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US Politics: The explosion of a toupeed billionaire

The American presidential race is not proceeding as expected. With the Obama years representing more ‘Yes We Tried’ than ‘Yes We Can’, political apathy is high. This is exacerbated by the fact that Americans may yet again face the prospect of electing either a Clinton or a Bush to the White house. Franklin D Roosevelt once said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Given the rise of Donald Trump, this has never been less true. In the race for Republican nominee, the momentum has shifted away from the established candidate. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that is Jeb Bush, by the way. The explosion of toupeed billionaire Donald Trump on to the scene has meant little else has made the news. The novelty of Trump’s anti-politician rallying cry to an American audience has resulted in him leading in both the national and state polls. His rise is in part due to his ability to speak in 'plain American' - hat tip, Sarah Palin - to disaffected right-wingers who form the base of the Republican Party. A number of issues will face the next president and the Republican Party is currently inept at dealing with them, Trump especially so. His domestic agenda has focused not on healthcare or the economy, but on the construction of a wall across the entire US-Mexico border. On foreign affairs, Trump believes, along with most of the other candidates, that the first drone-free US policy concerning the Middle East, in the guise of the Iran deal, is a totemic mistake. Aside from these positions, Trump is the latest proponent of the politics of the simple answer. A Trump presidency would be a government for the simple, by the simple. If Trump injected humour at the start of the race, nobody is laughing now. His odious comments about banning Muslims from entering the US will be the epitaph on his political tombstone. Despite rising poll numbers, they will eventually bar him from the presidency, if not the Republican nomination. However, American national pride has partly (and ironically) been restored by a bald eagle by the name of ‘Uncle Sam’. The bird repeatedly tried to attack Trump during a photo shoot for Time Magazine’s runner-up ‘Person of the Year’ award, a title he’ll soon become very familiar with. Whilst the Republican Party continues to engage in their version of Top Trumps, the Democratic race has received less media attention. This has also been in part to the perceived inevitability of Hilary Clinton's campaign. Due to the Corbyn-style surge in competitor Bernie Sanders' support, that inevitability has never been more in doubt. However, unlike the Labour party, Democrats have grown accustomed to winning elections, so while they flirt with Sanders now, come decision time they will go home with Clinton. The emergence of Sanders to the race has been positive and invigorating. He has raised important issues such as income inequality, wage stagnation and big money in politics. Record numbers have turned out to rallies to hear him speak about such issues. But herein lies the problem. The large turnouts disguise the limit of his appeal within the Democratic Party and the country as a whole. His self-described socialism may play well with liberal voters, but it is political anathema to the rest of the country. The purpose of his candidacy will be to continue to shift Clinton to the left on key issues. The Democrats will then have a candidate who isn’t perfect, but who has immense political experience, broad support in the country and an agenda for government that would start to tackle America’s problems. Despite the entertainment the Republican circus is providing, the Democratic race is the more interesting one. Obstacles that prevented Republican victories in 2008 and 2012 remain unsolved and the Democrats are better positioned to retain control of the White House in 2016. Given the conduct and policy positions of the Republican candidates, this would be the best result for America and for the rest of the world. But if Trump does somehow win, God help America. God help us all. )

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