Thoughts about the next US president
By the time you are reading these lines, the presidential election in the United States will be over. You will know, in other words, whether the next American president will be Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. But I am writing these lines many hours before the election results. I have no idea, therefore, who will be the next leader of the world’s superpower.
I have a clear preference though: Hillary Clinton. This is not because I am ideologically inclined to the Democrat Party, or ideologically opposed to the Republican Party, at least given the long history of these two main pillars of American democracy. Most of the time, I find myself agreeing with Democrats on certain issues and with Republicans on others.
But this election has been different, because Donald Trump is not your usual American presidential candidate. His political narrative has indicated hostility toward minorities, including Muslims, a tendency toward authoritarian and arbitrary rule and a lack of basic civility. His personal life, as we have seen in the past few months, includes repeated sexual offenses against women, about whom Trump has also used very demeaning words. (One wonders how some Republican voters who care so much about “family values” can stomach Trump’s trampling on those values with those scandals.)
What is even worse is that if someone like Trump becomes the president of America, the illiberal tide that is haunting much of the rest of the world will be emboldened. No wonder almost all far-right parties in Europe have a heart for Trump. No wonder non-Western dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Egypt’s Abdel Fettah el-Sisi like this “strong man” and have sought his victory.
Clinton, on the other hand, represents the America that we know: Quite imperfect, sometimes clueless about the world, and often applying double standards to its friends and foes. But also a superpower that really believes in liberty and justice for all, and which has been a source of inspiration and sometimes a vehicle for defending those values. A superpower, in my view, which is better than all the available options.
This is why even some Republicans changed their minds in this election campaign, saying “Never Trump.” Some of them decided not to vote, others reluctantly went for Hillary. They did the right thing, I believe, by showing that loyalty to principles can be more important than loyalty to a party, let alone a cult of personality. (A lesson that very few people in Turkey seem to get these days.)
What will happen if Hillary becomes the next president? I expect a U.S. that is a bit more willing to engage in world problems than its current course of action under President Barack Obama. The U.S. was arguably too engaging under President George W. Bush, but went to the other extreme under Obama. Now, perhaps, a better balance can be found. Especially in burning Middle East problems such as the civil wars in Iraq and Syria, we need a U.S. which recognizes its limits but also does not shy away from using its power when there is a burning humanitarian need.
What if Trump has won the election by the time you are reading this piece? Well, then I will be shocked, probably, as much of the world. Yet I will at least put my hope in this: Trump is a demagogue, not an ideologue. He is ultimately a businessman who knows what pragmatism is. So, we can expect that he will be pragmatic enough to back off from his extravagant ideas and follow what reason demands.