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With anti-establishment figures leading the race as Republican and Democrat candidates for U.S. Presidential elections, American politics is poised at a game changing moment.
Brookings India hosted a private roundtable discussion on “U.S. Presidential Elections” featuring U.S. Senator Larry Pressler and Ambassador Shivshankar Menon on February 26, 2016. The discussion mainly revolved around candidates in the upcoming U.S. Presidential Elections and the American polity.
With anti-establishment figures such as Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders leading the race as Republican and Democrat candidates for U.S. Presidential elections, American politics is poised at a game changing moment. U.S. domestic politics is undergoing a major shift which has significant implications for the rest of the world. The current Presidential campaign has been ridiculed by many for being sensationalist and superficial. There seems to be a lack of serious thought and expression on issues of importance such as taxation, education etc. by presidential candidates, with some candidates even issuing conflicting positions on same issues at different times.
The presidential campaign has also been characterised by candidates advocating extreme and sensationalist measures such as Ted Cruz’s suggestion of bombing ISIS or Donald Trump’s suggestion of banning Muslims in the country and constructing a wall between Mexico and the U.S. While statements like these generate a lot of media attention and concern, it is important to remember that the American Presidency is not all-powerful. All decisions of the American President need to be supported by the Congress, which ensures that such extreme positions are prevented from being implemented as policy. With presidential candidates, both on the left and the right, advocating such extreme positions, there is a great opportunity for independent candidates to occupy the more moderate policy space in the centre. To this end, American media and the public discourse have a big role to play in this presidential campaign.
Among those present at the roundtable were Vikram Singh Mehta, Chairman, Brookings India; Onkar Kanwar (Apollo Tyres); Rajan Bharti Mittal (Bharti Enterprises); Rahul Khullar (former TRAI chairman); Gaurav Dalmia (Dalmia Group); Didar Singh (FICCI); Surjit Bhalla (Oxus Research & Investments); Madhav Dhar (GTI Group); C Uday Bhaskar (Society for Policy Studies); Shubhajit Roy (Indian Express); Omkar Goswami (Economist & Business Journalist); Shankkar Aiyar (Author & Journalist); Gurcharan Das (Author & Commentator); Dr. Sudipto Mundle (NIPFP); and Kiran Karnik (Former NASSCOM).
Senator Larry Pressler, a U.S. Republican Representative (1975-79) and a Senator (1979-97), was the first Vietnam veteran to be elected to the Senate. Interestingly, Senator Pressler was also the sponsor of the “Pressler Amendment”, which banned most economic and military assistance to Pakistan unless the President certified on an annual basis that Pakistan does not possess a nuclear explosive device. Since leaving the Senate, Senator Pressler has served as a lawyer, business advisor, and lecturer and has remained active in politics and government.
Like other products of the Brookings Institution India Center, this report is intended to contribute to discussion and stimulate debate on important issues. Brookings India does not have any institutional views.