People talk as if Clinton and Trump are equally bad. But he is far worse

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, in October. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speak during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, in October. (AP Photo/John Locher)

This weekend I am in America, the country in which I was born.

The first presidential election that I followed closely was 1988, when I was 16 and spent the summer living with my cousins near Boston and working at McDonalds.

My aunt was a committed liberal Democrat until she died. In 1988 I too was firmly on the left politically, and supported Jesse Jackson’s bid for the White House.

We visited a neighbourhood called Brookline to try to see Jackson who was having dinner with the then nearly anointed Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

Gradually over the years my politics drifted rightward. My aunt’s never did, but we enjoyed talking politics until she died in 2014. I suspect she was dismayed by the conservative views that I had come to hold, and I tended to play them down when we talked.

Being on the political right in Britain is not the same as being on the American right. In 2008, I wrote a story for the Daily Telegraph, and found that almost a third of Tory MPs supported Obama’s bid for the presidency, which was high in a party that traditionally has had warm relations with the Republican Party in the US. It was all the more striking given that Obama was up against a candidate as moderate as John McCain.

My own politics now chimes closest to that (diminished) liberal wing of the Republicans. Western societies are great civilisations that need to be conserved, albeit in a sensible way.

But without a moment’s hesitation I have supported Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency from the moment it became clear that Donald Trump was going to win the Republican nomination.

It is particularly frustrating to hear moderate-minded people talk about Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton as if they are equally bad candidates.

There is no comparison.

She is in a different orbit to Mr Trump, and vastly more suited to be Commander In Chief of a great nation.

Mrs Clinton is clearly the moderate conservative candidate in this race, even though she still believes in many of the liberal orthodoxies that I have come to deplore.

On foreign affairs, for example, she is a stable and highly experienced pair of hands. In the Senate, she was a pragmatic deal maker.

But I do not make the case for Hillary Clinton, rather the case against Donald Trump.

It ought not to be necessary to make it, yet it is, given the prevalence of people who should know better but refer to two bad candidates.

From the first Republican debate his character was clear, yet it has been re-enforced again and again.

Trump is vicious about anyone who challenges him in a way that a sharp-tongued teenager might be towards a playground rival.

No-one of such character has got near 10 Downing Street or the White House since World War II, even though many incumbents have been very flawed humans. This suggests voters generally have a good sixth sense as to the personality of leading politicians.

Mr Trump is neither left nor right. He seems devoid of ideology, and appears pre-occupied with his business empire and acquisitions and his boasts.

Now aware of the need to keep US conservatives on board, he adopts clumsy conservative stances, often in their purest and most unpleasant form, which shows cynicism and ignorance.

It is astonishing that most evangelical Christians still back this man (many don’t). He is a living repudiation of almost everything they believe.

It is a relief to read that Mormons, however, have spurned Trump and now he might lose Utah, once the most Republican state of all. I once hoped he would lose all 50 states and would not even get a majority of the white vote (white voters are much more Republican than average). Now he might get a large enough percentage backing among the white population to win the country as a whole (he needs far above 50% of the white vote to counter his understandably low support among racial minorities).

There is much talk about the culpability of the so-called elites for the rise of Trump.

People know, for example, that there is a threat to the West from Islamic extremism that does not have a Hindu/Afro-Carribbean/etc equivalent. Yet they feel unable to express this (consider the trial of Pastor McConnell after a complaint from a Muslim spokesman who praised the ‘peace’ in Mosul brought about by Isis beasts ) .

Now in the US a backlash has led to support for a man who has come up with a foolish general entry ban ‘solution’ to Islamic extremism.

The elites (who can be defined widely to include much of the professional class) have helped make society unequal in ways that blue collar workers are coming to resent on both sides of the Atlantic.

For all Trump’s shortcomings, the calls to ban him from Britain were idiotic, as if he was as bad as hate preachers.

As president we will have to deal with him.

Let us hope he does not become so.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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