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Two more weeks and it’s all over. In two weeks, the voters of the United States of America will decide our next President and will put an end to the madness we’ve endured the past 18 months.
The 2012 Presidential election was more of a reality show, something that you could watch, laugh at, and enjoy from the safety of your own home. Neither of the candidates posed a serious threat to the country and it was a fairly civilized election compared to what we’re enduring today.
2016 started as a sitcom. Every day the reality TV star said something stupid, we’d all laugh, and the political theater would go on. But eventually, that reality TV star ended up winning the nomination, which would have been a lot more entertaining for me and my fellow Democrats if our own party’s primary hadn’t descended into chaos.
Election Recap: The Beginnings
2016 began as a sitcom, for a brief moment turned into a horror movie, but quickly ended up being the election version of an episode of Jerry Springer. The pugnacious campaign turned personal with talk about one candidate sexually assaulting women, and that candidate defending himself by bringing up old accusations against the other candidate’s husband. If I can speak for most Americans right now: we’ve had enough.
A Recap of the Primaries
We heard a nonstop drumbeat about emails on one side and tax returns on the other. We had the Presidential frontrunner under the lingering threat of a criminal indictment. The other Democratic primary candidate promised the world to his supporters, including making everything from college to health care free. We had Donald Trump, whose ill-thought policies of prohibiting an entire religion from immigrating to the country and publicly labeling those who are here seemed to be a page out of Mein Kampf. We had another candidate who is one of the most egomaniacal and narcissistic Senators in recent memory, a guy who is disliked by most of his fellow Republicans in the Senate. One of them, also a Presidential candidate, said of him, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the Senate floor and your trial was in the Senate, nobody would vote to convict you.”
The Republican Primaries
The Republican primary started out with seventeen Presidential hopefuls, causing many liberals to dub the primary the Republican “clown car.” But throughout all the bumps in the road, the spotlight always remained on Donald Trump.
Perhaps the most memorable moments from the Republican primary took place during the debates, which seemed more like a Saturday Night Live skit than a Presidential debate. At one debate, Trump called Kentucky Senator Rand Paul ugly. At another, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio engaged in unfriendly banter about the size of their endowments.
Donald Trump also flirted with the support of the Ku Klux Klan and even inspired David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK and 1991 Republican nominee for Governor of Louisiana, to run for the open Senate seat of family values hypocrite David Vitter.
For those of you who don’t know, Vitter lost the Governor’s race in Louisiana last fall not just because of the mess Bobby Jindal left, but also because his ugly personal failures resurfaced and became a campaign issue. While in his first term, David Vitter routinely slept with prostitutes who were willing to indulge his diaper fetish, and even fathered a child with one, and told her to have an abortion. This coming from a “Family Values conservative” who had a 100% voting record from the National Right To Life Committee. His opponent, Gov. John Bel Edwards, dropped this brutal ad on him, and it pretty much wrote itself.
A Digression on Marco Rubio
Rubio may not be as vulgar as Donald Trump, but he’s just as sleazy. He promised that he wouldn’t run for re-election to the Senate if he lost his Presidential bid, but as soon as his campaign died with a whimper, he cited Hillary Clinton as the reason he was breaking his promise and jumping back into the Senate race. He’s treated the people of Florida like a consolation prize-the instant he was elected to the Senate in 2010, he was already setting up his 2016 Presidential run. Now that he didn’t win the nomination, he’s treating the people of his state like a political trampoline. After all, who can forget the debate moment where Rubio repeated the same canned, slightly racist line four separate times. I’d bet my bottom dollar he’s only doing this to position himself for 2020, as he’s already said he won’t promise that he’ll serve the full six-year term.
The Democratic Primaries
Meanwhile on the Democratic side, the far-left party base tried to stage a coup d’état in the primary, defiantly throwing all their support behind a self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont named Bernie Sanders. The party elites and resident pragmatists, myself included, supported Hillary Clinton, deeming her to be the most qualified and politically strongest candidate for the general election. Many stopped watching the debates after watching the candidates give the exact same verbatim answers to the same verbatim questions asked by the same CNN moderators in three successive debates.
The attempted coup soon became a civil war, as the candidates truly got personal while still trying not to damage the eventual victor’s chances in the general election. That didn’t exactly work out. The only reason the Democrats are poised to keep the White House right now is because the Republicans nominated the most unpopular and unqualified Presidential candidate in U.S. history. They would have met a slightly less disastrous fate had Ted Cruz or Chris Christie won the nomination, but if they’d nominated a perceived moderate like John Kasich, the race would look entirely different.
