Editor's Note: This article was originally published on 21 March, 2016. It is being republished in light of Hillary Clinton being nominated Democratic nominee for the US Presidential Election
Hillary Clinton made history on Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, by becoming the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major US political party, securing the backing of Democrats at a rowdy convention in Philadelphia. The Republicans, meanwhile, nominated Donald Trump as their presidential standard-bearer, capping the billionaire businessman's stunning takeover of the GOP and propelling him into a November faceoff with Democrat Hillary Clinton.
As someone who lived for decades in the US before returning to India, and watched several presidential elections closely, I find that it is fairly easy to follow this year’s US elections long-distance, thanks to two things: one, the Internet, and two, the avalanche of information flowing from the west to emerging countries. This last fact, of asymmetric information, is a real problem: we subalterns end up knowing a lot about the Metropolitan West, whereas they know virtually nothing about us.
The fact that they do know nothing about is partly because they are self-obsessed (the “imperial omphalos” or navel-gazing as Suhash Chakravarthi called it in his brilliant The Raj Syndrome), and partly because this ignorance is encouraged by those “manufacturing consent” as Noam Chomsky puts it. The less they know about, say, Iraq, the easier it is to manipulate public opinion as per the Deep State’s needs.
Anyway, that may also explain to some extent the Indian obsession with Hillary Clinton. She is the candidate of the establishment: there is no doubt about that. In fact, it is possible that even the Republican establishment may like her better than they like Trump.
In her defense, Clinton has impeccable credentials and experience. She is the only former resident of the White House who is in the fray, and may even be the only one ever in history.
There is the sentimental thought that it is about time that a woman became the most powerful person in the world, the POTUS (the President of the United States). The history of the current president, Barack Obama, being another first, a non-white, also suggests this is a good thing. And god knows we could use more women politicians, with Germany’s Angela Merkel, who was doing so well until the refugee crisis, is now on a downswing.
Then there is the sympathy factor. Having stayed married to that charming rogue, Bill Clinton, who publicly humiliated her by allegedly having oral sex with Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton comes across as someone who has, in the face of adversity, stood by her man and deserves respect for that. Although it is also possible that it was just cold political calculation, and not some old-fashioned sense of loyalty, that induced her to stay by his side.
Then there is the other sympathy factor that she came so close to winning against Barack Obama some years ago, but ended up, surprisingly, losing the nomination to him in 2008. Now is her turn, some might feel. Besides, she is considered a very energetic, hardworking person, who has the facts at her fingertips.
But on the other side of the ledger there are a number of other factors to consider.
Hillary Clinton was the only presidential wife ever to be questioned in a criminal case, the Whitewater scandal, although she was never accused or convicted of anything. Much more seriously, there is the conduct of American foreign policy when she was Secretary of State between 2009 and 2013, under Obama.
The big lapses in her tenure were twofold: one, the conduct of activities in Benghazi, Libya, where an attack on the US embassy resulted in the killing of the then Ambassador by gunmen. The other was her habit of keeping all her official Secretary of State mail on a personal (thus insecure) email server, which is apparently a serious breach of procedure, and might have compromised US national security.
The investigation into these two are proceeding apace, and there is the possibility that she will be found guilty of negligence or worse. All this has conspired to make Hillary an iffy choice for even lifelong Democrats, and that is partly why the relatively unknown socialist Bernie Sanders has made a fight of it. Just as much as many Republicans feel queasy about Trump, many Democrats do about Clinton.
From an Indian-American point of view, Trump’s loud anti-immigrant sentiment may be a turnoff, but they should balance that with his likely more pro-business attitude, which would contrast with the left-leaning, pro-trade-union perspectives of Clinton. From an Indian point of view, despite the widespread belief that Democrats are better for India (that goes back to Nixon/Kissinger-led animosity against Indira Gandhi and the alleged bonhomie between JK Kennedy and Nehru, which in fact is a myth). In reality, given the experience with Robin Raphel, and later with the Narendra Modi-visa-denial circus, it is pretty clear that Clinton is not a friend of India.
It is the Republicans who are more worried about China, and who wish to bring India on board as an ally. Democrats tend to like dictators, and thus are far more enamored of the Pakistani Army – we have seen Obama’s and John Kerry’s largesse to Pakistan despite much evidence of their perfidy. It is very likely that in a Hillary Clinton presidency, her chief of staff might be Huma Abedin, a close aide who is a Pakistani-American, and no friend of India.
On average, Donald Trump, despite his loudmouth behavior, or in any fact any Republican left in the race, would be a better candidate for Indian-Americans and Indians. Oddly enough, most of them don’t seem to believe so.