It appears the hard-fought and contentious primaries are now behind us and the presidential election is set as Trump vs. Clinton. Usually, the time between the end of primaries and the Democratic and Republican conventions has served as a time for the parties to unite and come together behind their candidate.
This year, as we all know, is not a typical year. Both parties have significant segments of their base that are essentially vowing not to vote for their candidate. In the end, however, the belief is that the “lessor of two evils” theory will triumph and both parties will get behind their candidate.
I’m not so sure. Ironically, Trump is too left leaning for many Republicans and Hillary too right for many Sanders supporters. The differences in policy are pretty dramatic, but they do not fit nicely along party lines and party identity as they have in the past.
Trump is considered by many to be sexist, racist and generally a bigot. Hillary is viewed as a crook. Both candidates have serious issues about temperament and leadership ability. Virtually all pundits agree that these are the two weakest candidates in modern politics at a time that is absolutely critical in terms of determining what direction this country will move.
Both candidates have the highest negatives ever for people seeking the presidency, so neither party is comfortable in anything going forward except that they couldn’t have a weaker opponent. Because of the huge negatives and perceptions swirling around both candidates, it is widely considered that this will be a brutal election centered mainly around personal attacks with little to do with policy.
Hillary has a significant advantage in fundraising and is expected to raise and spend $1 billion to reinforce all the negative perceptions of Trump. But Trump has shown the ability to capture free exposure and get his message out without having to spend a lot of money, to the chagrin of both parties.
The experts tell us this will be a battle of personal destruction, with two weak candidates trying to make the other seem like such a terrible choice that we will have to accept them. The battle cry of “the other candidate is worse than me” is not exactly inspiring, but that is what we can look forward to.
There are only 13 swing states and that is with a pretty loose definition of what constitutes a swing state. So the focus will largely be in those few battleground states, of which the Republicans will need to win nearly every one.
It is not impossible for Trump to make up some major ground in the swing states and it remains a mathematical possibility for Trump to win, but the odds are not good. Identity politics and personal attacks looks like the course for both candidates, so we are likely to have a split—a presidency and the House of Representatives controlled by opposing parties. The inability of Washington to act, and specifically Congress’s inability to move forward on the big issues, has been blamed largely on partisan politics or inept leadership.
Regardless of the reason, the failure of Congress to address the major issues facing the country has led to an ever-increasing power in the presidency. Our founding fathers’ greatest fear has come to pass; an executive branch that overwhelms the legislative branch and an independent judiciary that has taken upon itself to legislate.
As a result, the people have lost their voice and the entire direction of the country is determined in presidential elections, making the presidential election the only one of true significance. The people have tried to mitigate this power and lack of checks and balances by ensuring that one party does not control both houses of Congress. Gridlock doesn’t change the direction but it does slow the rate of progress.
Both parties rebelled against the establishment, but the Democrats ultimately prevailed in electing their establishment candidate while the Republican party went with the most anti-establishment candidate they could find.
The presumptive nominees are still on fragile ground. Hillary obviously broke the law, and there remain questions about whether she will be indicted or if politics will allow her to slide. Trump continues to make politically incorrect and bone-headed statements that may cause Republicans to think twice if he doesn’t show signs of improving prior to the convention.
Agriculture is not expected to be a big topic in the election. However, we will have a lot at stake with the two candidates representing drastically different views on virtually everything from endangered species to the economy and from health care to the deficit.
In the end, this election will not be a referendum on what direction we want to head, but on which candidate is perceived to be “less” dangerous. Despite all the bluster, Sanders voters will likely vote for Hillary, conservatives will vote for Trump, and the group in the middle will determine who poses the greatest risk.
As we progress toward November, the differences between the candidates will likely become more acute. In the end, however, the one thing we will all agree on is that the system somehow failed us. At a time where we desperately need positive leadership, we validated all the cynicism that exists.
The Republicans began with the largest and deepest field in history, but too many choices led to division. The Democrats created a process that was supposed to be a coronation, eliminating all serious candidates, but they ended up with a contentious primary season that has left the party divided and their candidate weakened.
Nobody predicted what actually happened, which probably means we will have many more surprises between here and Election Day. We were looking for positive change; instead we get to choose between “more of the same” and “back to the future.”
My prediction is that the country will be hopeful the day after the election and looking forward to 2020. The majority of Americans want change, they just couldn’t find agreement on what that change should be. But it is hard to believe that “more of the same” will be acceptable four years from now.
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