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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Orlando Massacre is about Guns not Islamic Terror

The recent tragic massacre of 49 people of the LGBT community at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by Omar Mateen is being used for political ends by both the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton election teams to maximise their advantage in what is already becoming one of the most brutal elections in American history. While Trump attempts to steer the agenda towards 'islamic' terrorism and President Obama's apparent softness on Muslims as the main issues, and away from the all-too-easy availability of guns in the United States, Clinton and Obama are using the occasion to attack Trump's opportunism and poor taste, trying to drive a wedge between the Republican party's leadership and the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, and defend the Democrats' record in the war on terror. And it is abundantly clear that this war of words will little affect either the supply of lethal firearms or the continuation of America's targetted assassination programmes or drone warfare programmes.

Donald Trump has been endorsed as a presidential candidate by the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and has since called for the abolition of laws prohibiting the carrying of guns in and around schools. The NRA endorses and backs the election campaigns of large proportions of congressmen and senators of both main political parties and, consequently, acts as brake on legislation to tighten up gun laws, allowing practically anyone with a wish to buy an assault rifle - basically an upgraded sub-machine gun - within three days even if background checks have yet to be completed. And, weapons purchased at gun shows are exempt from any background checks.

There is no question that Donald Trump uses racism and xenophobia to mobilise his supporters and is an embarrassment to the Republican party's leadership. But that's all he is - an embarrassment to be explained away. The likes of Paul Ryan and many other GOP stalwarts who called Trump all sorts of names have swung behind the latter, as have the bulk (possibly 85%) of the Republican electorate. It says a great deal about what republicans stand for as Obama's presidency approaches its final months - led by an openly racist, misogynist, xenophobic presidential candidate guilty of "textbook racism", according to Paul Ryan. And the GOP is doing nothing about it.

For Clinton, Trump is a gift. Her strategy seems principally to be the define herself as the 'anti-Trump' much as Obama was the 'un-Bush' in 2008. This is a short-term strategy that promises business as usual if she secures the White House in November. But the purely negative 'anti-Trump' campaign will need to be tempered with a recognition of the greatest political necessity of this time - the need for a new political order at home and a viable programme for America's global role.   

This election campaign is all about what America stands for in the world - is it the power of money, the gun, of inflammatory xenophobia? Or is it a nation built on a promise, of possibility, capable of renewal? Hillary Clinton has an historic opportunity to seize the initiative and inaugurate political and economic change that may heal a deeply disturbed and fractured society. 

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