A wild U.S. campaignThe two weeks of U.S. party conventions officially declaring presidential nominees Donald Trump from the Republicans and Hillary Clinton from the Democrats was a pitiful portrait of U.S. politics. The “Never Trump” or “Dump Trump” movements failed after the Republican frontrunner refused to give up.
Trump mocked his Democratic rival and said she should be sent to prison. Hackers broke into emails of the Democratic National Committee and revealed that party leaders plotted against the insurgent candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders in favor of Clinton during the primaries.
The hacking campaign was traced to Russian intelligence agencies, and President Barack Obama ordered an investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election. Trump outright asked Moscow to meddle more in the U.S. presidential election. U.S. politics have never been so low, infantile, and messy except during the Watergate scandal.
A denial of defeat, controversies over plotting and unfairness, and outside interference to help the ruling party in an election have become obsolete even in Korean politics. U.S. politics have been marred and swept up by a fervor of irrationality, extremity and hostility. Trump touts “Americanism, not Globalism” while Clinton champions “Stronger Together” to differentiate herself from the extreme slogans of the Republicans.
Both have turned the United States narrow-minded and self-centered. Yet they claim they are out to make America great and stronger. It sounds like the pitiful mantra of a waning giant before his fall. Clinton has turned protectionist on the economic and trade fronts to compete against the even more extreme Trump. He wants to shake U.S. obligations, ties and alliances on the security front, in foreign policy, and in international trade.
Trump threatens a grand “Amerexit” by pulling out of NATO, the Word Trade Organization, renegotiating or ripping up the North American Free Trade agreement and the free trade agreement with Korea. On both security and economic affairs, he claims he won’t do any business if it hurts U.S. interests. The billionaire political novice’s mercantile perspective on a global order that has evolved over 70 years has made America a small whiner. The country looks as foolish as an ostrich sticking its head in the sand to think it is safe. First it was Britain that decided to leave the European Union. But Trump wants to pull the U.S. out of the global community altogether.
In his acceptance speech, Trump vowed to place American people first. “I have visited the laid-off factory workers, and the communities crushed by our horrible and unfair trade deals. These are the forgotten men and women of our country. And they are forgotten, but they’re not gonna be forgotten long. People who work hard but no longer have voice. I am your voice,” he told a roaring crowd.
The Republican nominee won the hearts of the working class that traditionally backed the Democrats. It was a clever move to undermine the strength of his opponent. In a presidential race, the winning move is to attack and steal the opponent’s traditional strength. Hillary Clinton’s convention, in comparison ,looked mediocre and unmoving. Dislike for Trump is easing while Hillary Clinton is losing popularity.
Everyone is watching the 1 percent that has yet to make up their minds. The two contenders will face a showdown like in the Old West.
Despite her unrivaled credentials and staunch support from former presidents as well as ex-rival Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton lacks appeal to American voters. Harshness can make a person more humane and Americans appear to be drawn by Trump’s snarlingly unpretentious character.
Korea has become paranoid about retaliation from Beijing over the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system. But we should be more fearful of the potential changes in Washington. Trump has warned of pulling out American troops and nixing the traditional security alliance unless Seoul pays the full cost of the American forces in Korea and joins the U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense system.
Under the mutual defense treaty signed between the two nations after the Korean War in 1953, the agreement can come to an end a year after one of the parties proclaims it. The alliance of more than half a century could abruptly end. Unfortunately, this is no wild fantasy. President Park Geun-hye and the next presidential candidates must have a contingency plan at hand.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 29, Page 34
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.