Volume Seven: Dude, Where's My Choice?

My Opinionated Thoughts Before Midterm Election Day

2016 in Review

I recently read an article from Politico which actually made me revise my posting schedule, simply because I felt compelled to talk about this issue. The article in question can be found here, but I will give you some of my favorite excerpts now, and explain some of my thoughts on these issues:

1) "Haunted by memories of 2016, liberals around the country are riven with anxiety in the campaigns home stretch. they're suspicious of favorable polls and making election night contingency plans in case their worst fears come true."

Since when did polls stop meaning anything? I thought the idea of polls were to represent what would eventually happen in the election?

My still inexperienced knowledge in the world of politics would certainly make it hard to judge this since I've only truly been through two elections in my life, 2016 and now 2018 midterms, in which I actually cared and took in some way an active role. And much like 2016, I am again being told that the polls mean nothing.

So I wondered why. Why put them out if they really don't show the whole story. Part of the issue lies in the way we poll people. According to a Washington Post article:

"Krosnick said he was not surprised by the inaccuracy of state polls, reasoning that “most state polls are not scientific — either they involve volunteer respondents instead of randomly sampled respondents, or they involve automated calling to landlines only, omitted cellphone only people.”

The way in which we collect this poll information is not for an exact answer, but a general feeling among Americans. And in '16, this makes a lot of sense. In my opinion, and I would assume in a lot of people's opinion, vocally supporting Trump before his election was not a popular thing. In many conversations I had around the time, I could sense a lot more support for Trump, support that many people were afraid to vocalize.

Now, be it right or wrong, this support for Trump was not something that would so much be vocalized in these polls, in large part due to the fact that no one wanted to go on record saying they would vote for Trump. The fear of back lash from people they had been friends with made it sometimes impossible to share true support.

So to say that support for Trump in the election was surprising or unexpected simply comes from the fact that many Trump voters had been, at least on a personal level, placed in an impossible situation, and therefore, they chose not to speak. And when they stopped speaking, the polls stopped representing what would happen.

2) "We're kind of in the bed wetting phase now", said Democratic pollster John Anzalone a Hillary Clinton campaign alumnus who spent election night 2016 in Clinton's Manhattan war room. Two years later, even thinking about the prospect of a repeat of that night's letdown is still too much to for many Democrats to bear. "Stop it!", shouted Nadeam Elshami, a former chief of staff to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, when asked about that possibility."

This actually made me laugh. And I don't mean that to be ignorant. But here's my question: when did Americans forget how to lose? Maybe thats a defeatist attitude, but I truly wonder why your candidate losing in an election is enough to create nightmares. Now I get that Trump is a "different kind of evil", a "mad man with nuclear launch codes", any number of terrible things. But lets look at this objectively. According to an article from the Atlantic, published in 2017:

"In terms of using executive power to pursue his policy agenda, the president has a pretty stellar record. This is one area in office where he has boldly used presidential power to fulfill the promises that he has made on the campaign trail. His number one target has been regulations to curb climate change and high-risk financial investments. Starting from his first days in office, he has issued a series of executive orders that roll back actions taken under President Obama. Scott Pruitt at the EPA has moved aggressively against environmental protections and courted business interests who want more development. While his plan to build a wall along the southern border has stalled in Congress, Trump has relied on executive power to ramp up the detention and deportation of illegal immigrants. When the repeal and replace of ACA floundered, the Department of Health and Human Services has used all of its administrative power to render the Affordable Care Act ineffective. President Trump also ended vital subsidies for health-insurance providers that kept state-insurance markets stable. He declared an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through executive fiat, eliminating the protections that Obama had granted to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. To be sure, some of his efforts have been turned back by the courts, such as his early attempts to implement a ban on travelers from several mostly Muslim nations. Overall, however, the president receives high marks from his success at deploying this power."

