Analysis: The run-up to a depressing US vote

With the Middle East in tumult, Israel and the region need an America that is functional at home and respected abroad.

Trump and Clinton (photo credit: screenshot)
Trump and Clinton
(photo credit: screenshot)
BOSTON – “Depressing” is how Neera Tanden, an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, described Israel in an e-mail to Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta on March 18, 2015.
Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress liberal think tank in Washington, sent the e-mail a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected. This was one of the thousands of hacked Podesta e-mails that have been made public in recent days on the Wikileaks web site.
One could argue whether this was a fitting description of Israel the day after last year’s elections. But one would be on pretty firm footing asserting that this characterization accurately sums up the political atmosphere in the United States, just a week before that country votes for a new president.
The political mood in the US, on the eve of picking its 45th president, is one of depression. If in the past there was often an air of excitement surrounding elections – an air of hope and optimism about a new page about to be turned – none of that exists today.
Rather, there is a real sense of pessimism and depression about the political situation, not only because the country has just experienced an unprecedentedly ugly campaign – between two candidates whom the majority of the population believe are badly flawed – but also because of a realization that the ugliness will certainly not end once the balloting is over and the new president is elected.
Regardless of whether FBI Director James Comey did the right or wrong thing five days ago, when he revealed so close to an election that his organization would review newly discovered Clinton emails on the personal computer of Anthony Weiner, the investigation into this matter will continue for months and even years after the election, and – if Clinton is elected – will dog her presidency just as the Whitewater investigation and Monica Lewinsky scandal hampered her husband’s presidency.
And if Donald Trump wins, the echoes of his offensive comments about women will continue to resonate, and he too will likely come under calls for investigation into everything from sexual harassment to tax issues, and allegations of fraud relating to Trump University.
The US today is a country badly divided along the lines of race, economic status, and political ideology. What it sorely needs is a leader to heal the wounds and unite the country – but no such leader is on next Tuesday’s ballot. Instead, opponents of whomever wins will surely seek to deny the legitimacy of the other’s right to govern. Trump, because he is “unfit” to be president, as Clinton says; Clinton, because she is “crooked,” as Trump maintains.
That is bad for the US, but it is also bad for America’s allies, including Israel.
With the Middle East in tumult, Israel and the region need an America that is functional at home and respected abroad.
The world needs US leadership. Israel and the region do not need an America that is so paralyzed by its own domestic politics that it is unable to look beyond the water’s edge at the enormous new challenges around the globe.
There are already growing isolationist strains inside both the Democratic and Republican parties, who argue that the US should withdraw from the world and deal with its own problems first, and that it no longer needs to solve problems abroad.
Those strains may now be reinforced by a reality whereby Washington will be so focused and obsessed with score-settling after the elections, that it will be unable to deal effectively with much else. If America withdraws from the world, either by design or because of political paralysis, than the vacuum it leaves will be filled by other, less magnanimous actors. That is not good for America, the region, or for Israel.
For proof, just look at what is happening in Syria.