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Friday, August 12, 2016
The Prospect of a 43-Percent President
The last ten polls reporting the outcome of a four-person presidential race with the Democrat Clinton, Republican Trump, Libertarian Johnson, and Green Party's Stein gives Hillary Clinton the edge in the popular vote but leaves her with an average in those ten polls of only 44%. Her unfavorable ratings with voters remains incredibly high for a major party candidate, compounded by the fact that Hillary has been at the center of Washington politics for a quarter of a century.
If Hillary wins – and the polling data suggests she well may – she might be able to win the presidential election with as little as 40% of the popular vote.
The complete disillusionment of Americans with Washington and with the two major political parties has made presidential winners with a wafer-thin majority or even a minority of the popular vote the new norm. In the last ten presidential elections, the winning candidate received on average a pathetic 50.08% of the popular vote.
The Obama "landslide" in 2008 was actually a mediocre victory, with only 52.82% of the popular vote. Obama fared worse in his re-election campaign in 2012 when he won only 51.01% of the popular vote. This is an inversion of the pattern since FDR through Ronald Reagan, when an incumbent president seeking re-election (FDR in 1936, Eisenhower in 1956, Nixon in 1972, and Reagan in 1984) won on average by a whopping 8.75 percentage points higher in re-election than the first time around.
Two of the last four presidents seeking re-election have actually gotten less than half of the popular vote: Bush in 1992 and Clinton in 1996. Indeed, prevailing candidates in presidential elections over the last ten elections have done remarkably worse than the prevailing candidates in the prior ten presidential elections.
Compared to that anemic 50.08% of the popular vote that the winning candidates have gotten in elections since 1976, the ten prevailing candidates in those presidential elections from 1936 to 1972 won on average 54.45% of the popular vote, meaning that by the historic standard of ten points, these candidates were winning landslide victories.
Combine this electoral data with polling data showing that Americans today have very little trust in Washington, in politicians, in news media, and in political parties, and the success of anyone perceived to be an outsider, whether that someone is a Marxist from Vermont or a billionaire from New York, is better understood.
The question "What can the two major parties do about this?" is answered by another question: "Do these two major political parties want to do anything about this?" Certainly the monotonous parade of candidates who were part of political dynasties – Bush, Gore, Clinton, and Romney – and who were the nominees of both political parties during this period was a strong suggestion of entrenched, privileged candidates.
Most of the major party nominees during the last forty years have either been lawyers or gone to law school. In the case of Democrats, this fetish with lawyers is positively macabre. Hillary and Bill are both lawyers; Barry and Michelle are both lawyers. When was the last time Democrats nominated someone who was not a lawyer or (in the case of Gore) went to law school? Jimmy Carter, forty year ago.
Both parties seem wedded to old, rich, familiar faces who know how the system operates. "Old" means "old" – Trump is 70, and Hillary will turn 69 in October – and "rich" means "rich" – Trump is a billionaire, and "dead broke" Hillary is worth about $100 million.
The decline in the quality of candidate given to us by the two major parties has produced in the 2016 presidential election two candidates who are each more distrusted and disliked than any nominee of either party during the last forty years. This may be the first presidential election in which voters, if states gave voters the NOTA ("None Of The Above") option, might reject the candidates of both major parties.
No one this year, especially the American voters, is really going to win anything worth bragging about. If the "winning" candidate in 2016 does not reach 43%, that "winner" will have the lowest electoral support of any candidate in the last one hundred years. What a sad commentary on the two big parties in America.