So just from that excerpt alone, you get an understanding that Donald Trump hasn't been terrible. That is, if you agree with his agenda. And sure Trump has done bad things too. One of his biggest short comings as outlined by the same articles has been policy and long lasting legislation:

"By most other measures, President Trump is currently receiving failing marks. The most important measure that we have of presidential success is legislation. Great presidents are able to persuade Congress to pass major bills that fundamentally change the policy landscape. This has always been one of the best marks of success. Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal, Lyndon Johnson had the Great Society, Ronald Reagan had his unnamed mix of tax cuts, military spending, and deregulation. Right now, President Trump has nothing to show after nine months of united Republican government. Legislating is always hard, but these are the best circumstances that a party can ask for, with little disagreement on most major issues. President Trump has repeatedly fumbled the opportunity to create a record on Capitol Hill. The way that he has handled the legislative process on issues like health care has been a fiasco. Congress might pass the tax cut, and this would be an important achievement, though it remains a problem for the administration that this low-hanging fruit in a moment of unified Republican control would be his only major bill."

So, to tie this all together: No, Donald Trump has not ruined our country. We still work in much the same way that we did before he was elected. And as you have just read, many of the things he has enacted are short term, subject to removal by the next office holder. And with this year's midterm, Trump may be subject to very real impeachment attempts.

So why then, do we drive ourselves to paranoia and madness over the election of Donald Trump?

Maybe it is the way he talks, the agenda he carries, the ideologies he supports, etc. And for that, I have no answer.

But if you wade through all the noise to the real action that has actually been taken, Donald Trump, at a base level, is nothing more than a republican president who is pushing an agenda that keeps him in office, much like any other president has done before him.

3) "Anazlone said the shock of Donald Trump's upset victory, contrary to most forecasts, still hangs over many in the party. "There's some PTSD", he said."

This is just insane to me.

Had I sat there on election night in 2016 and saw Hillary Clinton win, I would not have PTSD. I would not be in a four year depression and I would not be wetting my bed with nightmares of her in office. I would continue to disagree with her ideas, and would vocalize this when asked. But I would accept her presidency, just as democrats have had to accept the Trump presidency. Does that make me a minority of republicans?

I don't think so. But that's just my opinion.

And I go back to this idea that Trump's victory in '16 was some unbelievable upset, that there was no way he should have won, that every projection said Donald Trump CANNOT win. When you go into an election expecting that one candidate MUST win because all of the data, you feel lied to and cheated by the results of the election. And this is an understandable concept to me.

What I saw in 2015 and 2016 during the campaign was a continued attempt to act like Donald Trump could not win. And obviously we found that this was not true. And unfortunately, the fallout from this was dramatic to say the least.

What we were left with is a Democratic party looking for an explanation, a Democratic party hurting and confused on some levels. And I shouldn't single out Democrats, because I even saw this same confusion amongst Republicans as Donald Trump swept through the primaries. This never Trump attitude lead to a general expectation that it was statistically impossible for him to win.

And so we are left with the above comments. A fear that the American political system is broken, that it had been hacked by Russia, "COLLUSION, COLLUSION, COLLUSION!".

But as I have stated before in this article, what actually happened was much more straightforward.

Trump supporters had been placed in a tough situation, where they felt like vocalizing their support, or even just supporting Trump in the first place was wrong. Democrats stirred up a feeling that to support Trump was in some way inherently wrong, rather than trying to understand why Republicans or anyone in general was voting for Trump.

This lead them into situations where they heard what they wanted, not what they needed, allowing them to ignore the data, which never materialized, because people were unwilling to give their true feelings on Trump until it came time to cast a ballot.

4) "For many traumatized Democrats, heading into Tuesday feels like flying again after surviving a plane crash. Some say the stakes are even higher than in 2016: It was one thing for Trump to win in an electoral fluke, despite losing the popular vote, when he was a political newcomer. It will be downright terrifying, they say, if Americans can't place a check on him after two years of his megalomaniacal rule."

I mean, where do I start.

I will again say, that Trump's victory in '16 was not a fluke, and should not be looked at as such. If Democrats intend to win in the midterms, they have to stop acting like the data is fake, like people aren't actually voting for Trump. I see it day in and day out. Anytime the conversation of politics comes up, it seems like it is impossible for people to actually accept that Donald Trump won, placing the blame on Russia, and not accepting that actual real life Americans voted for Trump.

He won. Plain and simple. He took states from Hillary Clinton that he honestly shouldn't have, and I am looking at Pennsylvania and Virginia, home of Hillary Clintons running mate. If you cannot take home the state of your Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, the once governor of Virginia and current Senator, then that is more than a fluke.

Moving on, I want to focus on the idea that "it will be downright terrifying if Americans can't place a check on him after two years of his megalomaniacal rule".

