An Egyptian in London offers unsolicited advice to American voters

Photo: People Magazine

Dear friends,

I am not a United States citizen but I wish to offer some unsolicited pointers to help you cut through some of the deafening noise and distracting filth you are being subjected to ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. Why? Because I want to.

The choice you have next month is not about Donald Trump’s “temperament” nor is it about Hillary Clinton’s “stamina.” Because, no, Mr. Trump won’t fire the nukes if he reads a mean tweet and, no, Mrs. Clinton will not die in office because of her cough. When you cast your ballot, I think you ought to be taking a stance on these six things: Fiscal discipline, international trade, immigration and national security, abortion and gun rights, money in politics, and healthcare.

The choice you have next month is not about Donald Trump’s “temperament” nor is it about Hillary Clinton’s “stamina.”

Before I dissect these further, I’d like to stress that I have made no assumptions about the outcome of the legislative “down ballot” elections and how powerful, as a result, the next president will be. So I am only comparing visions here.

Fiscal discipline:

For better or worse, leaders in the US have over time decimated the classical divide between the proverbial right and left as to the state’s role in creating prosperity, though not in rhetoric. The budget deficit expanded under Republican presidents Reagan and Bush senior (it had begun to come down at a steady pace towards the end of Mr. Reagan’s term) and was eventually balanced under Democratic president Bill Clinton (working with Republican rivals in the legislative branch). The younger Bush would later dig a fiscal hole anew when he coupled stimulatory tax cuts with a costly war. During President Obama’s presidency, the inherited deficit has remained sticky, buoyed only by a rising denominator (an improving economy) without much in the way of spending cuts. (The conflation of fiscal policy and monetary policy in recent years, though not unrelated, is a subtopic I will put aside for now). The point is, America’s right cannot claim higher ground on this subject because, at least in the last three decades, the Democrats won on points. Mrs. Clinton is correct to remind us.

International trade:

I believe in free markets where the producer with the best quality and lowest costs should win your dollar. I also believe that automation is a greater nuance to “working people” than overseas outsourcing. There is one thing, however, that merits a revisit of current international trade agreements: Entitlements. A large part of why it is more costly to produce goods in western countries like the US has little to do with efficiency, which is what free trade is meant to encourage, but rather legally mandated additional costs (over and above wages) that are not always the same, if at all present, in competing countries in the developing world. I do not have a ready solution to this but to call the anti-free trade cry mere “protectionism” oversimplifies the issue, an issue on which Mr. Trump should be heard. That said, even if you agree with me that Mr. Trump’s objection has merit, the Brexit vote in the UK, where I live, has so far shown that unfair stability may be better, at least in the near-term, than righteous revolution and on this issue Mrs. Clinton is certainly the stability vote.

Immigration and national security:

America stops being “a country of immigrants” when immigrants come to destroy it. Yes, jihadist Islamists want to kill you. No, comparing the number of US deaths by Islamist terror to the larger number of deaths by gun crime in Chicago is a not a relevant comparison. No, being wary of people from a particular religion, based on some of the words in their holy text, more so than others is not racist. And no, the leaders of Arab/Muslim countries will not stop working with the US to battle international terror if the US president utters the words “Islamic terror” — In fact, some of them can’t wait for the US to be more appreciative of the threat, just ask the Egyptian president. On this matter, President Obama and Mrs. Clinton are either misguided or unclear and Mr. Trump is correct.

And in terms of immigrants from south of the border, Mr. Trump’s early comments were about illegal immigration. He said nothing to suggest he hates Mexicans; stop believing those who paint him as such. The practicalities of deporting, blocking through a physical barrier or offering amnesty to illegal immigrants is something for US policymakers and enforcement agencies to consider. But on his broad stance that the border must cease to be so porous, again, I believe Mr. Trump is right.

Both of the above tie into national security for obvious reasons, as does foreign policy. I have not dedicated a section to foreign policy because I am not so naïve as to think you ought to care too much about the rest of the world when choosing your next leader as long as the homeland is kept safe, nor should you. That said, I don’t think President Obama’s foreign policy, and by extension Mrs. Clinton’s, has been helpful. Mr. Trump’s stated vision is one of less intervention, decisiveness and no longer cold-shouldering foreign leaders based only on their democratic credentials. For this, he is said to be “praising dictators,” a label that misses the bigger picture.

Abortion and gun rights:

The next president is likely to appoint more than one judge to the Supreme Court, who would serve for long periods of time. At stake in the minds of most Americans are abortion (a possible reversal of Roe v Wade, 1973) and gun rights (perhaps a less dogmatic interpretation of the second amendment). On this I have clear biases: The woman is free to choose what to do with the unborn; and mass gun ownership is perhaps the single saddest thing about the otherwise great success story that is America. On these issues alone, I wouldn’t mind seeing Mrs. Clinton win.

When you cast your ballot, I think you ought to be taking a stance on these six things: Fiscal discipline, international trade, immigration and national security, abortion and gun rights, money in politics, and healthcare.

Money in politics:

The Clintons and their backers from the establishment of both parties are vocational politicians who have become mind-bogglingly wealthy as a result. You should have good reason to think that their best interests are not and will not always be aligned with yours as long as they are in power. Mr. Trump is a lone fighter using his own pocket to represent a whole section of the country that feels it needed a voice. Mrs. Clinton and the media have no business putting Mr. Trump’s integrity into question. Sorry.

Healthcare:

I wish I could offer something constructive on this subject but unfortunately I am unable to. I work hard and as a result I am able to pay for good healthcare out of pocket. I also appreciate the existence of national healthcare (the NHS here in the UK) as a backstop, both for me if I fall on hard times and for the rest of society. I am also pragmatic enough to know that eventually government-provided healthcare is fiscally unsustainable. I have always been of two minds about healthcare and still am. If you, however, have strong views for or against Obamacare (which I know is not a single-payer system, per se) then you know where each candidate stands.


My dear friends in the United States, stop caring about who said what when on a videotape or audio recording from years ago and please stop hearing your candidates’ policy visions through two-second edited sound bites on social media. I hope the above offers some pointers as to how you should think about the issues that you care most about.

Thank you for reading.

T.

I am an Egyptian-born comic strip writer and also a banker in London. Views are my own.