British See American Election as Most Consequential in Decades

British commentators write that in no other election has the idea of America been so obviously at stake.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton take part in a presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, September 26 (Hillary for America/Barbara Kinney)

The view from the United Kingdom is that today’s presidential election in the United States is the most consequential in over half a century. Edward Luce even argues in the Financial Times that the stakes are higher this year than they ever have been since the end of the Civil War.

That may be a little hyperbolic. Imagine Republican Wendell Willkie had won the 1940 election and kept the United States out of World War II.

But Alex Massie is probably right when he writes in The Spectator — Britain’s leading conservative weekly — that in no other contest has the idea of America been so obviously at stake.

In no other has the survival of that idea been so obviously threatened. Its loss would impoverish the United States and, in some strange but meaningful manner, the rest of us as well. It would feel like a kind of failure. The final closing or evaporation of the American idea.

White resentment

Massie recognizes Trump’s appeal to the losers of globalization, the left-behind and those who, deep down, never quite accepted the legitimacy the current, black president, Barack Obama. Trump, he writes, “leads a white man’s movement in an America that is no longer the exclusive preserve of white men.”

His election would do nothing for the voters he purports to represent, Massie argues, but it would be one in the eye for the coastal sneering classes. “And that has to be worth something.”

That’s also why, in every country, you can rely on the worst kinds of people to support Trump. He appeals to the kind of people who get their kicks from shooting other people’s cats and these people exist everywhere.

A Clinton win would be a victory for civility but would by no means restore the American body politic to full health.

Pessimistic

It is hard to pinpoint when and why Americans lost faith in their system, writes Luce. “Some point to rising inequality. Others blame the growth of government.”

Whatever the cause, it predates Clinton.

I am personally hopeful that she may be able to rehabilitate the art of politics, but Luce is pessimistic: little will unite the now-disparate Republican Party other than its opposition to Clinton, he argues, and two or four more years of gridlock and government-by-emergency are just what the country doesn’t need.

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