The Rise of the Anti-Establishment

We can characterise the US presidential election of 2016 in a variety of ways.  For many the election has been characterised by a woman standing for the first time in US presidential history, who also happens to be a former First Lady. For many supporters of alternative candidates, the election has been strongly characterised by hacked emails and corruption claims. Indeed, this election has proven unique in a number of ways, however the most significant characterisation of this election is surely the establishment verses the anti-establishment.

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We shouldn’t be surprised. There have been visible challenges to the establishment across the globe, most explicit in Britain’s exit from the European Union and the wave of Euroscepticism sweeping across other European nations too. The virtually unelected elite seeking to expand their governance in Brussels were finally held to account for their contempt for democracy on 23rd June. Moreover, the election of Jeremy Corbyn not once, but twice in the space of one year to lead the Labour Party echoes the same anti-establishment sentiment. While there’s no doubt Jeremy Corbyn would vehemently deny that his and Trump’s supporters have anything in common, there is an element of shared disillusionment with the ruling class and excitement in voting for the political underdog which has driven both elections.

The USA, however, has been governed by a virtually unelected elite for longer than Britain or Europe. A disproportionate delegate system and the role of money in presidential elections has led to a backlash against the mechanism whereby two families have produced nearly four of the last six presidents. This backlash is personified and utilised by Donald Trump in his scathing words against the Republican establishment and in his complete disregard for political correctness.

Hillary Clinton on the other hand, embodies the establishment. With a husband who has already occupied the White House, she is no stranger to powerful Washington circles. During the candidate selection process one hacker exposed senior officials within the Democrat party for ensuring Bernie Sanders would lose his primaries, with his Jewish faith claimed to be a particular obstacle to election. Such scandals led to the resignation of party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the eve of the party’s presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia in July, alongside CEO Amy Dacey, and communications director Luis Miranda. The hacker commented himself that “U.S. presidential elections are becoming a farce, a big political performance where the voters are far from playing the leading role”; a sentiment many Americans would agree with.

While Clinton’s perseverance in domestic as well as political arenas is admirable, and there is much to respect in a good amount of her policies, Americans face a difficult decision this November. Trump is the most manipulative, arrogant and offensive candidate to stand for presidency, but he is a reactionary product of the kind of politics put forward by Clinton.