EASTWEST – US: a star is born?


Taking it for granted that Trump will run again in 2020, the hope of a woman entering the White House is entirely dependent on the democrats. And perhaps, after the painful defeat of Hillary, something is a foot…

I’m among those who believe that the Clinton’s stubborn insistence in standing for a third mandate was largely the reason for the Democratic defeat at the last presidential elections. It was a historic lost opportunity to have a woman head the American administration for the first time: not because the time was not ripe, but because Hillary did not represent the kind of woman that other women were prepared to vote for. And as it turns out they didn’t’.

Now, after the midterm elections, all bets are off once again and the American Democratic Party has started to consider who might stand for the White House as the 2020 primaries approach.

After the disastrous 2016 elections, the Donkey party is desperately searching for a new leader with the right credentials to defeat Donald Trump and win over the electorate that was so disappointed by Hillary Clinton.

At the last primaries, the entire Democratic establishment closed ranks around what appeared to be the only possible candidate, after even Obama, who had knocked Hillary of her perch in 2008, had discouraged vice-president Joe Biden from entering the fray.

Yet Hillary did not set American hearts throbbing and, despite her party’s support and the $687 million dollars collected for the electoral campaign she lost the elections not just in the so called swing states, meaning the ones that shift their allegiance from one party to the other, but also in more traditionally Democratic ones like Michigan and Wisconsin, a blue bastion ever since 1988.

Was America not ready for a woman president? On the contrary, American society seems to be witnessing a season in which women are front runners, particularly in the political arena. The latest midterm elections saw a quite staggering number of female candidates of which 116 have been elected into Congress compared to just 89 in 2016. Among the newly elected women, 36 are newcomers and 28 have small children. In the House of Representatives, women could head at least 6 of the most influential Committees. Nita Lowey is expected to chair the House Appropriations Committee which allocates funds to some of the country’s strategic sectors such as defence and education, while Maxine Waters and Nydia Velasquez should chair the House Financial Services and the House Small Business Committees respectively.

In the chaotic and quarrelsome democratic fold, the women could provide the best opportunity to try and turn things around. Ever since the advent of Donald Trump, the most well-organised and incisive actions have been those taken by women, who have led millions out onto the streets in their women’s marches. “I can guarantee that it’s women who are leading the resistance”, according to Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York senator speaking at an event at the Centre for American Progress in Washington. Her name is on the list of possible presidential candidates, along with those of Californian senator Kamala Harris, the anti-Wall Street champion Elizabeth Warren and the Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

Kirsten Gillibrand holds the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton in 2009. She has dedicated most of her career to fighting gender equality and is one of the feistiest backers of the #metoo campaign. At a time when America and the world is questioning itself about sexual harassment, Gillibrand is in the right place to be a credible spokesperson for women’s issues. She is gaining consensus and visibility through her outspoken exchanges with President Trump, who has attacked her very violently on many occasions. Her detractors accuse her of political contortionism, of having moved over from more conservative positions on issues such as weapons or immigration, to more liberal ones in a very short time. In a fierce electoral campaign, her changes of heart could cost her dearly.

Elizabeth Warren is a former Harvard Law professor and has been included quite a few times by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people on the planet. The Massachusetts senator has earned herself the title of Wall Street ‘watchdog’ after Obama asked her to set up a Government Consumer Protection Agency. A long-standing liberal, she could mediate between the two wings of the Democratic party, the more moderate one and the radical one, which at present is threatening to tear the party apart. Unlike Bernie Sanders, she has always been a member of the Democratic Party and has a very solid network of relationships.

The Californian senator Kamala Harris is undoubtedly one of the rising stars in the Democratic pantheon. Part Tamil Indian and part Afro-American, she has become known for her famous battles in the Senate Justice Commission that is responsible for the Russiagate investigations. Harris has a solid liberal curriculum: a staunch advocate in favour of the environment, always in favour of freedom of choice for abortion, she has carried on fierce battles against the National Rifle Association to introduce limitations to the sale of firearms. With Elizabeth Warren, she supported a campaign in favour of universal health coverage, at a time when Trump was trying to repeal Obamacare. On the left, she’s considered too moderate and an expression of the Democratic establishment, but her popularity is growing rapidly.

Amy Klobuchar is the next door senator (as she referred to herself in her book title). Now in her third term in congress, she is the most popular politician in Minnesota. A moderate on the most controversial issues, such as immigration, she has fought hard to lower the cost of medicines, broaden voting rights and protect online privacy. In the last elections she had an excellent result in rural areas, something very unusual for democrats. In a general election Klobuchar would probably secure the independent vote and a few centrist Republicans but she could encounter more problems in her party’s primaries and from voters with strong leftist leanings. The Minnesota senator distances herself from the progressive agenda on a number of fronts, including health and education.

As the November elections have brought to light, Trumpism is now being fought by out and out anti-Trumpism and the Democratic base has shifted to the left. The debate during the midterm electoral campaign was highly polarised, and the discussion focused mainly on immigration, with economic issues relegated into the background.

Though it may be true that many of the “new” democrats running in the midterm elections won out in a number of Midwest states where Trump had succeeded in 2016, the analysis of the results has still highlighted areas where the democratic forces are still weak.

While consensus among (particularly white) voters with high or medium levels of education in urban and semi-urban areas has increased, in the rural areas the Democrats have made little headway, and in some states like Missouri and Indiana the Republicans have actually improved their lot.

In an electoral system where the voters from rural areas are heavily overrepresented, the inability of the Democrats to secure their support could pose severe problems. When choosing an ideal candidate this will have to be taken into account.

What’s more, Trump still enjoys vast approval among his electoral base: according to the polls, his approval rate as President among registered Republican voters stands at between 85 and 90% and he has a strong hold over the Republican party as a whole.

A woman, with her undoubted novelty element, could just turn the tables.


You will find this article in the eastwest paper magazine at newwstand.

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