Editor’s Note

Editor’s Note November 2016

The election of the most powerful person in the world was always going to be dramatic, but the fascination and disgust generated by Donald Trump has led to democratic effects that few predicted.

The campaign has been a circus, and no one, it seems, can look away. The presidential debates were watched by more Americans than any in history. It’s estimated that US television network CNN will make an extra $100 million in advertising revenues this election year. Locally, the media monitoring firm Isentia recently found that Australian TV and radio were giving the US campaign double the coverage they gave to our own.

Does this indicate intense political engagement, or does the fascination derive from the sense that American democracy is combusting before our eyes?

“This political moment announces itself as the end of something massive, a bonfire of the narratives, where the agreed understandings of how democratic politics should work have disintegrated, replaced by something no one is in control of, not even the protagonists,” writes Richard Cooke this month. “No matter how bitter the partisan rift of the past, at least one side had optimism and the other had authority. Both qualities have gone.”

How did it come to this? On the ground, observing the tumult firsthand, Cooke the foreign observer describes a polity spinning off its historical axis.

“The two ‘sides’, Republican and Democrat, now occupy not just different positions, but different realities. There is, though, a rare point of concordance: if Trump is here, something has gone disastrously wrong for America.” And it won’t be set right by a mere election.

Also in this issue, Don Watson considers some of the ramifications of the likely Clinton victory. “As she will be the first woman to fill the position, this will be a great day for American democracy, as great as the day eight years ago when the first African-American was elected. There is nothing small in these developments. From now on neither race nor gender stands between an American citizen and the presidency. Not only Chelsea Clinton or Ivanka Trump but also Michelle Obama and her daughters can be president. American democracy just keeps on giving.”

To win the support of her own party in an acrimonious primary campaign, Clinton put together the most progressive platform in presidential political history. But what are the chances of it being translated into action?

America needs to survive the election first.

Nick Feik

Nick Feik is the editor of The Monthly.


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