Electoral Karma: Voter Discontent in the 2016 Presidential Election

“Bernie Sanders and Marco Rubio weren’t so bad.”

This is undoubtedly what a majority of voters are thinking as Election Day draws near because they aren’t happy with their options:  In a CNN/ORC poll, when asked “How enthusiastic are you about voting?” neither presidential nominee—Clinton or Trump—eclipsed even 40 percent. ((Bump, Philip.  “Why You Should Panic/Rejoice Over that New Poll from CNN, Whomever You Support.” The Washington Post.  September  6, 2016.))  

This discontent is reflected in third party support—to the tune of seven out of every 100 voters (Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson has steadily polled at five percent; green party candidate Jill Stein at two percent).  Even though there are 146,311,000 registered voters in the United States, only 57 percent cast a ballot in the previous election. ((Bipartisan Policy Center.  “2012 Voter Turnout Report.” Bipartisan Policy Center.  November 8, 2012.)) Still, if approximately the same number goes to the polls this year, seven percent will amount to 5,837,808 votes, which  is more than the number of Ohioans who voted in the 2012 general election. ((McDonald, Michael.  “2012 November General Election Turnout Rates.”  United States Election Project.  September 3, 2014.))

The people are not happy and few would argue that neither nominee will be a favorable representation of the Republic.  Yet, as much as we would like to point fingers and chide the DNC and RNC for not courting and vetting better candidates, the fault is ours.

Primary voters selected Clinton and Trump and, as the saying goes, those who didn’t vote in the primaries have little grounds for complaint since they didn’t make their voice heard.  With conservative voters’ overwhelming approval, Trump steamrolled 16 Republican competitors (he didn’t lose his grip on the polls a single time during the primaries).  Conversely, Clinton beat out Sanders after a long, hard-won battle.

Despite liberal voters taking longer to choose and being more divided upon whom their nominee would be, they submitted their ballot knowing Clinton had housed classified information outside a secure location, thus they overlooked the irony of the Secretary of State having overtly jeopardized national security.  Take it from someone who wrote a book on the subject, anyone else caught with Top Secret files in his or her home would have been arrested and charged without hesitation because, as we saw when the gray hat vigilante dubbed “The Jester” hacked Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last October, ((Dicker, Rachel.  “Hacker Claims Breach of Russian Ministry Website.” U.S. News.  October 24, 2016.)) all it takes is one crackerjack techie with an Internet connection to upend the security of an entire nation.

Conservative factions made an early, steadfast choice, only to later be told that they’d given their voting booth-approval to a suspected sexual assailant.  Yet, like Clinton’s supporters, the Republican’s constituency proved it was willing to look the other way: Trump’s polling numbers only suffered temporarily.  He regained competitive momentum in the national polls a scant month after his indiscretions were reported, despite 15 women positing claims that the nominee had made unwarranted, uninvited advances.

So here we stand.  We are in the midst of an election where one-third of ballot casters aren’t going to the polls to vote for someone because they believe their candidate to be the most qualified; their driving motivation is to vote against the other nominee. ((Pew Research Center.  “In Their Own Words: Why Voters Support – and Have Concerns About – Clinton and Trump.” Pew Research Center.  September 21, 2016.))

Even though most of us would like an electoral “do over,” it’s too late.  We are simply, painfully left with the shameful truth:  In a representative democracy, our leaders are an undeniable symbol and reflection of the electorate.  Either Clinton or Trump will be the face of the United States, complete with our stamp of voter approval.  Although misattributed and misquoted, Tocqueville’s purported quip, “In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve” is about to ring true.  In this light, our current presidential options are exactly as they should be and, in retrospect, we can now understand that Sanders and Rubio were not not good enough but, rather, the converse; they were perhaps too good for America.

Hopefully we, the People, for once, will learn from history and not repeat it four years from now.

Michael Gurnow is a former pre-law professor whose political bestseller The Edward Snowden Affair: Exposing the Politics and Media Behind the NSA Scandal is cataloged in the Library of Congress.  His expertise lies in Constitutional Law, specifically the First and Fourth Amendments.  He is a lifelong Missouri resident. Read other articles by Michael.