Breda O’Brien: US struggles to find an honest candidate for president
The best bet seems to be a car salesman and professional magician
People who want to fulfil their civic duty by voting, but who don’t want to vote for Trump or Clinton, can vote for Mike Maturen
The 2005 Christmas special of the popular Doctor Who television show featured a British prime minister called Harriet Jones, played by Penelope Wilton, whose style of leadership was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher.
Jones takes a decision which appals the doctor. In a fury, he tells her that he can destroy her with just six words: “Don’t you think she looks tired?”
I don’t know if Hillary Clinton watches Doctor Who, but she might recognise the problem. While health does matter in a presidential candidate, Clinton looking tired runs far deeper than the fact she has pneumonia.
Even as someone who thinks the US presidential candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties are both terrifying in different ways, I felt sorry for Clinton as I watched her weave, wobble and finally collapse.
The momentary sympathy evaporated when I learned she had been “economical with the truth” about her illness.
The latest scandal she faces comes from the hacked emails of Colin Powell, secretary of state under George W Bush. Powell bitterly resents Clinton’s attempt to blame him for the fact that she installed a private email server.
He suggests that the whole Clinton email scandal would have blown over if she had been willing to tell the truth about what she did, instead of dodging, ducking and obfuscating. But that is not and never has been the Clinton way.
Powell says he would prefer not to vote for her, even though she is a long-term friend, and goes on to describe her as having unbridled ambition, as being greedy and still being cheated on by husband Bill with “bimbos”.
The leaked emails are incredibly damaging to Clinton because the highly regarded Powell seems to share all the suspicions voters have about her, especially that she is greedy.
More serious for Clinton at the moment is the allegation that she was barely able to climb the podium steps at an event she attended over a year ago because she was so ill.
All these claims and the patent dislike that Powell has for a person he still describes as a friend are incredibly damaging.
Mind you, he is even more scathing about Donald Trump, describing him as a “national disgrace and an international pariah”.
The dilemma for many American voters is that they feel they cannot in conscience vote for either mainstream candidate. Even women desperate to see a woman as president are unsure about voting for Clinton. She does look tired: tired in the sense of being dogged with scandals and hard to trust.
Americans are used to terrible choices in candidates. There was a famous campaign by Edwin Edwards, a legendarily corrupt governor of Louisiana who ended up spending two years in prison.
In 1991 he was running for office against David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Edwards cheerfully embraced his reputation, and bumper stickers were circulated with slogans such as “Vote for the lizard, not the wizard”.
The choices are so bad in this election that people are seriously considering voting for a car salesman and professional magician just because he is a centrist candidate and appears to be honest. His name is Mike Maturen of the American Solidarity Party.
Given the bizarre nature of US presidential elections, voting for what are called third-party candidates does not simply hand the election to a disliked candidate.
The electoral colleges hold all the power, so it is only in a minority of swing states that any independent candidate can suck votes from another candidate in a way that influences the outcome.
For example, in New York, the Democrats have carried every election since 1988, and only once in that time was the margin fewer than a million votes.
So people who want to fulfil their civic duty by voting, but who don’t want to vote for Trump or Clinton, can vote according to their conscience without fear, provided they are not voting in a swing state.
Maturen wants an end to torture in any guise and to pre- emptive strikes in war. He also wants a single-payer health system. He is also anti-abortion and against the death penalty and approves of social security safety nets and care for the environment.
Maturen has never been elected even as the proverbial county dog-catcher, and the American Solidarity Party has no money and no elected members.
Yet it still looks like for a lot of people, “vote for the magician, not the politicians”, actually makes sense.
And at least Maturen is willing to admit to being an illusionist.