Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Picture: JOE RAEDLE/REUTERS
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Picture: JOE RAEDLE/REUTERS

Anyone who watched the first US presidential election debate live this week will have appreciated that the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, won hands-down. It was a victory for experience and hard work.

The scary thing about the debate is that Donald Trump, Clinton’s Republican opponent, is very much still in the race.

It is frankly hard to listen to Trump because he literally makes no sense sometimes. One New York Times commentator remarked that "there had been some speculation that all Trump needed to do was speak in complete sentences to beat expectations, and if that was the bar, the man did great. When Hillary Clinton suggested he might be withholding his federal returns because he never paid any taxes, he responded: ‘That makes me smart.’ Complete sentence."

It is Trump’s total disregard for political convention that has got him to within striking distance of the White House. That remark — that it’s "smart" of him not to have paid taxes — would sink a normal candidate.

But mere attitude is not the point. In a world being rapidly changed by technology, war, inequality and mass immigration, politicians with openly racist and nationalist views are once again gaining traction. Everywhere new muscle is being flexed. Russia once again threatens its neighbours. China occupies its neighbours’ waters. In the EU, more "Brexits" will encourage a new nationalism.

And if war between big nations is once again an actual possibility, then we must hope Clinton wins the White House in November. She may not be everybody’s cup of tea but she’s a damned good pair of hands. And she knows everyone worth knowing.

The US is still the most powerful nation on earth. In recent times, Washington has learnt some hard lessons about power — as it has in Iraq and in North Africa. In SA, we should hope that the next occupant of the White House is mature enough to take those lessons to heart. It just has to be Hillary Clinton.

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