Only a week remains before the world sees a new American President. But while the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gives its last gasps, many Americans are gasping too. An American Psychological Association survey has found this election has 52 per cent Americans feeling “significantly stressed”. This is unsurprising, given the deterioration in discourse this election has seen, dragging the great upbeat American poll celebration down.
Many Americans find dispiriting the accusations of misogyny and harassment of women against Donald Trump, already accused of purveying hate politics against Muslims, Mexicans and African-Americans for political gain. Hillary Clinton faces serious charges over using a non-authorised email server, possibly causing leakage of messages of national importance. These controversies highlight the seeming will of America’s elite to step over settled rules. Trump even appears to revel in such defiance; his refusal to clarify whether he dodged taxes over decades has left honest Americans aghast. This election has in fact blown holes into the foundations of the American system, while ripping into the roof of its grand philosophy, pointing out murky foundations of racism, glass ceilings of misogyny, a systemic glossing over graft.
In contrast, Barack Obama’s election uplifted, highlighting the best of America. Unlike Trump or Clinton, Obama was born with challenges, mixed-race, missing a father, having his religion, his very origin, demeaningly questioned. But Obama’s candidacy represented the best of the human will — the ability to fight with dignity through drawbacks, to nurture the best of one’s self, to aspire for others to be similarly empowered. With his charisma and humour, his blending of individuality with community, his understanding of history — and his forgiveness of it — Obama helped Americans feel good. Today, many Americans feel bad, an emotion which could extend to the current contest’s winner, who will receive a US deeply embittered over charges of corrupt politics, broken administration and partisan media. The winner of America’s nastiest election won’t just have to win the polls. He or she will have to win back the idea of America.