US election a battle for the hearts and minds of uncertain voters

Americans have the choice between trusting Hillary Clinton’s song, if not the singer, or taking a leap into the unknown with Donald Trump.

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 1:05am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 July, 2016, 1:05am

Accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton capped a week at the party’s national convention marked by symbolic firsts. America’s first black president, Barack Obama, endorsed the Democratic Party’s choice of a woman to succeed him. And party elder Bill Clinton took the convention stage as the first former president whose wife is also running for the Oval Office. Clinton’s speech accepting nomination to be the first woman to lead the world’s only superpower therefore crowned an historic moment for equality. But any sense of euphoria will not last long.

From among a population of more than 300 million, Americans now face a choice for president between Clinton and the Republican Party’s Donald Trump – between a political professional who the polls say is distrusted by three-quarters of the electorate, and a novice who has scared many at home and abroad with a vision of winding back globalisation along with liberalised trade and free movement of people, not to mention racist, bigoted and misogynistic stances.

Clinton makes bold play for political centre ground, vows to be president for ‘all Americans’

As a result, they are running neck and neck in opinion polls. That should be a worry to both. The White House is there to be won, but how? Clinton revealed her strategy in her acceptance speech. She made no attempt to directly address her image as dishonest and calculating, typified by a perception of a lack of frankness over the use of a private email server when secretary of state. She seemed to be conceding that after decades in public life, the personal trust of the electorate had eluded her. Instead she asked voters to have faith and trust in her capacity for leadership, honed by decades of preparation including political experience as a US senator, and international experience as Obama’s secretary of state.

This election is shaping up to be a battle for the hearts and minds of voters uncertain about their security and economic future. Trump’s hawkishness has touched a nerve with many who feel Washington has failed them. Clinton has offered the idealistic alternative of an inclusiveness of all races and creeds to unite the country against terrorism, economic worries and gun violence. This is a less hawkish Clinton than the one who in the past has opposed gay marriage and supported free trade and the rights of gun owners. Her change of ground on free trade bears watching. Short of some policy substance from Trump, voters have the choice between trusting the Democrat candidate’s song, if not the singer, or taking a leap into the unknown with Trump.