Presidential Fever & Dizzying Polls: The Unpredictable Nature of Politics
Wtih the 8th November 2016 fast-approaching, the fervour surrounding the US presidential race has reached feverish levels.
It's not long before American voters will head to polling stations to make a choice - Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? - and, quite frankly, we’ve grown dizzy trying to predict who will win, with fluctuating polls and leaked controversies apparent on both sides during the build-up. Now that the US election is just around the corner, following ruthless debating and campaigning, do we have any inkling at all about which way the political pendulum will swing?
Speculations and theories are certainly rife, so we looked to some of our political speakers to illuminate the murkiness with their expert analyses.
“This is a contest between the two least popular mainstream candidates in US history,” comments Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times and keynote speaker. “One of whom is arguably the best prepared ever to be president, and the other the least prepared.”
Americans are preparing to vote on 8th November 2016
Whatever your views about their policies, it’s true that the candidates could not be more different.
On one side, we have Clinton, the Democratic candidate and an individual who supports a “tax system that rewards work” (Hillary Clinton - first debate), a universal healthcare system for Americans, abortion rights for women, and stronger gun control laws. She may lack a certain je-ne-sais-quoi when it comes to rousing others with her speech-making abilities, but on the other side... we have Trump.
Adamant that investment should be prioritised for companies in order to prevent them from leaving to “Mexico or some other country” (Donald Trump - first debate), the Republican nominee's words have been controversial – but certainly stirring up emotions in his audience. (Check out our MD Nick Gold's analysis of the candidates' oratory styles in The Huffington Post.)
One would think that such a sharp dichotomy would make it possible to predict the voting outcome.
“Anyone who has been paying any attention to politics anywhere in the Western world over the last couple of years needs their head testing if they make confident predictions, but, like a stopped clock, conventional wisdom will be right twice a year, and Hillary Clinton ought to win at a canter", says Tim.
Clinton 'ought to win' but politics can be unpredictable
Just as those of the non-Trump persuasion breathe a sigh of relief, Tim brings them back to earth with a reminder about the unpredictable nature of politics:
“Then again, Ed Miliband should have won the general election, Andy Burnham the Labour leadership, and Remain the EU referendum. The element of caution comes because people who had not voted before, or for decades, made the difference in the referendum, and they are just as difficult for US pollsters to find as they were here. They will help Trump.”
He continues: “It is a measure of the times that we can’t say for certain that the best prepared will win. That’s because modern elections have shown that an insurgency can beat the establishment. Trump is the ultimate insurgent and Clinton the acme insider. If Clinton does win, the interesting thing will be how quickly she reaches out to the Republican establishment, who are just as keen to slay Trumpism as she is.”
Does that mean that the race between Trump vs. Clinton is really a battle between insurgency and the establishment? Is there something to be said for Trump's tactics by stepping into the role of 'the controversial one', perhaps on par with some of the leaders of the Leave campaign that resulted in Brexit?
Is being 'the ultimate insurgent' a strong tactic?
“Trump, like Nigel Farage and Arron Banks during the referendum, has actually run a clever campaign, bamboozling the political establishment by not playing by the rules, getting billions in free advertising by being deliberately outrageous – until the sexual assault allegations put him on the back foot.”
Meanwhile, “Clinton was dragged to the left by her inability to beat Bernie Sanders quickly in the primary but her debate performances showed she understands her weak points. Hillary was controlled, good humoured and did not rise to Trump’s bait.”
Recently, Trump has made claims that the whole election is "rigged against him". In the New York Times, another of our speakers, Garry Kasparov, commented: “Nobody in the American political establishment is happy about Mr. Trump’s wild-eyed accusations of voter fraud and media conspiracies because they understand that it undermines their own credibility as leaders in a democracy."
Clinton's main danger is if people refrain from voting
The result of the presidential election will no doubt have significant implications for American politics, but why should the rest of the world care? If we step back for a second from the minutiae of the elections to observe the US presidency for what it is, we gain a heightened awareness of the position's global impact and the extent to which its bearer's policies matter.
“When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold, as they say,” remarks Tim Shipman.
He continues: “Either candidate is likely to make America more protectionist economically, which will have an impact on post-Brexit Britain. We won’t be at the quack of the queue for a free trade deal – there isn’t likely to be a queue at all. The main difference for us will be on foreign policy, where Clinton is likely to be a good deal more hawkish than Obama and Trump a good deal more erratic. Either could be an uncomfortable experience for Theresa May.”
Other countries are also watching with keen interest, with Russia particularly highlighted during the debates.
According to Garry, again in the New York Times: “Social media is flooded by Kremlin-funded trolls ranting about the illegitimacy of the American election process and warning of the potential for violence. To have a major party nominee in America repeating this propaganda is beyond Mr. Putin’s wildest dreams. Mr. Trump even echoes Mr. Putin’s authoritarian rationales, presenting himself as the only one who can rescue America.”
All eyes on the USA. 'When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold'
No matter who wins, this major political decision will have a global impact and inspire a fresh focus on foreign policy. The real question is whether the renewed attention will be 'hawkish' or 'erratic', since President Barack Obama, unable to run for a third term, has wrapped up his time in the top spot to make way for one of two very different people.
We cannot be certain who will win, given how unpredictable politics has been this year. We do know, however, that changes are ahead either way -- and that means everyone, including non-Americans, will be waiting with anticipation as results are revealed on the 9th.
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