Shall We Sell The President?

This week, the original plan of mine was to write about the all-important local body elections in Chennai. But it has been put on hold by the Madras High Court. No worries, I still have the option to focus on another election that looks actually thara local: The one between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Right off the bat, it should be said that the run up to the US Presidential poll has been great fun, if you are meaning it in the sense you are never sure what new low will be plumbed by the two candidates and what fresh scandal is round the corner. By last count, the number of women who have accused Trump of rape or sexual assault is: 11. Imagine what would be the scene if his presidential contest had somehow been against Bill Clinton? News coverage, for the first time, would have needed adult certification. If he ever ends up as the President, Trump’s entire reign should be as sensational and sleazy as, well, the O J Simpson case.

Hillary’s problems, on the hand, are relatively tame. She has been accused of using a private email server for her official communication purposes. It is a scandal that they are classifying this as a scandal. I mean this is a small transgression of the type that American leaders get away with by going on live television and uttering that fit-all phrase: “I accept it is an error in judgement on my part”, and then bite the lower lip, pause for a few dramatic seconds as if to suppress the incipient tears in the eyes, and then go on to add: “I made the decision in good faith. But it turned to be wrong. But it is a honest mistake”. When American people hear the phrase ‘honest mistake’ (whatever that means), they thaw and become ready to forgive even if one is confessing to Pearl Harbour bombing.

Anyway, on the evidence of pre-poll surveys, it is said that Hillary is set for a massive victory. But going by the three televised debates between the two, one would say that it is Trump who kept his nerve, remained totally cool and never once took out a gun and threatened to spray bullets on Hillary, though this should not lull her into complacency that, should he become the President, he wouldn’t order unilateral nuclear strikes specifically on her. As of now, Trump has merely said that she is a ‘nasty woman’. But in an exchange basically involving two New Yorkers that would amount to extreme civility.

This Presidential poll campaign, by all reckoning, seems to be the longest running one — on for about 300 months is the conservative estimate. By contrast, Barack Obama’s campaign probably lasted for three-and-a-half days, and his rival, whoever he was, needed to have turned up as a cross-dressing comedian to be just noticed. But all things considered — and you can never rule this out in a country like the USA — the Presidential poll campaign seems like a well-devised elaborate TV reality show (Corny Title: Shall We Sell the President?)

I am not kidding. Look at the debate series in particular. I am sure it is there only because it makes for good television. I mean people had seen George Bush (II) in a debate and still voted for him (One of his actual quotes: “There is madmen in the world, and there are terror”.) So don’t try to tell me that debates help people understand better the candidates. Debates only help people understand as to who looks better on TV.

But, of course, US polls have also witnessed something that is beyond the pale of any outlandish TV reality show, and that is including even Bigg Boss. I am doubtless referring to the Florida fiasco in 2000. For those who don’t know what happened then, let me recap it: The  result of the 2000 US presidential poll, which saw George Bush (that man again) and Al Gore pitted against each other, had to be withheld for over a month because down there in Florida they had miraculously lost the ability to count the ballots.

Yes, seriously that is what happened. Plenty of drama ensued and the whole matter was taken to the US Supreme Court, which, after going through the entire process in full detail, did the sensible thing of seceding Florida to Pakistan, because it is where such a thing actually belongs. Well, actually, after a month, Bush was declared the winner, probably because they couldn’t think of anyone else to match this incredible farce.

But the arrival of Trump has made many to actually look wistfully at the Bush era. And that takes some doing. The last few days leading to the Presidential election are only going to get more exciting and interesting, by which we mean more skeletons may tumble out (“Wisconsin woman alleges Trump groped a foetus“.) But all things will settle down once the votes are cast. And we only hope that down there in Florida they have not again forgotten how to count the ballots.