So, the unimaginable happened, and we now have a reality TV star as our next president. I have a few thoughts about the election and what I observed that I want to write down.
Third Party performance
To say that I was disappointed in the campaign waged by the third party candidates is an understatement. The only third party candidate who actually did anything significant was McMullin who managed to get 21% of the popular vote in Utah, and was so effective that his presence was known around the country. And that was with only a few months of campaigning. I realize that the main third party candidates (Johnson and Stein) did not have anywhere near the budget that Trump/Clinton had, but that is not a good excuse for the near total silence of those parties. However, even with the lackluster campaign, the impact of third parties was noticeable in several states. A breakdown of how third parties fared is in this table (along with the performance of the Libertarian party, which is of course who I voted for). All numbers are a percentage of the popular vote.
|Election||Total third party||Highest ranked candidate||Libertarian vote|
One takeaway is that even with the almost total lack of campaigning, the third parties took almost three times as many votes as last year, and the most since Perot’s second attempt. That’s decent considering they were barred from the debates, unlike Perot who was allowed to debate which led to a good deal more national visibility. Perhaps some momentum can be gained so that next election, third parties will be more viable.
Here’s a table of the voter turnout for the past several elections. All numbers are percentage of the eligible voter population.
So the voter turnout was down down from the last two elections. Considering the high level of interest in this election with two highly polarizing candidates, I find it notable that the percentage dropped instead of rose. This, as much as anything, demonstrates that there was a sizable percentage of the population who simply were not interested in voting for either of the two main candidates. I would have actually liked to see the turnout even lower, not because I am in favor of people not voting, but because the statement would have been stronger that the two parties have completely failed to meet the desires of their constituencies.
What would have been even more interesting is if the turnout had remained constant, but that the 3% who voted last election but chose not to vote this time had voted for a 3rd party candidate of their choice. Or the 7% who voted 2 elections ago, but did not choose to vote this time. If the 3rd part candidates had received 11% of the popular vote, that would have been a huge wake-up call I believe.
Voter dissatisfaction with the candidates
In one of my last posts, I said that I hoped that this election served in some way to break up the stranglehold that the two parties have on politics. I’m not sure if that will happen, but there are certainly some points that bear watching.
As I was watching the election coverage, one of the reporters at one of the polling places reported something that I found both obvious and incredibly important. They were asking people whether they had cast their vote FOR their candidate or AGAINST the other candidate, and the reporter said that the results were coming in around 50/50 split. Now, I understand quite a bit about statistics, and I understand that without a much larger sample size and more rigorous treatment of how the question was worded, and how the data was gathered, we can’t say that that number is representative of the populace at large… but based on what I’ve seen and heard, that may actually be pretty accurate! What if that is true?
What does it mean if around half of the people who voted for Trump weren’t really in favor of him… they simply felt that they could not allow Clinton to be president? And if Clinton had actually won, the same statement would apply to her. Regardless of the result of the election, it must be obvious to anyone who can look at the election process in an objective way that the American people are not feeling a strong connection to either party at this point!
In my earlier post, I had figured that Clinton would win because they (the democtratic party) had not distanced themselves from their constituency quite as much as the republicans had. As a matter of fact, one of my fears, that I didn’t include in that post, was that the republicans would fragment as a party but the democrats wouldn’t, effectively leaving us with a single party system (which would be an unmitigated disaster in my opinion). When I found out that Trump had won, I of course had mixed feelings. But in one sense, I feel a great sense of hope from this outcome.
The day after the election, I read a reaction by Obama to the election, and he is concerned that his legacy is in real danger because of Trump. Let’s look at the democratic party for a minute. We’re just ending 8 years of a democratic presidency which was, by most measures, regarded as a successful period by that party. In an effort to continue that, they put forward a very visible, very successful candidate who in most ways was a sensible continuation of the current democratic program.
And who were they up against? Trump. Have you ever heard people joke that they were going to write in “Mickey Mouse” as a write-in candidate? That’s who the democrats were up against. Their opponent was a candidate who is primarily known for a bad hairdo, for running a reality TV show where he fires people, and for running a number of casinos, many of which have gone bankrupt. Trump has never run for any public office, is facing possible charges for a number of sexual assault charges, and has demonstrated a level of contempt for foreigners, women, and minorities. The democrats opponent was the proverbial “Mickey Mouse”, a joke candidate. And they still lost!
If I had to say what my biggest fear was going in to this election, it was that the democratic party would unite and stand together as a party while the republican party disintegrated. My best case scenario (because I thought a Clinton victory was pretty much a given) was that their turnout would drop due to dissatisfaction in the party and that they would just squeak by a victory. Instead, they went one better. They lost. Trumps victory is, in my view, a nail in the coffin of the democratic party. The fact that Trump was the republican candidate is a nail in the coffin of the republican party. These represent (in my opinion) an important victory for America politics.
So, despite the fact that I am not looking forward to a Trump presidency, his victory does represent at least the possibility of some very vital changes to both parties and hopefully includes the possibility of expanding the role of third parties.
Trump and the economy
Now a couple of thoughts about the Trump presidency. At some point, I may want to comment on Trump and women’s rights, Trump and foreign policy, Trump and health care, and other things, but for now, I’m going to comment on a couple items.
The first is the economy. Trump touted this as one of the points that he had over Clinton… namely that he was a successful businessman who knew how to get the country out of debt and out of recession.
I’m going to call bull s**t on this one! Trump’s economic experience is all about getting loans, building outlandishly expensive buildings, finding ways to avoid paying taxes on them, and then when they fail, using a combination of bankruptcy and bailouts to come out ahead.
We do NOT need more loans. We do NOT need more expensive outlays of tax money. We certainly don’t need to experiment with bankruptcy on the national level. And as far as bailouts, who do we, as the American country, go to for a bailout? China? I hope not. Europe? They’re barely able to help themselves. The fact of the matter is, there’s nobody to bail us out except ourselves. Trump has little to no experience bailing himself out. I am NOT looking forward to the Trump economy, because I think it’s going to be a disaster.
Trump and the military
The other comment I have is on Trump as commander in chief. Because of the wisdom of the founding fathers, our government has a lot of checks and balances built into it, to the extent that even a terrible president can’t do a lot of damage all by himself (or herself). It takes the cooperation of congress for most things. Trump may have spouted off about how he wants to build a wall between us and Mexico, but he actually won’t be able to do that without congressional cooperation, which he won’t be able to get.
However, one area where the president has a huge amount of power (far more than was intended) is over the military. For a century, American presidents have bypassed the congress almost entirely in their use of the military. Despite the constitutional requirement that congress declares wars, every president in my lifetime has bypassed that requirement. The wars in Korea, Viet Nam, Afganistan, Iraq, and every other war in the past century has been conducted without a congressional declaration of war. As I’ve stated before, the last time we had a congressional declaration of war was World War II.
Trump, as commander in chief, has inherited a power that his predecessors have unwisely (and unconstitutionally) stripped of vital checks to that power that would limit Trump’s ability to misuse that power. Trump will soon control the most powerful military force in the world, and will not need the support of congress to employ it!
No president… not Clinton (either of them), not Bush (either of them), not Obama, not Reagan, and certainly not Trump, should have that power.
It will take a lot of work. I’m not even sure how feasible it is. But congress needs to act quickly to reinstate the constitutional checks to ensure that neither Trump, nor any future president, is allowed to exercise their power as commander in chief without congressional checks.
If that occurs, then I will consider that aspect of a Trump presidency as a huge victory for America. If no attempt is made to limit his use of military power, then I am definitely concerned about this aspect of the Trump era.