The Democratic primary got so ugly that it became the one of the primary reasons Hillary Clinton’s disapproval ratings are so high. She’s been crucified by the right (like she has since the early 1990s) and bashed by the left for the fact that she is, like yours truly, a pragmatist. She was criticized for saying of Barack Obama in 2008, “You are not going to wave a magic wand to make special interests disappear.”
The “Bernie or Bust” Movement
Hillary Clinton’s low favorables and perceived dishonesty juxtaposed with Sanders’ high favorables and perceived honesty created a “Bernie or bust” movement, where Sanders supporters vowed to not vote for the Democrat ticket unless Sanders was at the top.
As with most ideological movements, the most vocal supporters were often its most vitriolic. Members of the “Bernie or Bust” movement heckled liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren during her speech at the Democratic National Convention, chanted “War Hawk” at Cory Booker, and booed Elijah Cummings off the stage. The only reason Hillary Clinton was able to give her acceptance speech fairly uninterrupted was because Sanders delegates held a walkout after they lost the roll call vote.
Though it’s uncertain how many Sanders supporters will vote for Clinton, a recent University of Massachusetts-Lowell poll shows millennials have tremendous apathy towards voting for Trump or Clinton. In fact, 23% would prefer having a giant meteor strike the earth rather than vote for Clinton or Trump.
The FBI Investigation into Hillary Clinton’s Private Email Server
Most of the attacks on Hillary Clinton are valid, but aren’t as serious as they’ve been spun to be. While the email investigation was at the very least a demonstration of terrible judgement, partial blame can be attributed to her staff. And, despite what Congressional Republicans wish it would have been, it didn’t warrant an indictment, let alone a conviction.
One of the biggest complaints is that Clinton tends to be secretive and guarded. Well, think for a moment: Since Bill became President in 1993, Congressional Republicans have wasted over $50 million in taxpayer dollars in fruitless investigations (including eight into Benghazi) and manufactured scandals designed solely to destroy the Clintons. Sometimes, the way to best defend yourself from such tactics is to not give them any ammunition to spin into something it isn’t. When you can’t beat a candidate on the issues, the first thing they do is start throwing things at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks.
General Election Recap (Thus Far)
The general election has been a lot more predictable than the primaries. While Trump has held massive rallies, Clinton has quietly been breaking fundraising records and developing a strong ground game.
Hillary Clinton won her nomination with a simple majority (and an overwhelming majority among the superdelegates). However, a bevy of documents made public by Wikileaks led many to conclude that the Democratic primaries were not conducted fairly. As a result, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) stepped down from her position.
Donald Trump won his nomination by taking advantage of a crowded field and winning by a plurality in many of the early contests. Had the GOP race been a smaller field, things may have been different. Trump built his dedicated base with his anti-establishment narrative and by pandering to the far right with racism and Islamophobia. He pandered to the religious right by pledging to undo last year’s Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage by appointing right-wing activist judges to the Supreme Court, then had the audacity to say that he is better than Hillary Clinton on gay rights.
A Digression on the GOP’s Response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting
On that subject, just as laughable was the rush to pretend to care about the LGBT community by every Republican politician in Florida in the wake of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Everyone from Governor Rick Scott to Senator Marco Rubio to Attorney General Pam Bondi all flocked to the TV cameras to proclaim how much they work to protect the LGBT community every day. Those of us with memories remember that for the past 12 years, these same politicians have demonized the LGBT community, hate-mongered for votes, questioned their humanity, and supported efforts to vote away their rights.
Rise of Third Party Candidates
The historic unpopularity of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton gave third party candidates a unique opportunity to enter the national spotlight. Everything from Donald Trump insinuating that Megyn Kelly was on her period during the first debate to the dramatic intra-party brawl that became of the Democratic primary made many voters turn to the third-party candidates. Many of the so-called “Bernie or Bust” voters, who supported Sanders for his economic and student loan socialist policies, flocked to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green candidate Jill Stein.
Gary Johnson, who served as Governor of New Mexico as a Republican, has very little in common with Senator Sanders. Many young, left-wing millenials are planning to vote for a man whose economic policies and ideas male Ronald Reagan look liberal. One major part of Johnson’s appeal to younger voters is he support for marijuana legalization, leaving many to speculate whether or not they are supporting Johnson just so they can light up legally.
Not only that, but Mr. Johnson embarrassed himself on live television twice when asked about foreign policy. He couldn’t identify the Syrian city of Aleppo, in a moment that’s become something of an internet meme since. He and his supporters demanded that Mr. Johnson be allowed to participate in the Presidential debates, although if that were to happen it probably would have been more damaging to his candidacy than helpful. The moderator would have asked what his plan for recapturing the city of Mosul, and Johnson probably would have looked into that TV camera and said, “I’d like to buy a vowel.”
