Understanding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Robert D. Eldridge

 Where does one begin when trying to explain what is going on in the United States with this year’s presidential election? It is certainly one of the most bizarre ones to date, not least of all because the two main candidates are highly unpopular with the American public.


 For example, in one poll conducted by CNN/ORC after the September 26 Presidential Debate, while most people thought Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party candidate for president, won the debate, only 34% said they were more likely to vote for her after it. The percentage was even worse for Donald Trump, the Republican Party nominee. A mere 18% said they would support him.

 What is also very interesting is that 47% of those polled said they could not vote for either candidate. In other words, almost 50% of the public cannot stand either candidate.

 This is reflected in another poll. When Hillary’s supporters were asked what was the primary reason they were voting for her, 50.7% said, simply, that the reason was because “I don’t want Donald Trump [in office].” Similarly, when Trump’s supporters were asked their number reason for supporting him, some 49.7% responded as their primary answer, “I don’t want Hillary Clinton [in office].” In both cases, the percentages of those who answered they “agree with the policies” or “like the candidate” was far fewer.

 Of the two, Trump was less liked, with just 6.2% of his own supporters giving that as the primary answer. However, this does not mean that Hillary was popular. Only 8.5% of her supporters gave “like her personally.”

 As a result, the discussions among the public have focused on voting for the “lesser of two evils.” While Hillary is highly distrusted (only 11%, according to another poll, of Americans trust her), Trump is viewed as mentally unstable, racist, rash, and likely to start a nuclear war, and thus “more evil.”

 However, there are those, like this writer, who believe that even the lesser of two evils means you are still voting for evil if you vote for Hillary. Thus there are many voters in the United States who will either abstain from the election altogether or vote for a third party candidate.
Said another way, the Democratic Party chose a candidate that is so unpopular that she could even lose to a more unpopular Republican candidate.

 Sadly, this situation could have been avoided during the Democratic Party primaries when Bernie Sanders, a life-long independent who caucused with the Democratic Party and recently was voted the most popular U.S. Senator in the country for his principled stands, unbending consistency, unassailable integrity, decency, and likeability, was also running. Unfortunately, in a great travesty of democracy and possible fraud and other illegal behavior, the party leadership failed to remain neutral, covertly (and in some cases overtly) supporting Hillary over Sanders and doing everything it could to sabotage his campaign including not counting ballots, suppressing voters, and otherwise making it difficult to vote as recent hacked e-mails make clear. As a result, the leadership of the party resigned en masse, but many were simultaneously recruited by Clinton’s campaign, including one as honorary chairperson.

 Despite all of this, Sanders curiously endorsed Clinton. His public reason was his effort to prevent a Trump presidency, and the fact that the Party platform adopted some of the policies he had called for during his campaign, such as a 15-dollar minimum wage. Few people, however, believe that Clinton will honor the pledges in the platform, and are highly disappointed with Sanders for “his selling out.”

 His rebuttal is that the campaign was not about him, but about his progressive ideas and thus the “revolution” has to continue in the form of a movement for the ideas he was pursuing.

 This writer does not feel he “sold out,” but believe he was greatly misled and poorly advised. It is not just me, but many others who think this as well. Namely, it appears that the Democratic Party no longer represents the working class people that traditionally was its base. If anything, the Democratic Party has become a corporatist party, representing big business. Symbolic of this, Hillary has received a large amount of donations from businesses, including banks, investment firms, and media conglomerates, and indeed, she is one of the largest recipients of political contributions.

 The biggest issue of this election, while not really discussed by the major news outlets (who tend to be major political donors as well), is the problem of political contributions. In other words, there is a strong demand to get money out of politics, due to the reality that most politicians have been bought. The corruption of the U.S. political world is at an all-time high. As a result, almost all Americans distrust our politicians, government, judiciary, financial system, and media. Even the wealthy, do not trust the system. If they did, they would not need to misuse it for their own interests.

 This was the largest concern raised by Sanders, and one of the reasons for his popularity and high support, and thus a strong reason why the very rich supported Hillary, as she would do the bidding of the wealthy. As readers know, the difference in income equality has reached extremes in the United States, and much frustration among the public.