The Extortion Election of 2016

With the exception of the 1980 and 1984 election cycles, the most common electoral storyline since 1960 is that presidential elections have been won chiefly because most people voted against someone rather than for someone.  In 2016, for the first time in modern American history, that narrative thread has become the entire basis of the campaigns of both the Republican and Democratic Party prospective nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Trump numerically clinched the nomination a few weeks ago.  Confronted with the unenviable task of propping up an extremely unpopular candidate, his surrogates and supporters in media appearances and op-eds have been mightily trying to convince skeptical conservatives and independents to back their guy solely because Hillary would be an unmitigated disaster.  Therefore, his ever-changing policy positions or whatever verbal gaffes he intentionally commits and steadfastly defends, are immaterial as Hillary is the devil incarnate who would sneak into the National Archives at night and set the Constitution ablaze.  The bloody shirt that are potential Supreme Court nominations is continuously waved as a flag of mandatory and unreserved support.

On the other hand, the Hillary forces, also faced with promoting an extremely unpopular candidate, cannot shake the specter of her unsavory background, serial dishonesty and near universal distrust.  Her policy positions are as variable as the points on a compass, depending upon which group she is dealing with at that moment.  Nonetheless, she and her campaign have begun to construct the apparition of a venal and treacherous Donald Trump looming in the background, prepared to tyrannize women, children and minorities.  Only Hillary can save the nation and these eternally oppressed groups from such a fate.

The sad state of affairs is that both sides are fueling the image being created by the other.

Trump, rather than make any effort to remain consistent on his policy pronouncements, continues to vacillate and at times completely contradict what he has said in front of whichever audience he was feeding red meat to at the time.  Further, he persists in making racially or sexually charged statements that apparently reinforce his self-perceived macho image.  Worst of all, he is inherently incapable of admitting a mistake or apologizing to anyone over anything.   All the while, he not only makes it more difficult for the independents and conservatives, unsure of who he is, to rally around him, instead serving as a never-ending source of ammunition for the Hillary Clinton campaign to frighten and intimidate their constituents and voting blocs.

The Clinton campaign is tone deaf to what the voters are telling it insofar as the economy, terrorism, and Hillary’s potential legal problems.  In her wooden mannerism she simply mouths the extreme socialist economic talking points of Bernie Sanders and tosses around platitudes regarding the chaotic state of world affairs, while refusing to address head on her email and national security debacle.  She, too, is inherently incapable of admitting a mistake or apologizing to anyone over anything.  By her actions and demeanor Hillary continuously reinforces her image of a left wing opportunist who would, figuratively, set the Constitution ablaze as well as someone essentially devoid of ethics and honor.  Thus, she plays into the hands of the Trump forces portraying her as an existential threat to the future of the nation.

It is apparent, as both candidates are now approaching 70, that neither is capable of change or candor, as both have spent their entire adult lives in the pursuit of power and influence regardless of the consequences to others.  Whatever attempt either Hillary or Trump would undertake now to ostensibly change their spots would be purely cosmetic and solely intended to further deceive not only the electorate at large but the foundational voters of both parties.

The latest Real Clear Politics average of all recent polls reveals Hillary is viewed favorably by only 37% of the voters while Trump maintains a favorability rating of only 34%.  The same data also confirms that Hillary is, in head to head polling, two percentage point ahead of Trump -- an average of a variety of recent national polls.   However, a Reuters/Ipsos poll published on 4 June shows Hillary up by eleven percentage points.  Is this gain reflective of a more aggressive campaign against Donald Trump begun by both the mainstream media and the Clinton forces over a week ago combined with Trump’s ongoing stumbles and ineptitude?

What is clear is that if both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are their respective party nominees, the only path to victory for either is to turn out their base in near historic levels while breaking even with the remaining voters who are disinclined to vote for either candidate; yet, albeit reluctantly, cast a vote on Election Day.  That strategy entails both parties intentionally and overtly blackmailing their voting base with the prospect of the other candidate winning. 

There will, by necessity, be an artillery barrage of charges, accusations, unbridled character assassination and outright fabrications traversing the campaign battlefield.  Any discussion of policy differences or proposals will be relegated to a distant backdrop.  The party and candidate that succeeds in terrifying the most voters will win.  The American people will ultimately pay the price and be the victims of this extortion regardless of whoever emerges as the winner.

The evolutionary political process that brought the United States to this juncture is a tale of avarice, megalomania, and ignorance set against a backdrop of unimagined wealth and security.  This is a critical election cycle.  Yet many looking at the choices before them will reflect the words of that sage philosopher, Jay Leno, when he said “If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.”  Unfortunately, God doesn’t choose the candidates.   In 2016 the respective party hierarchies premeditatedly skewed the primary process and a plurality but less than 19% of all registered voters in the country voted for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as the nominees for president.

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