I have struggled to write anything sensible on the current US election campaign. I suppose that I've really tuned out in circumstances where commentary in Australia and the US is so polarised. I also wonder if it actually matters outside the US who wins. This may sound extreme, so I will try to explain.
We live in unexpectedly troubled times.
At global level, we have seen the decline of what has been called the rules based order, essentially the institutions and rules that have governed trade, commerce and international relations since the Second World War. These may not always have been effective, but they did provide a framework.
We have seen a rise in nationalism and in politics based on national and ethnic identity, We have seen a focus on "race" and "racial issues" from both left and right that has taken me back to a past that I thought we had put behind. We have seen a decline in humanitarian ideals, the rise in me first, a decline in the willingness to make sacrifices for others or the greater good, a fall in tolerance of difference and a disintegration in commonly held values.
We have seen a rise in state actors asserting raw power wrapped up in the rubric of national pride and the redress of past wrongs.
Certainly President Trump has been part of this process, but he is really a symptom rather than cause. He appeals to people who feel, rightly to my mind, that they have been ignored and have become, or at least risking becoming, the detritus of a change process. They feel, again rightly to my mind, that their beliefs are denigrated and belittled. In a way, they have been shafted by the libertarian right on one side, the left on the other.
As an older Australian, I find the extremities of US thought very strange, The US is a far more complex society than ours, although the US extremities are represented here. However, I can recognise and respect. the views and grievances of Mr Trump's supporters even when I find them alien. There are similar groups and concerns in Australia. I understand them too even where I disagree.
When I look at Mr Trump as a symptom as well as president, I think of him (in Donald Rumsfeld's words) as a known unknown, known in the sense that we understand the broad parameters, unknown in that we have no real idea what he will do next. He is a random element, a disruptor. This is not always bad. In shaking things up, he forces shifts in the way we perceive the world. I may dislike it, but it does cause shifts.
I see Joe Biden and running mate Kamala Harris more as an unknown unknown. From a purely US domestic viewpoint, they may or may not be a good thing. My feeling is that they will bring more stability, but I'm not sure that they can bridge the divides.
From an Australian and indeed global viewpoint I have no way of making a judgement. I just don't know. The current US presidential campaign is a US campaign driven by US domestic issues. There is no clarity on the US global approach that is so important to the rest of us.
That is why I said that I wonder if it actually matters outside the US who wins. My feeling is that the US domestic focus will continue, that confusion will continue, that very little will actually change so far as the rest of the wold is concerned,
So what does or should Australia do? That's a topic for another post.