This presidential election ostensibly pits Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton. In reality, though, there are good reasons to think of the contest in terms of a choice between Trump and Tim Kaine, or even Mike Pence and Tim Kaine. This realisation should to some extent guide Americaâ€™s choice at the ballot.
Let me explain.
Quite simply, there is not too far-fetched a possibility that neither of the two main candidates will be able to serve their term if elected. There is also a possibility, if very remote, that one of the candidates might not even last until the election day, in less than three monthsâ€™ time.
The more vulnerable of the two is undoubtedly Hillary Clinton.
She will turn 69 a fortnight before the election day. This day and age, 69 years is not old, but despite vehement denials by her supporters, she seems to be in pretty poor health. In the absence of independent medical opinionÂ – or Clinton releasing her medical records -Â diagnosing Hillaryâ€™s possible illnesses has become somewhat of a parlour game. According to an anonymous Secret Service source she suffers from a major neurological condition which could be Parkinson’s. Others see cerebral venous thrombosis, with her frequent dizzy spells being side effects of the medication Coumadin. Or perhaps it’s a post-concussion syndrome. Hillary has certainly had some major health scares in the past, and her behaviour during the campaign (including, among others, stumbles and falls, coughing fits, possible seizures) has given rise to concerns about her stamina as well as mental capacity while she’s competing for one of the hardest and most stressful jobs in the world. I won’t be in the least surprised if at some point over the next year or two – whether as president or an (unsuccessful) ex-candidate – she dies or becomes seriously incapacitated. This is not to wish her that fate but merely to soberly assess the risks.
So far in her public life, Hillary has proven to be a Teflon politician, with decades’ worth of scandals and controversies so far not having resulted in any fatal consequences for her career (though the constant pressure in this regard must surely be contributing to her health problems). But even though Democrat politicians seem to be “luckier” than Republican ones in surviving scandals, her luck might eventually run out, whether in connection with the email scandal or something else entirely. The mainstream media and the Democratic Party establishment (but I’m repeating myself) continue to circle their wagons around Hillary and continue to prop her up, but there is a threshold of sleaze (not to mention criminality) that even manyÂ partisans might hesitate to stumble over.
Whether it’s her physical and mental health or her political health, Clinton is vulnerable. By contrast, Donald Trump seems like a spotless spring chicken.
He is, however, 70 years old now (in fact, both Trump and Clinton are amongst the oldest candidates ever for the presidency). And while he appears to be in reasonable health – unlike Hillary, there are no swirling health rumours and his personal physician described Donald’s condition in very Trumpesque terms asÂ â€œastonishingly excellentâ€ and â€œextraordinary,â€ saying he would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidencyâ€ – Trump similarly has failed toÂ release his health records.
He might not be physically ill, but Trump’s temperament is certainly of concern. He is erratic and unpredictable; at times he appears uncertain whether he actually wants to be the president. While to the disappointment of many, the Trump presidential run is very unlikely to be revealed over the next few weeks as a publicity stunt gone out of control or a new TV reality show, it also wouldn’t be completely out of character for Trump to chuck a tantrum and walk away, for example if he continues to tankÂ in opinion polls and can blame large sections of GOP for sabotage and fatal bastardy.
Then there are potential scandals and skeletons in the closet. We all know that the Republicans (even ones of convenience, like Trump) are more vulnerable than the Democrats, with the media and other sections of the establishment actively against them, and Trump particularly hated, being imprudent enough to be standing between Saint Hillary and the White House. He is also more exposed than an average career politician, being, as they say, a “colourful businessman”. Unsavoury Russian connections, business/political corruption, ties to the Mob, maybe something else entirely – take your pick. None of it is likely to matter to his fanatical supporters, but fanatical supporters are not enough to win the election for Trump. One thing is certain – his many political enemies and opponents will throw everything and anything at him between now and November. A candidate implosion this close to the election would be unprecedented, but then again nothing is quite ordinary about the 2016 campaign – and so neither would be GOP presidential candidate Mike Pence.
If I were a betting man I would put some money – not too much, but not too little either – on this election continuing to surprise us in all manner of unpleasant ways. President Pence or President Kaine? Would you bet against me?