ELECTION FEELINGS ARE
WAY TOO COMPLICATED
The Web keeps telling me that Wikileaks is about to release information that will get Clinton indicted. Yet no such revelation is forthcoming.
Network news keeps telling me that Trump’s campaign is in shambles and his poll numbers are in the pits. Yet, survey organizations like Rasmussen claim no clear frontrunner, and even the Los Angeles Times’ daily track continues to show every count within a margin of error.
I get the feeling that there are a lot of agendas being pursued. For instance, what can one make of NBC News anchor Lester Holt’s remark about Trump’s new campaign head, Stephen Bannon? Holt noted that Bannon is executive chairman of Breitbart News, which is…
“known for inflammatory headlines and conspiracy theories.”
The Breitbart News I know is one of the most thorough and hard-hitting news outlets on the current scene. What it’s really known for is cutting through Obama Administration happy talk and doggedly pursuing uncomfortable facts the mainstream media try to obscure.
Lester Holt usually comes off as a likable guy. Was his petty description of Breitbart intended to tar the Trump campaign? Or did it reflect a certain fear of online-media competition? Or both?
There’s no denying the atmosphere in the country has become hyper-partisan. But I’ve seen a lot of politics, and in a way, we’re no more deeply divided in this presidential campaign than in any other.
There was similar disagreement during the race between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Johnson. Criticism of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan or, God knows, George W. Bush wasn’t any kinder.
There is something distinctive about this year, however — something a good deal subtler than mere partisanship. To me everything seems all turned around.
Surely, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have their devoted supporters. But I sense that the numbers of actual true believers are relatively small. A somewhat larger proportion of people who have settled on a particular candidate may see their choice as necessary to advance whatever ideological goals are favored, even if they recognize that Clinton and Trump are both deeply flawed as individuals.
But the largest category of voter this year reflects a different outlook. I think that most people, Republicans and Democrats alike, don’t really support either candidate. Rather, they feel they must cast their ballots against either Clinton or Trump — choosing to oppose the one they’re most desperate to keep from winning.
This negative-option phenomenon isn’t new, of course. In all elections the candidates try to make their opponents look like jerks. I recall how the Johnson campaign very effectively tagged Goldwater with the “extremist” label. That strategy succeeded in overcoming negative feelings people had about Johnson, a man many saw as a seedy Texas dealmaker and ignoble heir to the martyred John F. Kennedy.
This year, Trump keeps beating the drum about “lying Hillary,” even as Clinton endlessly repeats how Trump is “temperamentally unsuited to be President.” Ironically, none of it may be necessary. People know Hillary is a liar. And certainly, Trump’s volatile temperament has been on display since the beginning of the primary campaign.
Through a convoluted process, each party has ended up with its least attractive standard bearer. Voters are faced with more than just a choice between the lesser of two evils. Overwhelmingly, people are against more than they are for.
I suspect this explains much of the confusing and contradictory poll numbers — especially as regards Trump. He has suggested that the polls under-predict his final showing. That may be wishful thinking on his part, but I think there’s truth in it.
Trump explains this as a function of self-consciousness: Many people don’t want to admit they’re voting for him. And there may be truth in that as well. But I think there’s another explanation.
When I’m contacted by a pollster I usually have trouble answering the questions, because they rarely mirror my actual opinions. You can’t say “none of the above” to the options you’re given, but rather you have to chose the one that comes closest. And often it isn’t very close at all.
Sometimes the questions seem like an attempt to drive survey findings in a particular direction. But even honest polls, intended to elicit candid responses, simply can’t account for all variations in opinion. They must limit the answers to something which can be tabulated.
But in this election, since both candidates have such strong negatives, since feelings about them are so complicated and ideological tensions so heightened, and since people see that the stakes in this race as so high, asking if someone prefers Trump to Clinton or Clinton to Trump might not be as straightforward a proposition as it appears.
There can be all kinds of reasons why someone might prefer Hillary and yet vote for The Donald. Or vice-versa.
As has often been said, the only poll that matters is the one taken on election day. That’s never been more true than now.
Because this year, people really aren’t voting to elect their favorite candidate. They’re voting to avoid their worst nightmare.
Rasmussen Reports also emphasizes the closeness of this contest…
Check out their observations at…
Commentator Pat Buchanan suggests his own reservations about the polls. He ticks off a list of Trump points and policies that clearly resonate with the American people and quotes the famous Yogi Berra line…
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”…
Speaking of agendas, it’s interesting to observe media folks trying to lay ideological groundwork for an assumed Clinton Administration. Remember how the only reason you opposed President Obama was because he’s black and you’re a racist? Well, Michelle Cottle, a contributing editor at The Atlantic prepares us for the horrible sexist invective poor Hillary will receive as first woman President…
“As hyperpartisanship, grievance politics, and garden-variety rage shift from America’s first black commander-in-chief onto its first female one, so too will the focus of political bigotry. Some of it will be driven by genuine gender grievance or discomfort among some at being led by a woman. But in plenty of other cases, slamming Hillary as a bitch, a c**t … or a menopausal nut-job (an enduringly popular theme on Twitter) will simply be an easy-peasy shortcut for dismissing her and delegitimizing her presidency.”