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Thoughts on an Election

Before I get started on the ruminations of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I'll begin by saying I really have no clue as to who our next president will be. I've always fretted over the outcome of elections, regardless of the polls, and this year is no different. Especially this year. A good case can be made as to why Hillary Clinton will become our 45th president. All one has to do is look at the polls. Clinton has a comfortable lead in many states, enough to make one think that she will win handily on November 8th.

Of course, polls can be wrong. 538 gives Clinton's changes of winning in the low-mid 80 percent range. Several polls would seem to agree. Many Republicans are jumping ship from Trump. The race looks over. But of course, humanity isn't as easily predictable as polling would have us believe. Things happen. People can surprise us. And, for better or worse, I think that Donald Trump may very well become our next president.

First, let's reference a recent Politico article about the Brexit vote in the UK:

The betting markets were just as confident; on the morning of the referendum, they put Remain’s chance of victory at 76 percent and, by the close of voting, at 86 percent. When you asked voters who they expected to win, it was the same story; in the final 24 hours of the campaign, only 27 percent expected Brexit to triumph. Those who sought to keep Britain in the EU, having recruited President Barack Obama to their cause, expressed relief. An anxious Prime Minister David Cameron was told to relax.

We all know that Brexit went on to win, 52% to 48%. 

Granted, The US isn't the UK, and the dynamics are different. But I still think the basics are the same. The western world is drifting rightward in its economic and nationalist concerns. We've seen it played-out abroad and (perhaps soon) at home. Trump plays well to such consternation. He gets his followers fired-up in ways that Hillary Clinton can only dream of. This goes to the crux of voter turnout. Some will argue that negativity will create higher turnout, that people who dislike Donald Trump and are mortified over what his presidency might bring will be compelled to vote. I'm not sure. Trump's supporters like him. He inspires them (sad though it may be). That would seem like a greater motivation to vote than simple dislike.

Donald Trump is charismatic. Now, before you go rolling your eyes, charisma isn't always a positive trait. Plenty of dictators, tyrants and serial killers have been charismatic. It helped them succeed in their despicable aims. Trump has it. Clinton, not so much. Should that really matter? Of course not. We shouldn't choose our presidents based on which one we'd like to have a beer with, or which one we think seems more ordinary or accessible. We shouldn't, but we often do. It's been clear since at least the advent of televised debates and the shaping of political races into popularity contests.

We also hear a lot about how Trump's campaign doesn't have nearly the financial resources that Clinton's does, and how the latter's "ground game" is far superior than the former's. These are hard facts to ignore, and in a normal election cycle, they would be enough to make one nod and say, 'Yes, this is pretty convincing. Clinton has the upper hand.' But this isn't a normal election cycle. We saw Trump decimate well-known, better-funded Republican candidates in the GOP primary. And we heard the same 'he has no ground game' rhetoric then. It didn't matter.

In case there's any doubt, I do not support Donald Trump. The thought of him becoming president terrifies me. I just don't think it's so outside the realm of possibility as many others now do. Turnout will play a huge factor in the results. And never underestimate the sway of populism. It may very well put Trump into the Oval Office.

Whatever happens, I also doubt that this is some sort of re-alignment election, as many seem to think of it. Every four years we hear about how this is the most important election ever. Depending on the results, we hear about how either the Democrats or the Republicans are done for good. Finished. Over.

Two days after the 2004 election, Maureen Down wrote that, as John Kerry conceded to George W. Bush, the Democratic Party was "splattered at his feet in little blue puddles." And she was right. Then, two years later, Democrats came roaring back in the midterms, and then in '08 with the presidency. If Trump and the GOP do lose this year -- even if they lose badly -- 2018 could be a whole different story.

It is also worth noting that, just ten months ago, John Kerry was insistent that the '04 election had been rigged against him. That was over a decade after his loss to Bush, and now we have Donald Trump advancing the opinion that the 2016 election will be rigged against him. To be clear, both claims are spurious, but I mention the Kerry comments because it is worth decrying such assertions, even if they are made by a political party or candidate that I may support.

In short, I hope that Trump loses, but I fear that he very well may win. We'll know for sure in three weeks.


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