Bill Carmichael: What do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump say about the state of global politics?

President Barack Obama hugs Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after addressing the delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
President Barack Obama hugs Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton after addressing the delegates during the third day session of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
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POLITICS around the globe has become decidedly odd in recent months and perhaps nowhere more so at the moment than in the United States.

Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee in the presidential election later this year and, because she up against Republican Donald Trump who is widely seen as unelectable, she should be hot favourite to become the next President.

If this happens, the US will follow the election of its first black president with the election of its first female one – something you could argue is long overdue, coming as it does more than 35 years after Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the UK.

Although Clinton’s triumph can be seen as something of a dynastic coronation – her husband Bill, of course, held the office in the 1990s – you would still expect the self-described “progressive” movement to cheer this moment of gender equality from the rafters.

After all, Clinton herself described her nomination as “the biggest crack in the glass ceiling yet”.

But not a bit of it. In fact at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week every time Hillary Clinton’s name has been mentioned a substantial section of the crowd – young women especially prominent – have erupted in boos and jeers.

Some party members have even demonstrated outside the convention centre carrying placards emblazoned with slogans such as “Hillary for prison 2016” and “#NeverHillary”.

Let’s just pause for a moment to absorb how weird this is – progressive Democrats not only heckle any mention of the name of their own candidate, they also hate her so virulently that they want her sent to jail!

How did this happen? The clue lies in the anti-establishment insurgency that has swept the Western world, from the Brexit vote in the UK to the rise of non-mainstream political parties in Europe, such as the Five Star movement in Italy and the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany.

In the US this has taken the form not only of Donald Trump’s volatile populism amongst Republicans, but also in the rise of a left wing Democratic candidate – something of a novelty in the US – by the name of Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is a sort of Jeremy Corbyn-like figure – genial, middle aged and white – who has managed to energise younger, radical voters who have become disenchanted with the corporatist politics of the mainstream parties.

The unexpected surge in support for Sanders for the Democratic nomination seriously rattled the party’s establishment, which backed Clinton, and they have used every dirty trick in the book to undermine and discredit Sanders.

It has worked – for now. Clinton will be the nominee, but the battle between Democrats has been so ugly and divisive that some of the party’s natural supporters will never forgive Clinton. That is why the party has struggled to display a strong feeling of unity this week.

It may be that the money and power at the command of the Democratic party will now swing behind Clinton and propel her to the White House.

But perhaps it isn’t quite the foregone conclusion that many expected. Conventional wisdom has it that against such an unsuitable candidate as Trump, Clinton should be streets ahead. But she is not. Several opinion polls this week actually gave Trump the lead.

And let us not forget that only last month here in the UK conventional wisdom told us that Remain would win at a canter in the EU referendum.

Clinton is disliked, and even hated, by both left and right, and continues to be dogged by scandals, such as her use of an unsecure private email server to send classified material during her tenure as Secretary of State.

Her success in November’s election depends on her ability to carve out enough support from the middle ground to win a majority, although tacking to the centre will be sure to further infuriate the party’s left wing.

Or will this strange, worldwide, anti-establishment impulse – that nobody predicted or can adequately explain – hand victory to the insurgent Donald Trump?

It is going to be a fascinating few months watching politics in America.

And the fact that Trump – a middle aged, white billionaire – is seen as the anti-establishment candidate just goes to demonstrate how odd politics has become.