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Choosing the best of a bad lot isn’t good enough!

United States
Caricature of White House hopefuls

The spotlight is on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House. But the US seems uninspired by either candidate. DonkeyHotey under a Creative Commons Licence

Back in the US of A after 12 years for a family celebration. It feels slightly surreal, listening to the comments and opinions on the elections. Both Democrat and Republican supporters seem bemused, stunned, almost. As though this can’t really be happening to America.

I don’t personally know many Trump supporters. But conversations overheard on buses and street corners indicate many average Americans hate being ‘swamped by an alien culture’. A young mother – Caucasian, blonde hair, blue eyes, pushing a pram – says: ‘In our area, the Hispanics have become a majority, over 60 per cent now, and growing. So my kids will listen to more Spanish in school than English. How crazy is that?’

An almost identical opinion is voiced by a group of Indian-American professionals – black hair, black eyes, the opposite end of the ethnic spectrum! They have lived in the US for over 40 years now and remember what it felt like to be fresh off the boat. ‘I feel sorry for them,’ says Beena, a doctor (whose million-dollar house is cleaned once a week by two Latina women). ‘But how many immigrants can one country take?’

My brother-in-law Prem surprises me. An engineer from Trichur, Kerala, he moved to the US in 1972. He is the epitome of the American Dream: worked in a major company, gained experience and then started his own small business. He has worked his butt off for the last 40 years, leaving home at 6am every day. Now he lives in a two-million-dollar house in Boston’s poshest suburb, Weston. Rich Indian professionals – doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers – generally vote Republican.

So I was taken aback when Prem said he supported Democrat nomination candidate Bernie Sanders.

Why? I ask him. He replies, ‘I like that Sanders is frank and sincere. He has integrity. He is the only person thinking ahead. I like his far sight. If American kids continue to pay huge college fees, many will drop out. When I came to the US 40 years ago, the average person could live a decent life with just a high-school education. Now even a college degree doesn’t get you anywhere. We need better education to cope with the global competition.

‘I have a small business but I pay huge taxes. Transnational corporations pay nothing. CEOs walk away with old people’s pensions. Only Bernie Sanders cares about these things.’

A feisty, feminist American friend and lifelong Democrat supporter shocks me when she says she would vote for Sanders if he had a chance in hell of winning the Democratic nomination, but he doesn’t, so she will vote for Hillary Clinton. What else is there to do? Can’t let Trump take over. She is over 80 and has fought the good fight on the side of the poor and oppressed for over six decades.

Most people I met hate Trump, and are disillusioned with Hillary. They feel that Sanders is honest, committed, the only person who cares about the poor and brings fresh hope, especially to the young. But since he can’t possibly win, there is no alternative to Hillary.

Strangely, though Republicans have finally been forced to give Trump the go-ahead for the Republican nomination, they are a tired, dispirited lot. TV commentators ask, ‘Is it the end of the Grand Old Party?’ And a truly US expression, ‘bring out the barf bags’ appears at the end of articles and news analyses about the main candidates.

It’s a tragic comment on the state of the world. Because the same sort of scenario appears in several countries where people feel like voting ‘none of the above’ but end up choosing ‘the best of a bad lot’.  

Waiting for a miracle. Nothing else will do.

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