his mood, but Clinton has not proven consistent either. Her public views on LGBTQ issues have seen drastic changes; from her enthusiastic campaigning for the “Defense of Marriage Act”, signed by her husband, that defined marriage as “a union between a man and a woman”, to unexpected support for the community. As public opinion shifted in favor of same sex marriage, so did hers, but without an apology or an explanation, rather with defensiveness.
Trump may praise some of the most horrible despots, but under Clinton in charge of the State Department, arms sales to countries with authoritarian regimes, which even the State Department itself had singled out for human right violations, were approved, one of them being Saudi Arabia whose ruling family donated generously towards Clinton’s campaign.
The bipartisan system in the US that the press perpetuates, is not just harmful because the two candidates were equally bad, but also because it limits a democratic country to just two candidates, whilst the numerous candidates were simply never given a fighting chance. It conveys the narrative that there were only two, viable, candidates running for president, when in reality there were other options, including but not limited to, Jill Stein of the Green party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party.
The Democrats and the Republicans may have established themselves as the dominant parties, but this is supported by the fact that media has historically focused solely on them. In fact, the absolute majority of US Presidents have been either Republicans or Democrats. Yet, a huge part of media attention also comes with funding. Trump relied on “self-funding”, even though a significant portion came from donations, and Clinton’s wealthy donors in Wall Street openly contributed, since the ban on donations from political action committees and lobbyists for conventional fund raising was lifted, a phenomenon Bernie Sanders called “big money politics”. While this gave her campaign a lot of momentum, it could have potentially impacted policy making later. Due to this, the others candidates like Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein preferred to keep their “independence”, but paid the price with less funding.
Thanks to the sheer influence of the United States, the outcome of these elections will have a major impact on the world, whether that be fortunate or unfortunate. To call Clinton the “lesser of two evils” is to exercise what I call “American Privilege”. For my friends in countries like Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, there is no “lesser of two evils”. Voting for Clinton knowing that she would not directly impact us, is just exercising our privilege by voting selfishly.
Between an unpredictable demagogue and a hypocritical oligarch, the elections were not promising, but voters had to make a choice that would be in their best interests and the best interests of the world, not just the occidental bubble that they were familiar with.