Populism is a necessity. Chantal Mouffe

Clinton or Bush? No, Condi!

Two great family dynasties are poised to inherit the presidency after Obama. But the better choice would be someone else who, up until now, no one has on the ticket.

After the U.S. midterm elections, all the willing candidates are positioning themselves. Hillary Clinton seems ready to run for the Democrats, and, if she enters the race, she will most likely make it through the primaries.

On the Republican side, candidates are all also gearing up. Chris Christie, the heavy-set governor from New Jersey, would love to run, as would some of the radicals from the Tea Party: the likes of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul. Another familiar name could also be thrown into the ring: Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush, and former Governor of Florida.

U.S. democracy thwarted

In the end, the next presidential election could once more come down to a battle between a Clinton and a Bush. This is the most likely scenario, and with it, U.S. democracy would be thwarted: One political dynasty running against another is no democracy. It would cast a shadow over the longest existing democracy in the world. The U.S. should steer clear of this oligarchical trend at all costs.

From here we should start thinking about candidates who, until now, no one has on their ticket. A suggestion: Condeleeza Rice, the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor of the USA. She would be the best candidate for the deeply divided country.

She could perhaps mend the deep wounds in the United States, and additionally reconcile the Republicans with the Democrats, because among all the prominent conservatives she leans the most to the left, sharing nothing with the Libertarians and ultraconservatives of the Tea Party. From the White House, she could moderate the Republicans and forge compromises in Congress which are much needed in the bitterly divided, highly indebted, directionless country. Aside from that, as an African-American woman, she could make the dream of a post-racist USA a reality, which so far Barack Obama has failed to do.

One should not forget, however, that she fully supported the Iraq war without restrictions and saw an “axis of evil” at work. But she’s able to admit that she was wrong. She would have to apologize to the Europeans, but she would do it. She will be able to win over the Europeans. More importantly, she will be able to win over the Americans.

Neither a progressive nor an idealist

Those who have their doubts should remember her speech at the Republican National Convention, where she was cheering on Paul Ryan, running mate of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. But she was the one to win hearts that night. And it wasn’t with libertarian slang, but with a perspective that leans more to the left.

Yes, Condoleezza Rice is not a progressive. Nor is she an idealist or an exceptional dreamer, as Barack Obama seemed to be. But what the USA needs right now is someone in the White House who can bring together the two bitterly opposed parties. Rice wouldn’t further polarize them like Obama does or Clinton or Bush would. That is her advantage.

For the U.S. political system, people like Clinton, Bush, and Obama are the wrong candidates for the presidency. In Europe’s parliamentary government system, a visionary like Obama would be able to govern with a larger majority and realize his vision. But the presidential system of the U.S. requires a more moderate person with a knack for compromises, and that’s why there isn’t any party discipline there. A president that polarizes less can pass more controversial laws, which requires long negotiations and many informal agreements.

Now, since in the U.S. the majority is dependent on carefully crafted backroom deals, these majorities are more impressionable than ever. And a Republican president, able to curb the radicals in her own party and propose a more socially liberal program for the USA, would win over many of the Democratically aligned citizens, especially a hefty part of the socially liberal-thinking middle class living on the country’s coasts.

The right person at the right time

Rice could establish a national compromise with more social trade-offs. The Democrats in Congress would not refuse, for they want more trade-offs. Even some considerable tax raises for the wealthy and a tax for Wall Street might be possible with a Republican president in charge. With Obama they aren’t, and with Clinton or Bush they wouldn’t be either.

There is, however, still a danger tied to a nomination for Rice: namely, if she were merely to become Jeb Bush’s running mate to help secure a slice of the African-American and female vote. Then we would once again have a dynasty in charge. Rice should not give in to this temptation and must instead have the courage to throw her own hat into the ring. She would be the right person at the right time. There is a need for a candidate who can mend the broken political system in the USA and put the country back on course as a nation with the capacity to act.

It is also in the interest of the Europeans for the USA to fix its internal problems, because only then can the USA be a partner that Europe can count on and trust. In contrast, a staggering giant is unpredictable.

Translated from German by Ben Hill

Read more in this debate: Avram Reisman, Joseph A. Palermo.

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