US Elections 2016: Final countdown

Struggle to reassure US and the world

Because presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a dissatisfied group of Americans, a Trump victory is likely, says chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, Simon Tay.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR SIMON TAY Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR SIMON TAY Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

People dislike both candidates. And both struggle to find a message for America that is good for Americans but also reassuring to the world.

Mrs Hillary Clinton would seem the more experienced, the more Asia-focused candidate. She has been able to get from Mr Barack Obama the idea that it's a kind of third term, a continuation.

Having said that, I'm not sure whether she's got the same flexibility that Mr Obama has had in terms of reaching both the domestic audience as well as out here in Asia.

As for Mr Donald Trump, while I'm not sure anyone has really found very many good things to say about him, he can't have got this far if he is really such a poor candidate, or his politics really so crazy and so absurd. He must be speaking to an audience in America, and that, in fact, is a broader question which should alarm people looking at good ties between Asia and America.

Look at one of his rallying calls: to make America great again. He's speaking to an audience in America which has felt left out by globalisation, that others benefited more than them, especially us in Asia, that wants to deal with Asia and the rest of the world in a way that says "I dictate, you accept".

He wants to assert America, but the aggression and sometimes bald-faced remarks he makes might actually alienate the great friendships America has held in our region for many decades.

One of the most disturbing things is that some in the Republican party, the old-timers, have basically boycotted him. He really stands for a new streak in American politics which, if elected, will grow a very different American presence.

I've met enough Americans who have really felt this anger, and Mr Trump could not have come this far if he did not have a real chance.

We are in the middle of the debates, and these debates swing the undecided people. If they don't go well for Hillary, we could be facing a Trump victory. You never know with the world today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 08, 2016, with the headline 'Struggle to reassure US and the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe