It is hard to believe that the 2016 presidential election is less than three days away. This election has included everything from a seventeen person Republican primary race, a Democratic primary where the party’s anointed candidate was nearly upstaged by a self-professed socialist and a highly contentious general election race featuring two larger than life candidates. The aforementioned candidates Democratic nominee former first la, former US senator from NY and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee, real estate magnate and former reality television star, Donald Trump have certainly kept the race interesting, nasty, but interesting.
The presidential race has been especially compelling because it is has been very close. Less than three days away from Election Day, Clinton and Trump are tied in several national polls. And while many say that Clinton has a much more solid path from an electoral college perspective, liberal leaning news outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post have delineated at least six different ways in which Trump could achieve the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency. All of these paths involve Florida with its 29 electoral college votes. Consequently, he is spending a lot of time in the Sunshine State as is Mrs. Clinton. As we come down to wire, Trump and Clinton are fighting for other key battleground states including North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada, Colorado and New Hampshire. The fact that Trump even has a chance at Michigan is testament to his campaign as no Republican has won the state since 1988. Even Mitt Romney whose father had been a governor of the state, could not pull of a Michigan win in 2012. Pennsylvania would also be an incredible prize for Trump. Both Clinton and Trump and their surrogates have made multiple appearances in the Keystone State in the final days of the election.
The race is also very interesting because of the polarizing nature of both candidates. They say politics is an ugly business, but this campaign has been particularly vitriolic. Trump refers to Clinton as “crooked Hillary”. And Clinton has described Trump as the “most dangerous person” to run for president in recent history. She also referred to half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables”, a comment she later reluctantly walked back. While there is plenty of evidence that Hillary Clinton has exhibited unethical behavior throughout her political career including Watergate, Whitewater, Benghazi, Email gate and the quid pro quo dealings at The Clinton Foundation, Trump is being labeled “dangerous” largely because he made some inappropriate casual headline grabbing comments during the primary such as saying that he is going to deport all Muslims or that the Mexicans crossing US borders are all “rapists and drug dealers”.
The Trump campaign has been an extraordinary campaign especially since Trump has literally been attacked on all fronts from the onset. In addition to the expected negative attacks from the Clinton machine, he has received an inordinate amount of negative coverage from the media. It was also patently obvious during the debates, that most of the moderators (with a few exceptions) were openly biased against Mr. Trump, a phenomenon which was evidenced in both the primary and the general election. Trump was also largely abandoned by his own party with leading Republicans refusing to endorse his candidacy such as the Bush family or giving him a lukewarm endorsement such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
The campaign suffered a setback a few weeks ago when an eleven year old audio tape of Trump making crude comments about women with then Access Hollywood host Billy Bush en route to the Days of Our Lives set surfaced. The audiotape debacle was shortly followed by a series of about twelve women coming forward to say that Donald Trump had either sexually assaulted or sexually harassed them. While most of these claims were ultimately debunked, the “sexual assault” allegations gave the media plenty of fodder and they made their way into the presidential debate questions. However, Trump surprised everyone by showing incredible resiliency, a characteristic which he has demonstrated throughout the campaign. Despite all of attempts from the left, the media, and the Never Trump Republicans to destroy his candidacy, Trump was slowly building a group of fervent supporters as was evidenced through the huge crowds which were showing up at his rallies. While Hillary Clinton sometimes had less than 1000 in attendance at a rally, Trump was regularly seeing crowds of over 20,000.
At the same time Trump was slowly pivoting from being focused on rhetoric to being focused on policy. Instead of just saying that he was going to build a big beautiful wall and that Mexico was going to pay for it, he delivered a detailed immigration policy. Then he started delivering one signature policy speech after another on the economy, childcare, repealing and replacing Obamacare etc. He also implemented outreach efforts to minority communities who are not typically courted by the Republican Party. He visited the black communities of Cleveland, Detroit, and Philadelphia asking the African-American community to “honor him with their vote”, saying “What have you got to lose?”
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has run a largely conventional campaign. She approached the entire primary as if she had already won the election, although her campaign was tested by the presence of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent who became a Democrat so that he could run for president. Sanders, a seventy year old self-professed socialist gave Clinton a run for her money by winning a number of primary races and by generating incredible enthusiasm and crowds rivaling those for Trump. After Clinton ultimately clinched the party nomination, information surfaced which revealed that the Democratic National Committee was working for Clinton the entire time and was not treating the Sanders’ campaign with the same level of attention. The DNC chairperson, Debbie Wasserman was forced to resign on the eve of the Democratic National Convention and the Vice Chairperson Donna Brazile who also was a CNN contributor was also implicated when it became public knowledge that that she had leaked questions to the Clinton campaign in advance of a primary town hall back in March.
While Hillary’s campaign may have been conventional, the backdrop surrounding it certainly has not been. Since March 2015, Clinton has been under FBI investigation for her use of an unsecure email server during her tenure as secretary of state. Clinton was also being investigated by the FBI for a separate matter, allegations that she used her role as Secretary of State to implement quid pro quo deals with donors to the Clinton Foundation to line her own pocketbook. For instance, organizations such as Judicial Watch have made public evidence that shows a direct link between donors including those from foreign countries with questionable human rights practices receiving an important meeting or contract with the State Department and the foundation receiving a donation or Bill Clinton receiving a hefty speaking engagement fee. Clinton thought that she had put the email scandal behind her back in July when FBI Director James Comey said that while she demonstrated “extreme carelessness” in her handling of classified information, there was no evidence that she willfully was grossly negligent. Consequently, Comey recommended that Clinton not be prosecuted, a decision which did not sit well with his FBI colleagues. However, Attorney General Loretta Lynch accepted his recommendation. After all, why shouldn’t she, she had recently participated in a highly inappropriate meeting with former president Bill Clinton on a Phoenix airport tarmac while Hillary Clinton was being investigated?” Clinton was still fending off the near daily WikiLeaks releases of emails from her staff members’ inboxes substantiating the aforementioned quid pro quo dealings, coupled with cozy exchanges with the media and “gotcha” comments from the candidate herself including insulting comments about Catholics and references to “needy Hispanics”.
WikiLeaks kept promising that an October surprise was forthcoming. However, when it came, it wasn’t from WikiLeaks. On Friday October 28, FBI Director James Comey announced that he was re-opening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after discovering emails which may be pertinent to the investigation on a laptop which was jointly shared by disgraced New York congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. The emails were discovered because the FBI was investigating Weiner for participating in sexting activity with a minor. Less than a week later, there was more bad news for Hillary Clinton when the Department of Justice announced that they had evidence that five countries had hacked into Clinton’s email server and extracted data from it. An indictment is also considered to be likely. Hardly, an appropriate media release for someone running for president.
So here we stand, with the election a weekend away. The two presidential candidates are virtually deadlocked in the race. And while the candidates have their supporters, they also have plenty of detractors. There are plenty of people who if you survey them will tell you how depressed they will be if Donald Trump wins. There is probably an equal number of people who will tell you how depressed they will be if Hillary Clinton wins. There are many people who remain undecided and will not select their candidate until Tuesday. This situation makes me think of the Rolling Stones song which Trump plays at the end of every campaign rally. “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need”. So , if Trump wins, one could say that he was the unlikely messenger, the candidate needed for the times we face. I am not sure how we will interpret those prophetic words if Hillary wins.
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