With less than two months to go before the next US President gets elected, the trajectory seems to be shifting to a new direction much to the surprise, if not shock, of the observers. Many things happening over the coming polls but most of these do not lend a clear picture. However, one interesting, and indeed curious picture that emerged last week may prove decisive in determining the lot of the Democrat and Republican rivals. A survey last week suggests that 56 per cent of the Americans do not 'trust' Hillary Clinton, while 62 per cent of them do not 'like' Donald Trump.
Now, which one weighs heavier - mistrust or dislike, to toss either of them out of the ring? Most people will say mistrust. Dislike, on the other hand, can be redeemed if there's an element of trust. One may dislike a person, yet trust him or her. The discourse is on, and as things stand now Democrat nominee Hillary is apparently likely to face a tough time mending the damage caused largely by her own folly of not heeding sufficient attention following the bubbles of what is now well established as 'email scandal'. Clearly, ever since the issue emerged several months ago, she was in no mood to consider it threatening enough and responded rather casually to charges of irresponsibility as the Secretary of State. The FBI investigation report, part of which has been released, says she didn't hand over more than 17,000 emails. The report further adds that she used as many as 13 devices (Blackberry cell phones) about which she was cautioned by her staff in the oval office more than once saying these were not secure enough. She didn't bother. Worst, as the report goes on, she has lost eleven of those devices. Hillary faced eleven hours of interrogation by the FBI at different times, and all she had to say repeatedly when quizzed about the contents of those lost emails was that she didn't remember what those were about. No doubt, Americans consider this a serious matter for someone on whom they would repose their trust.
There is more to the current wave of campaigning. It is clearly evident that supporters of Donald Trump in the Republican party (not all Republicans) are more enthusiastic than ever was the case with any Presidential candidate in recent decades. The Democrat supporters, assuming things to be well in their grip given the clownish and often barbaric demeanour of the rival candidate, seem less than enthusiastic to go all out like campaigners of their rival camp. This enthusiasm factor - high presence or lack of it - is also believed to be crucial this time now, and many believe this has turned things more fluid as the days are nearing close.
At a meeting in the University of Iowa with the writers of the International Writing Programme in which this scribe is also included, former Republican Congressman Jim Leach made no bones about how he feels about the upcoming polls. A scholar of high reknown and currently associated with the University of Iowa, Mr Leach made some important observations. Himself, a Republican, he commented that Trump is a 'know-nothing candidate' Americans have ever seen but it's his stance, namely the loud manifesto, that has come his way favourably, so far -- not so much because of its merit but largely because of the moderate campaigning mood of the Democrats who have been taking things for granted. He mentioned that over the past months Democrats have been losing support of the working class and religious groups including the catholic fundamentalists, while the Republicans have been losing young, educated Americans - a sad thing to happen to both parties.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is trying as best as he can to mend the damages he caused. He is now busy wooing the African-American voters. Late last week, he told a Detroit church congregation that the African-Americans are 'the greatest gift to our nation.' Trump made his appeal at the Great Faith International Ministries church, after weeks of trying to appeal to black voters. Trump vowed, if elected, he would bring jobs back to many impoverished black neighbourhoods, and provide a better education for their children. "I mean it from the heart", he said, amid protests of black people outside the venue chanting: 'No hate in the White House'.
No doubt, Trump and his campaigners will do all they can in the days ahead to work on the 'dislike' factor. It remains to be seen how Hillary mends the alleged 'mistrust' factor.
The writer is currently on a Writer's Residency programme at the University of Iowa, USA.