Mind the Gap

Here’s why Donald Trump could still win on November 8

Undecided voters will likely swing the US Presidential election, in what’s sure to rank as the dirtiest campaign showdown in American history

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 2016, 5:13pm
UPDATED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 10:26am

Woody Allen once joked about two Jewish women talking about pornography. One said: “I hate pornography.” The other replied: “Yes, and the lighting is so bad, too.”

On the surface, the 2016 US presidential election seems to be living out this joke. I wrote that when Donald Trump revealed his candidacy, he could become the accidental president. And so far, he is still on that path after evicting the Republican Party establishment and its chosen candidates.

With 29 days left until election day, the presidential race is still too close to call. And the revelations become dirtier and more salacious as each day rolls on in what is the dirtiest election campaign in history. But beyond the reality-show-survivor cutthroat tactics lie important trends being reflected around the world.

The choices still couldn’t be more stark. Hillary Clinton is without doubt the most qualified presidential candidate ever, but someone without the courage of her convictions – a professional politician. Discussing middle-class economic anxieties, Clinton told a crowd at a Goldman Sachs-sponsored speech that she was now “kind of far removed because [of] the life I’ve lived and the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy, but I haven’t forgotten it”.

Trump is brazen and unedited. His policy pronouncements are often contradictory; they flow from a narcissistic media manipulator with no clear underlying ideology. He is exactly how you would imagine an opportunistic, aggressive and egotistic entrepreneur to behave in a political arena.

Never before has mainstream media been so unreservedly and completely biased against one presidential candidate, which explains why Trump could still win. Polls have proven to be inaccurate with two highly unpopular candidates, so undecided voters will swing the election. Voters could very well revolt against the unrelenting stream of media vitriol.

The turbulent campaign has shown that American democracy is finally confronting the rise of inequality and the economic stagnation experienced by most of the population.

Populism is the label that political elites attach to policies that they don’t like, which are supported by ordinary citizens. There is, of course, no reason why democratic voters should always choose wisely, particularly in an age when globalisation makes policy choices so complex. But elites don’t always choose correctly either, and their dismissal of the popular choice often masks the self-interested nature of their own positions.

Voters in a democracy can unexpectedly vote for Brexit, Colombians can reject the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia deal and six localists can be elected into Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. All this can happen despite sophisticated polling and lobbying by the establishment.

Never before has mainstream media been so unreservedly and completely biased against one presidential candidate, which explains why Trump could still win

Don’t forget that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is himself an accidental leader as he was never expected to defeat Henry Tang Ying-yen. Whether or not you like him, he is the only person trying to alleviate the city’s property problem. It is unlikely that an establishment-backed, pro-property developer candidate who replaces him will continue to expand public housing with equal ardour. In Hong Kong and the United States, there are huge swathes of people who feel left behind; people on ordinary incomes have not experienced the benefits of economic growth, especially after the financial crisis.

Do not underestimate the electorate’s ability to overturn the establishment’s best-laid plans and spring their version of a brutal practical joke on a sick political system.

Peter Guy is a financial writer and former international banker