A race that brought out the ugly underbelly of America
NEW YORK, USA – The 2016 race drew out the darker impulses that seemingly reside just below the surface of life in the United States.
From Mexicans are "rapists" to banning Muslims, groping and sexual assault, emails and fat-shaming – the tone of the campaign was rarely edifying. It felt like a roll in a pigsty and the stench lingered.
The United States is voting for its next leader on Tuesday, November 8. For some, election day cannot come soon enough in a contest whose morbid entertainment attraction featured the latest insult by Donald Trump in a 3 am tweetstorm.
To say the past year has been ugly is a decided understatement.
Looking back, some Fil-Ams reel from the ugliness of a campaign whose dark moments were mostly stoked by Trump.
“The presidential campaign has no doubt turned uglier. It came down to personal character attacks and the real social policy issues have not been at the forefront of discussions,” Ledy Almaddin, a mother of two who works as a manager of private business services in an accounting firm, told Rappler in an interview.
“I think the uglier elements feel more comfortable expressing themselves. I also fear too many are falling into the hysteria of the fear of the other,” David Scott Banghart, a former Republican who switched party affiliation around 9 months ago, added.
Banghart graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1982 and now lives in Florida. He was a registered Republican from the age of 18 until deciding to change his party affiliation 9 months back. He is now an IT manager in central Florida.
Brendan Flores, the national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said: “It seems as though this election season will leave a black eye, and we gave it to ourselves. Is our country uglier, thanks to our candidates for President? Heck, yes.”
Flores is the first millennial to head the group and he is a banker from Jacksonville, Florida.
Other Fil-Ams are a bit more philosophical about the direction the campaign has taken in 2016.
“I think in a vigorous democracy, there will always be passionate conflict. So it’s only ugly for the people who are just now tuning in and paying attention,” Aries Dela Cruz, President of the Filipino-American Democratic Club of New York, pointed out to Rappler.
Almaddin said the country “is better than 8 years ago with the numbers to prove it.”
But the overheated rhetoric in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Trump has had the regrettable effect that “the very long-term issues” facing the country have been ignored during the campaign, she said.
This would include the retirement costs for an aging population of baby boomers, a deteriorating infrastructure network of roads and airports, escalating health care expenses and college costs among others, Almaddin said.
In some ways, there is relief the campaign is almost done and election day is here although there is a fear that what Donald Trump unleashed will bedevil the United States for months and years to come.
“I do think Donald Trump’s candidacy is something our country will never be able to shake. It will be epoch-making and unresolved, much like slavery or the civil war,” Dela Cruz said.
“This country was founded on racist principles, our constitution was written with the notion that people of one color was better than another. So it’s always been there, and we’re always struggling through ignorance and racism,” Dela Cruz explained.
That history ranged from Native Americans being killed or being shunted off to reservations, African-Americans enslaved and segregated, Italian and Irish Americans ostracized for their Catholic faith, race riots against Filipinos in California, and Muslim-Americans seen as fifth column terrorists.
The modern versions are echoed in the campaign waged by Trump demonizing Muslims or mocking the looks of women.
Banghart said the “politics of fear has been part of Republican tactics for a while, ever since (President Barack) Obama was elected, by those who fear the black or brown skin.”
A win by Clinton will not eradicate such tactics or beliefs, especially with some Republican leaders already talking of impeachment before she even wins.
“It will carry over when Hillary is elected by those who fear a woman in charge. However, Trump is throwing kerosene onto those fears, exploding them,” Banghart said.
A loss by Trump would put the Republican party, says Banghart, “at a crossroads with the politics of fear: continue and face more damage or pull back. Frankly, if the economy gets better, that will lessen the fear. If by some curse of luck, Trump wins, well, who knows?”
Dela Cruz is hoping that Clinton’s message of being a president for all Americans would allow the country to heal.
Bottomline though, Banghart believes in the goodwill of a majority of Americans.
“There are many good folk, who don’t like or agree with Hillary, but cannot in good conscience go for Trump.” – Rappler.com
Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.