Racism, Disinformation and Character Assassination in a "Cold War" Election

Four days from the election Hillary Clinton, who had been dropping in the polls, began to see what could have been a landslide victory go to the wire. In every single CNN analysis of the electoral map since the US presidential race began, Clinton has led - until Friday. That electoral map showed Clinton falling below 270 electoral college votes, the number she needs to win.

The response was immediate. Trump “seems to violate U.S. values,” argued the President of the United States on Friday afternoon, to a largely black crowd in North Carolina.

Barack Obama on the hustings is the president at his most effective:  convincing, intellectual on demand, folksy when necessary, while staying on message as he tugs at the heartstrings of his audience. During the final days of the America election, it’s all about character assassination and misinformation, either fighting it or promulgating it.

It’s reminiscent of the dirty tricks and intrigue of a bygone era. A week ago FBI Director James Comey reported that the Bureau would be re-opening its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server and the revelation that some of her emails ended up on the Andrew Weiner’s computer, the disgraced Congressman and husband to the candidate’s long-time confidante and advisor Huma Abedin.

With that announcement, Clinton’s popularity started dropping and the final days of this campaign became all about restoring a sense of her personal integrity.  The economy, gun control, social inequality, and health care are hardly mentioned.

Former New York City mayor and Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani denies he had prior notice from FBI agents that James Comey would drop new information about Clinton’s emails, allegations that turned the tide away from Clinton and gave momentum to Trump’s bid for office. A week earlier Giuliani hinted that he was expecting new bombshells from the Trump campaign.

There is something about the election which seems like the Cold War all over again: the FBI is playing an intrusive role in American politics while Russian state-run media denigrates the leading candidate, calling Hillary Clinton “a witch”. As one Russian news anchor stated, “Russians are very suspicious about American democracy.” The disinformation emanating from Russia is no less pernicious than it was when the Politburo ran the Kremlin.

With all this in the toxic mix, Obama has called out Donald Trump’s racist and sexist politics.  The president is not about to allow Trump to normalise his views on immigrants and women. “How he calls women dogs and pigs and rates them on a scale of one to ten is not acceptable,” says Obama.

The president is not about to allow Trump to normalise his views on immigrants and women

He and First Lady Michelle have become the most important Hillary Clinton surrogates in the race. Bill Clinton tends to say the wrong thing so it’s their job to get out the African-American vote that, in early voting, has been significantly below Obama’s in 2012.  

If Obama’s strongest supporters stay home, and if Millennials are becoming too cynical to turn out, there is a chance Donald Trump will be elected the President of the United States.

At the same time as Obama rouses his audience, NPR (National Public Radio) - known for its liberal views - is interviewing the leader of the American Nationalist Socialist Party. He labels Hillary Clinton the closest thing to a Communist. Turn the dial and MSNBC is talking to poll captains in individual ridings. They have trained their election day workers to handle shooters at the voting booth.

The Department of Homeland Security is on high alert monitoring terrorist threats. There are growing concerns that Russia intends to interfere in the American electoral process by releasing fake or falsified documents to scramble the process. Cyber attacks on how results are reported to news organizations are expected, according to Homeland Security.

Wolf Blitzer and Jack Tapper, distinguished anchors for CNN, have the same look the BBC reporters had in June when the first Brexit returns came trickling in.  It’s the “we’re going to lose” and “they don’t trust us anymore” look. The look when the ground is falling out from under you.

Between the repeated warnings of Russian interference, the FBI’s unprecedented role, external terrorists and internal shooters, the way America elects a President has changed dramatically in 2016.

Joyce Wayne

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