Then there’s Jill Stein. Or at least, there was Jill Stein. Though her support has almost completely dropped off over the past few weeks, there are still some voters in her corner. Many of her voters are the “Bernie-or-Bust” holdouts during the primary. For many, it’s tough to look past some of Jill Stein’s whackier views. For instance, Stein appears to think Wi-Fi signals can cause brain damage in children. Stein’s running mate, Ajamu Baraka, has been incredibly critical of Senator Sanders and his supporters.
Evan McMullin’s run for President, though brief, has to be considered quite a success so far. Although he has no legitimate shot of winning the Presidency, McMullin provides the GOP voters of Utah an alternative to Trump. McMullin’s rise in the polls (25.2% in Utah on aggregate) has a lot to do with the hesitancy of Mormons to vote for Trump. Trump’s struggles with the Mormon population have been well documented and it may result in the GOP losing Utah for the first time since 1964.
The Trump-Putin Relationship
One interesting narrative surrounding the 2016 election is the connection between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Multiple cybersecurity firms have come to the conclusion that Russia is behind many of the hacks of US government servers, leading many to believe the Putin has openly and blatantly been using his country’s government to sabotage the election. The Republican ticket has not been hesitant to praise Putin, stating that he is a “stronger leader than Obama.” The praise seems a bit misplaced, considering today’s Cold War levels of tension between the United States and Russia. This is the same nation that Ronald Reagan nearly provoked to pushing the button when he jokingly said on a hot-mic , “I’ve just signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever, we begin bombing in five minutes.”
Hillary Clinton’s general election campaign has been mostly scandal-free, aside from the fallout of her email investigation and the consistent dumping of documents from Wikileaks. However, Clinton’s worst week came when she passed out at the 9/11 memorial and had to be carried by Secret Service into her van. The episode gave conspiracy theorists some to speculate about for a brief moment; however, Clinton’s health seems to have rebounded and she has not had even a minor health episode since.
Donald Trump Refuses to Release Tax Returns
One of the most unprecedented aspects of Trump’s Presidential bid is his refusal to release his tax returns. Trump has claimed that he cannot release his tax returns while under audit, but this claim has been challenged by some tax experts.
The Leaked Trump Tapes
Perhaps the moment that killed the Trump campaign was the leaked audio of him and Billy Bush speaking about women in a demeaning manner. The phrase “grab them by the pussy” certainly did not do Trump any favors among female voters, a demographic he was already struggling with.
Since the leak, multiple women have come forward alleging sexual harassment and sexual assault charges against Trump. Though none of these claims have been confirmed, they certainly have raised eyebrows. Trump has denied the claims, calling them “outright lies.”
We’ve finally finished the debates and there are two weeks until Americans go to the polls on November 8. Like many Americans, I’m so glad the debates are over. It was one angry diatribe after another from Donald Trump, and a lot of satisfied silence from Hillary Clinton. From Donald Trump promising to appoint a special prosecutor to imprison his political opponent to his assertion that telling the American people a strategy on ISIS is “telling the enemy what you’re doing.” He simply throws out slogans (law and order) and says what he’s trying to reassure voters that he would do, but has no plan to actually accomplish (we’re going to take good care of women’s health, believe me). The worst moment was toward the end, when he interrupted Hillary Clinton and said, “What a nasty woman.” I watched the three debates and felt the same way I do when I hear my next-door neighbors getting into yet another screaming match over the finances or how much their marriage has gone to hell or their troubled son’s latest suspension from school. That feeling is described in one of two sentences: “Get a therapist” or “For the love of god make it stop!”
After the final debate ended, I couldn’t help but look back on what politics used to be. I couldn’t help but compare the election of 2016, where Hillary Clinton is the nominee with the 1992 election, where Bill was the nominee. Compare what you saw in the three debates this year, the behavior of the candidates and the actions of the moderator, with those from 1992.
Now as Donald Trump flirts with refusing to concede the election if he loses and continues to scream from the mountaintops that the election is rigged, compare what you think you’ll hear out of him on election night as the returns come in with the gracious and respectful concession speech that George H. W. Bush gave after being humbled by Bill Clinton in 1992.
We’ve Had Enough
We’ve had enough. We’ve had enough of the madness. We’ve had enough of the name-calling, we’ve had enough of the screaming, we’ve had enough of the fighting. We’ve had enough of the unprecedented stupidity of the candidates and some of their supporters involved in this election.
My fellow Americans, this is almost over. The band-aid will be ripped off soon enough. While there will always be incivility in politics, let’s hope this is the fever pitch and that things will become more civil after this election is over. As much as I’d like to believe that will be the case, it probably won’t be. At least once it’s over, we won’t have this vulgar, disgusting, horrible rhetoric about anyone and everyone who says a discouraging word about that candidate. After all, the battle for 2020 begins on November 9, 2016.