What we have here, right now, is a situation unprecedented in our history as a country–where one candidate’s name has become dull, and overly repetitive in politics, and the other candidate’s name is that of billion-dollar company and, of a grotesque naked statue standing on Hollywood Boulevard. And thus, our country is torn by a decision many simply don’t want to make. We see a society culminating in social media, a lust for reality-television, and entertainment finding itself in a stump. Turn back eight years, and we see that the election then, was of a much different hue. Yes, many aspects of this year’s election were there–social media, animosity towards opposing candidates, and negative ads–that’s only natural, but it was turned down by ten notches. The 2016 election campaign is fraught with many problems, but in essence, it represents the overall health of American politics–which mentally, somewhat resembles that of a man going through his midlife crisis, porsches and mistresses galore. Just as this man is torn by two worlds, that of a bachelor and that of a family, America too, is torn between two worlds. The election reinforces the pernicious partisanship within America that has been growing and growing for years. And this year’s candidates, not only increase the partisanship, but also increase divides within their parties, making American politics survive by a very thin string.
In order to understand where the 2016 election grew from, we must look back at the 2008 election, which was already a game changer in and of itself, but a game changer for positive reasons. Starting off with the democratic candidate, Obama won the election because he was the change America needed. But in milder ways. He was still a senator, and had all the credentials to be President–he just offered something different than Hillary Clinton and John McCain because of his relative “newness” to American politics. When John McCain and Obama were chosen as candidates, they were both proponents for change. Their views, while obviously different, weren’t so starkly contrasting that mediation seemed impossible. Why Obama had won, as opposed to McCain, lied mainly in Obama’s connection to the people, which is intrinsic in current politics. Social media and television brings the candidates face to face with the American public every second of the day, and Obama’s calmness, self-confidence, and overall “aversion to the artifice of politics,”made him the most-likable candidate. After his election, however, while some thought McCain would’ve backed Obama, he “emerged as one of his party’s fiercest critics of the man who beat him.” The GOP, after Obama’s election began attacked Obama personally, and there, the rifts, the animosity, now seen in the Republican’s campaign began. And even more-so, the racism and fueled hatred that underlies a lot of the party’s platform in the 2016 election. In Game Change’s afterword, the authors state, “The perception among Republicans that he is deeply flawed all but guarantees that 2012 will be hotly contested. On the line in the next election for the GOP will be foundation and character of the party; whether it emerges renewed or profoundly fractured.” Heilemann and Halperin warned of the GOP’s growing animosity towards Obama, which Obama overpowered when he won the 2012 election. However, the authors also stated that the GOP might come out as fractured, and after the 2012 election, that has only proven to be true. The GOP has not found itself a viable candidate because of its inclination towards such radically conservative and negative views. Its inability to fix this, has led to this year’s candidate, who embodies all of the GOP’s rising views.
Trump’s very ability to rise to power, other than his wealth, was in his association with the beliefs rising up from the 2008 elections–those that leaned towards conservatism, and far right views. In a very emotional, put sadly true op-ed, Matt Rourke of Newsweek, writes, “I do not believe the Republican Party is racist, but racism is a slow-growing cancer within it that metastasized during the Obama administration. Trump is the ultimate (and predictable) outcome of the GOP’s pandering to bigots. He has been sued by the government for refusing to rent apartments in his buildings to black people.”Trump was able to play on what came out of the 2008 election. But he was also able to rise up based on America’s obsession with mass media, social media, and entertainment. He offered viewers impassioned primaries which they clung onto. And to his main audience, blue collar white workers, he offered them the views they closely associate themselves with. Jonathan Rauch of The Atlantic writes, “Republican opinion has shifted more sharply still: The percentage of Republicans preferring “new ideas and a different approach” over “experience and a proven record” almost doubled in just the six months from March to September of 2015.” Voters now, do not prize the very men who make America’s political system go round and round, the “middlemen” as Rauch states. But rather the outsiders who give it an image. Moreover, Trump’s main audience, especially seen at the RNC were blue-collared workers. He’s said himself, “‘I know them better than anybody will ever know them,” he said during a recent phone interview. “I grew up on construction sites. … I got to know the construction workers, the sheet rockers and the plumbers and the electrician and all of ’em. I worked with them. They were friends of mine.’” While Trump does have a majority of the Republican vote in this respect, there are signs that he is splintering the GOP further in many respects. He is alienating many black, and hispanic republicans, not to mention the moderate republicans who disagree with many of his outlandish views. While Reagan is Trump’s role model, the 1984 GOP convention had a mood that “was upbeat, with party leaders looking to expand what was being called ‘Big Tent Republicanism’ to make the GOP appealing to all Americans.” This years, however, was filled with chaos and repeated animosity towards anyone who didn’t align with Trump’s views, and even in instances towards Trump himself. Trump’s candidacy not only shows the radical partisanship occurring with the two parties in America’s political system, but also shows the insufficiency, and downfall of the GOP.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton is by no means an outsider. She is a candidate that in some ways, can be seen as overqualified, and her extra baggage can be at times burdensome. That baggage includes the Clinton’s private email server, Benghazi, conflicts of interest in Foggy Bottom, Sidney Blumenthal scandal, paid speeches, under-workings of the Clinton Foundation, and the Clinton’s shaky relationship from the “bad, old days.” All these events expose unfavorable traits within the candidate–showing her weaknesses, and maybe not-so-kosher practices. However, when putting them aside, and looking at her credentials, she is by far, the best-suited candidate for the position of President. However, leading up to her candidacy, Bernie Sanders is said to have sparked a revolution within the Democratic Party. Bernie attacked Hillary’s liberalism using a lot of that baggage, and offered a more social-democratic standpoint towards politics. The support Bernie garnered was so strong, that at the DNC, Bernie supporters booed his support for Hillary and instead chanted his name. And while Bernie Sanders didn’t get nominated, he is still extremely important to evaluating the state of American politics currently because he shows the splintering of the democratic party. Hillary has her own form of liberalism, but she also tends to ignore the other forms, which creates divides within her party. Behamin Wallace-Wells of The New Yorker, sums up it well, stating:
“It is telling that Clinton, attacked relentlessly by Sanders for giving paid speeches for Goldman Sachs, never really defended her view of capital’s role in the economy; she just said that the speeches didn’t matter in a Presidential election. Either Clinton really believes that her husband’s Administration resolved the basic problems of social design or, more likely, she is enough of a partisan that she will not publicly describe where it went wrong. One way or the other, she has a blind spot.”
While Hillary Clinton, in her DNC speech, stated that she well listen to all supporters of the Democratic party, it’s hard to see how she will actually mold in all views into her policies. If she doesn’t, that will undoubtably split the party further.
The major disease infiltrating American politics is partisanship. George Washington warned us long ago, we didn’t listen, and now we have ourselves a problem. It’s been growing and growing, especially since 2008, and the selection of these two candidates, radically different, has further pushed politics towards two polarizing spectrums. If Hillary is elected, she will be able to mend the divide within her party if she works towards compromises. She won’t be able to mend the fierce divide between Democrats and Republicans, but that doesn’t take one President, that takes many years and many Presidents. And if Trump wins, then all I have to say is, God bless America.