The current presidential campaign in the United States is the dirtiest ever in the history of that country. It has gone beyond a mere smear war between the contenders to stoop as low as throwing mud at each other, according to Russian experts polled by TASS.
All this speaks about a profound crisis in the election system which is thought to be democratic. Experts are not inclined to believe public opinion polls as, they think, respondents do not always say what they really think. So, it is next to impossible to make any reliable forecasts.
In the meantime, the presidential campaign is bringing about more and more shocking surprises. Thus, Republican candidate Donald Trump has accused his rival’s supporters of firebombing his party’s office in North Carolina. “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning,” Trump wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday. The act of vandalism, according to the police, was committed overnight from Saturday to Sunday, or 25 days ahead of the presidential elections.
According to a Washington Post and ABC News latest poll made public on Sunday, the Democrat nominee, Hillary Clinton, is slightly ahead of her Republican rival, with likely voters 47 to 43. The astonishing findings were that the Americans dislike both Clinton and Trump. Thus, only 42% of respondents spoke well about Clinton whereas 56% said they dislike her. The vote layout is still worse for Trump, with 37 to 62%
“The voters are in a situation when they have to choose the lesser of two evils,” Kira Sazonova, an associate professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration under the President of the Russian Federation, or RANEPA, said. “Notably, such a situation is typical not only for rank and file voters but also party elites, both in the Republican and Democratic parties.”
“The current campaign is unusual indeed,” said Sergei Mikhailov, a senior research fellow at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, a thinktank. “To begin with, both candidates have a maximal anti-rating. Why has it happened? Why have the party machines failed to find more acceptable figures? I think the Americans themselves have a vague idea why.”
The expert noted the following tendency: a candidate for U.S. president is less and less required to be a political leader but instead is to be acceptable for as many different population groups and minorities as possible.
“I cannot remember such a dirty campaign as the current one,” said Pavel Podlesnoi, the head of the Russia-U.S. Relations Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for the USA and Canadian Studies. “Dirt is being dug everywhere. A Republican office was firebombed. It is barbarism.”
The most peculiar thing about this campaign, in his words, is the Trump phenomenon. “He was nominated as a Republican candidate despite his party leaders’ opinion. His phenomenon demonstrates that a lot of people have grown tired of the establishment and traditional candidates. They want something new and Trump is seen as a personification of the new,” the expert said.
The current campaign looks like a comedy drama, Mikhailov said. “I think after these elections the Americans will have a clearer understanding of the gap between their vision of the world and the one imposed on them by the political elite,” he said.
“It is becoming ever more evident that the system is performing poorly in various senses and contexts: from vote counting, when is has turned out that the states that are of major importance can be counted on one hand’s fingers while the rest can be ignored, to the smear war when it is not a competition of political platforms but a war of dirty washing,” Mikhailov said.
The crisis of the election system has been looming large for a long time. “The key reason is a big political split in society when centrist forces come and go literally in no time. There are either extreme liberals or extreme conservatives. Collision of the extremities sparks off heated struggle on this backdrop,” he said.
The gender factor is not to be overlooked either, according to Sazonova.
“America’s first potential female president is confronting a man known for his sexist statements. It makes a spectacular show of the presidential race. Moreover, it ploughs up depth problems of American society, such as attitudes to feminism, gender equality and discrimination,” she said.
Another major factor that is to be reckoned with is the internet, Mikhailov said. “As back in the day television triggered revolutionary changes in political struggle, nowadays the internet is changing the political picture. Obviously, the emergence of such off-system candidates as Trump and Sanders can be attributed to the internet. The latter has lost but we know what the Democratic establishment did to trample him down,” he said.
The internet, in his words, is creating an alternative to the traditional mass media. “The traditional propaganda machinery – television and newspapers – has lost its monopoly and cannot easily push the establishment’s candidates who control television companies and the printed media. Voters can find alternative information in the internet. They are becoming more independent making it possible for off-system to become a strong political force,” the analyst noted.
More dirt can surface ahead of the voting, Mikhailov forecasted. “If Democrats feel unsecure, they can add some more. But I think they are already sure of their victory,” he said.
Public opinion polls, in his words, should not be trusted as “it often turns out that people don’t speak their minds.” “The most vivid example is Brexit: opinion polls showed that the majority was in favor of staying within the European Union. So, even if opinion polls demonstrate Clinton’s lead, something of the kind might take place with Trump,” he underscored.