Being just moments away from the release of results for the US Presidential election, I thought I would reflect on the importance of this election. Electing the president of the United States is always an important decision because the power that the winner is entrusted with can radically change the lives of billions of people across the world.
Therefore, although I am not an American, and cannot vote in this election, I have spent a lot of time examining both candidates to assess what impact each will have on geopolitics and the US economy, two areas that can impact my own life.
Ever since Hillary Clinton contested the New York Senate race in 2000, I always felt that she had an eye on the White House. After establishing herself as a First Lady who tackled public policy and had a central role during a presidency that oversaw an unprecedented economic boom and left the White House with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any US President since World War II, she seemed destined to be the first female president of the United States.
However, my view is that the Clinton presidency was not as successful as many believe and benefited greatly from demographics and the ultra loose monetary policies of the Greenspan Fed. Indeed, the US economy entered a recession in 2001 shortly after the Clintons left the White House.
I am also troubled by Hillary Clinton’s display of poor judgement in her role as US Senator when she voted for invasion of Iraq without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and again as Secretary of State when she used her private email server to communicate official business.
My view is that Hillary Clinton is a highly intelligent woman who is at times susceptible to making bad decisions. She is the stereotypical politician: makes false promises to get elected, and has many conflicts of interests with the business community. But she is also very experienced in public policy matters and has a track record of working with Republicans. The most likely result of a Clinton presidency is perhaps greater policy action than the Obama administration which failed to reach across the aisle.
Donald Trump, on the other hand, has seized on voter desire for significant policy change and a sentiment that the government establishment is not working for them. Trump is without a doubt a charismatic individual who knows how to brand himself. His straight-shooting personality and radical ideas appeal to a significant number of voters who have become disenchanted by the false promises of politicians and have not benefited from US economic growth in recent decades.
His proposals of lower corporate taxes, greater infrastructure spending, and reduced regulations would lead to a pick-up in growth ( at the expense of higher government debt) and a rising stock market.
Unfortunately, the reasons for his popularity – the willingness to speak what’s on his mind and and his readiness to wear his emotions on his sleeve – are dangerous characteristics for a US President to exhibit. The President has to be willing to compromise and look past setbacks with an eye on the bigger picture. Donald Trump is known for not acting composed when confronted with personal and professional attacks that are par for the course during a US Presidency. In particular, I am worried about how he will handle geopolitical tensions.
The stock market understandably prefers Hillary Clinton because of the greater certainty with how she will perform as President. Although Trump is more of an unknown, if he can keep his emotions from influencing his judgements, than I think Trump can be a great President. Unfortunately, that is a big question mark.