Rivers on the American Presidential election: The chief contenders are anything but conventional.

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 9th, 2016


There is nothing conventional in the race for the US White House this year. The chief contenders are anything but conventional.

One is exceptionally qualified, and the other not at all, so the choice should be easy. But none of that seems to matter to an electorate tired of the ordinary and mundane and looking for something new, fresh and exciting.

Not unlike the bi-polar school teacher in the 1977 movie version of the book “Looking for Mr. Goodbar”, there is a new fascination with someone who isn’t part of one’s conventional experience – a new exciting high to be achieved by toying with the prospect of danger – the fantasy and the reality. Which brings us to Donald Trump, a man who has shown no comprehension of the job before him, though if nothing else he is exciting.

hillary-clinton_3Hilary ClintonAs outgoing president Obama made emphatic, there is no better qualified candidate than Hillary Clinton. And if qualification and experience were all that mattered there would be no contest, and the tired but somewhat boring and compromised Hillary would be the shoo-in victor on election day. After all, she is running against a man with a dubious record in his business ventures and one who has never even run for public office – let alone the highest office in the land, in all his seventy years.

But America is a divided people, red and blue states that rarely change their colour, beset with long suffering prejudices on all sides. Despite electing a black president two terms in a row, America is still conflicted with racism. It is a violent place with more guns per capita and greater incarceration than any other.

Despite having the most super rich, the US is only 44th in health care efficiency, 24th in literacy, 14th in education, and arguably has the second highest level of social ignorance among developed nations. Surprisingly at least one survey tags the USA at 46th in press freedom.

And if Trump’s plan to make America great again included dealing with those issues – every thinking American should consider voting for him. But it doesn’t. There is nothing of such to be seen in all his diatribe on America First and making it great again, nothing about introducing gun control, promoting economic and social justice, and furthering education and awareness. Hillary’s plan comes closer to those goals, in fact.

Trump fist upTrump smirk July 24-16Donald Trump cleaned-up in the Republican nomination race by simply being himself. His victory was more of a fluke than a deliberate strategy. He just plumbed for and echoed the deepest, darkest recesses of the worst of America, and spewed racism, homophobia and insults as no American politician had done before. The more outlandish his comments, the more he gained notoriety and support among disciples who mistook his words of prejudice for plain-speaking. He was/is different and exciting. But what makes him dangerous is his lack of detail – what he actually would do.

Once he scored the candidacy of his party one would have expected a whole new playbook, more befitting of a presidential candidate in the big arena. But Trump doesn’t have one. He has nothing to offer but his swagger, a revisionist unfunny Roger Dangerfield for our times. Whether that will continue to propel him is the big question. Hillary has not been able to cripple the significant public support he continues to garner. And so, like other irrational outcomes of public will, such as Rob Ford’s election and Brexit, Trump should not be discounted.

An interesting aspect of this race is the Russian card. Putin has confessed admiration for Trump and vice-versa. Trump’s campaign manager is pro-Putin, having advised the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian leader, and the Donald’s musing about NATO and Crimea should be unsettling to an America once ready to nuke the Russkies to smithereens, and likewise. But Trump is the inveterate teflon-man and even flirting with Putin has not bothered his core followers, including many veterans and those raised during the cold war.

As the election gets nearer and Trump continues to poll well, Americans will need to ask themselves some hard questions. The first being how badly do they want the kind of change Trump is promising – isolation and a radical shifting of alliances. Do they really want to give him a carte blanche to reverse the past half century of American foreign policy?

Going to bed with Putin might be an exciting idea.

But where will this dangerous fantasy lead? Is Putin really Mr. Goodbar?

Editor’s note:

The conventions are over and the general election has officially begun. In the primaries, Bernie Sanders received 1,846 pledged delegates, 46% of the total. Hillary Clinton received 2,205 pledged delegates, 54%. She received 602 superdelegates. Sanders received 48 superdelegates.

The Democratic party, based on these numbers, is not as united as they would have us believe.  These are very dangerous times for the United States.  Rivers will write next on what he thinks Canada can and should do to protect its interests.


Ray Rivers is an economist and author who writes weekly on federal and provincial issues, applying his 25 years of involvement with federal and provincial ministries.  Rivers’ involvement in city matters led to his appointment as founding chair of Burlington’s Sustainable Development Committee.  He was also a candidate in the 1995 provincial election

Background links:

Mr. Goodbar –  Clinton Qualified 

Putin-Trump Axis

America’s Global Ranking –

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5 comments to Rivers on the American Presidential election: The chief contenders are anything but conventional.

  • Gary

    One should ask oneself why Putin favours Trump. What does Russia gain by a Trump presidency? A very weak America comes to mind.

  • Mr Rivers speaks eloquently to a number of issues here, but the undercurrent as yet unadmitted and unexamined is the simmering tribalism in “American” society. For an insightful treatment of this phenomenon read Sebastian Junger’s book, TRIBE.

    I agree that each candidate has problems and Trump is obviously as Mr Rivers describes. But some Americans seem to be awakening to the reality that candidates are only hand puppets waved for our approval by the unseen and unelected cadres that control and manipulate both the show and the audience.

    I very much appreciate this piece because Americans have long become too insular in their sensitivity to the world ramifications of American mistakes. I’ve written a corollary piece on this, Cui Bono?, on my blog at mpardidotcom.com

  • Dale Oliver

    Ray: there is already a ton of commentary and opinions on the US politics. How about your comments and opinions on the disastrous job your liberals are doing in Ontario; and your comments on “little Pierre” not being far behind the performance of his buddy, Wynne

  • Steve

    Great article. Sharing with my American friends.

  • Cynthia

    I don’t understand why people go on about Hilary Clinton being so qualified/experienced Let’s see – as First Lady, her health care plan was a total bust. She had a few years as a Senator- can anyone list her accomplishments? I remember her cowardly vote for the disastrous Iraq war, not much else. As Secretary of State, hmm, the Midddle East is as big a mess today as at almost anytime in history, no points for HRC there. Also when SOS, she ignored advice not to set up a private server and recently lied about it and her emails -that alone should disqualify her from the presidency. When Bill was President, she supported him in bank deregulation (hmm, 2007/8 crisis, anyone remember that?) and she supported legislation that has made US prison system the crowded nightmare that it has become today. The Clinton Foundation gets money from all kinds of questionable sources, banks, foreign countries – some donated while she was Secretarty of State – another disqualifier IMO. She gained the advantage in the democratic primaries from a biased DNC and rigged process. If you dig a little and read more than just the main stream media, so scared of Trump that they ignore HRC’s flaws, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that HRC should not be President. So what is the alternative? Do I like Trump? Of course not. Here is one place where I agree with you, Ray, people support Trump simply because they think he speaks his mind. There is so little trust in politicians today, Trump’s nonsense comes across like breath of fresh air to people who are finally waking up to how bad things have become for many in the USA. It is a very sad state of affairs and I truly don’t know what I’d do were I American – neither candidate is a good choice.