An unlikely candidate for president he may be, but in light of the infamy faced by the Democrats, Trump’s image may trump Clinton’s tarnished record
After a chaotic, controversial, and very showbiz Republican Convention, Philadelphia’s democratic strategists seemed to be happy with their own plans for a star-studded, professional-looking and ‘classy’ affair, with speakers ranging from Obama to Bill Clinton.
That all suddenly changed …
On the 22nd of July, three days before the start of the Democratic Convention, WikiLeaks released, with perfect timing, 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the party’s governing body. The leak laid bare internal scheming by the DNC against Bernie Sanders during the primaries, raising accusations that the supposedly neutral governing body had abused its power in order to side with Clinton.
The first victim of this leak was the DNC chairwoman who was forced to resign at the beginning of the convention.
The emails and their attachments were filled with evidence of the DNC planning a smear campaign against Sanders, attempting to claim he was an atheist. Further attachments detailing the information of donors and fundraisers to the Clinton campaign were also released.
To the already angry supporters of Hillary Clinton’s socialist rival, the leak provided evidence for accusations they’d been voicing throughout the election process.
These developments have also reinforced Donald Trump’s own campaign, giving it some much-needed ammunition against Clinton, whom he has been trying to brand as ‘crooked Hillary.’
At one point, WikiLeaks was trumpeted as a freedom-enhancing platform. But its recent actions suggest that it has crossed into dangerous political waters. Democrats have accused Russia of being behind the leak. For its own part, Russia already has a history of hacking; most recently, when it gained unauthorised access to the electricity and water supplies of Ukraine and the servers of its Baltic state rivals. But interfering in another country’s democratic process would be unprecedented. If evidence is released to support this, it could explode an already icy relationship between the U.S. and Russia, plunging the two countries into a new Cold War.
On the back of these claims, Donald Trump commented: ‘Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing’. Following criticism that he was siding with America’s foes, he insisted that he was being sarcastic.
In a new development, it emerged last weekend that an entity known as ‘fancy bear’ holds close links with Russia’s intelligence service, and has hacked the servers of those working on the Clinton presidential campaign.
However, the leak may also be down to the history WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, has with Hillary Clinton. He once described Clinton as a ‘liberal war hawk’, and threatened that his site could ‘release a lot of material’ in relation to her campaign. There are fears that details concerning Bill Clinton’s sex life and information regarding Clinton’s 30,000 emails controversy, could form part of this.
What does all this signal for the election campaign?
After the convention season, the polls are showing a huge rise in support for Trump. Although the Democratic Convention did manage to recover, with tremendous speeches of unity and hope from Obama, Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton. Donald Trump still succeeded in attracting nearly a million viewers more than Clinton during his televised speech — something that’s down to his personal appeal amongst many voters.
There is still a while to go before we know the presidential winner, and a lot can change between now and November 7. However, with terrorist attacks on the rise and safety fears growing, Trump’s rhetoric is sticking, despite its controversial message.
Clinton on the other hand is walking on fine ice. Her campaign suggests that the U.S. economy under the Obama administration is doing fine, and only in need of some tweaking. But as she discovered from an angry heckler at the launch of her battle bus, the economy is not fine, nor is America for that matter. Her message of hope is not really cutting through the scepticism, and her attempts to inspire Obama’s African-American supporters don’t seem to be working. Additionally, only 80 per cent of Sanders’ supporters are expected to vote for her.
November 8 could become analogous to Britain’s June 23, and voter turnout may prove to be the crucial factor. Trump’s army of white, working-class angry males are more than likely to show up, whereas Clinton’s younger voters may do a no-show.
One thing’s for sure, this campaign is going to be personal and at the moment Clinton’s image is far from impressive. Of course, she still has the card of credibility to play given her formidable background in government. But with these leaks, an impression of her as somehow ‘crooked’ has settled, giving a steady advantage to Trump’s team.
It will be a challenge for Clinton’s campaign to sway the focus of a tabloid-obsessed public that relishes in gossip.
Trump is not entirely safe either. He doesn’t want to appear too close to Russia and Putin — both mistrusted by a significant section of the American public. And for how much longer can he keep getting away with making bombastic and attention-seeking remarks? The time for serious policy talk is drawing nearer, and he just may run out of vitriol.
Still, the WikiLeaks July 22 revelations have already proved to be influential. And with no one knowing how much more could still be disclosed, Trump seems to have been handed some powerful weaponry.