Has this not happened time and again?

Lets look at the just some of the times someone has put Trump in check since he hit office:

- Travel Ban from Muslim Countries

- A continued investigation into election meddling after the firing of James Comey

- Continued negative press after his attacks on the media

- Failure to build the border wall

- Healthcare reform

Time and again, the American political system has checked President Trump on issue they felt he was out of line. His "megalomaniacal rule" has, in my opinion, been kept in check. While both sides of the aisle might say that he has been allowed to do too much, or is being handcuffed by legislators, falls more along party lines than it does along facts of what is happening.

5) "Another important wild card is the group of the new and irregular voters that turned out for Trump in 2016 - a group whose behavior pollsters have found hard to predict. It remains unclear how many will vote without Trump's name on the ballot, but the president has courted them hard, and a strong turnout could deliver a better-than-expected showing for Republicans."

I will say it once more because I can: this was not a fluke. This group of "new and irregular voters" is not some fluke blip in our electoral system. It is a group that people expected to vote Democrat and went Republican in '16. Many, but not all, Democrats I have talked to personally have been left somewhat confused. "How could this happen?" "How is this possible?"

It wasn't Russia. While it remains to be seen what the full scope of election meddling occurred, I am very confident in stating that the number of people who went to the polls for Trump is very real. And just because Clinton lost the electoral college vote but won the popular vote does not make the election any less real.

In a class this year, I was asked to look at possible changes to the electoral college system. This was not meant as a form of political brainwash, for anyone reading to call administration and complain, it was simply used as a topic for argument and debate. But it did make me think. Is our system broken?

Simply put, no. At least not in my opinion. And that is a bigger argument for a different time. the more important part is this: stop telling people that when you lose, you can blame the system and not yourself.

This is a pretty poor precedent to set.

Too often after the election, I felt as though I was hearing about how our system is broke, how American democracy is dead, etc. And it is not in fact dead. Even for someone who comes from Illinois, a state whose voting map in '16 was more red than blue but still swung Democrat, I do not believe the system is broken. And had Trump lost under the same circumstances, I would be saying the same thing.

Closing Thoughts

Frustration. This word seems to effectively summarize the political views of Americans. Election cycle after election cycle has come and gone, and the same scene is set. People can point the finger where they will, but the finger pointing starts with us, the voters.

Every two years, we head to the polls. And whether it is for a local election or a presidential election, we look at ballots along party lines, believing that the only option lies in the red or blue corner.

But what people are ignoring is the independent voice. Because lets be honest with ourselves. It is time for a change. And change doesn't come from a new candidate. Why not?

The major parties in our country are special interest in politics, that's why. When looking at who we are voting for year in and year out, we are looking at the person Republicans and Democrats think respectively displays their views admirably. And some people whole heartedly respond to that, which is perfectly fine.

But what do you say to the people in between? The people whose views straddle party lines? Is this a minority group?

The answer is to push views. Pushing views gains votes. Because it is no longer a candidates job to tell you why they are overall the best choice. And according to polls by both Gallup and the Pew Research Center, 40 plus percent of Americans identify as moderates, a number that has shown growth.

So why then, do we continue this trend?

As I've grown in both knowledge and understanding of the world in politics, I have found and continue to find that people my age don't always identify directly with one party. Where I saw myself as a Republican, I now identify as a nothing, not because I disagree with the Republican party, but because I believe that both Republicans and Democrats alike have goals and agendas that would in some way help the country.

But at the end of the day, the truth of the matter is that I still would have found myself walking into a booth to vote for a major party candidate, because I felt like a vote for an independent was a waste.

In a country built on freedom, we live to have our freedom restricted in the poll booth. We allow ourselves to file into party lines, rather than search for a candidate who best fits our country. We continue to wonder why things don't change, and we throw blame at people on either side of the aisle claiming it is their fault. But how can it be?

We have allowed for our system to be burdened by the idea of winning power and control, rather than looking for positive growth and real, visible change. Maybe this is ignoring major facts. Certainly the world as we know it is filled with lots of gray. And having a belief system, whether conservative or liberal, to guide you through difficult decision making processes is an easy way to feel more confident in what you have chosen.

But what if those ideals don't serve the best interest of the American people? Because how do we really fix issues if we keep talking about the same solutions the aren't working.

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