The Most ‘Unprecedented’ USA Election Ever?

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Edited by: Martha Zarate

Research Regulation Specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston,TX.


Every USA presidential election manages to feel new somehow. Even amid the wall-to-wall news cable coverage and poll frenzies and day-before-the-election, man-on-the-street interviews with still-undecided voters and when a candidate flip-flops on issues, every four years, there’s a sense that this time — this time — is it is really different. Hillary Clinton, a Washington insider, former first lady, former Secretary of State and possibly the first woman elected President and Donald Trump, an outsider of Washington, an American businessman, television producer, who is the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States in the 2016 election. To say the least, “unprecedented”. This election cycle is the biggest unpopularity contest ever to be witness. When the phrase ‘lesser of two evils’ is used to describe your candidate of choice, that’s a real problem.

Nationwide in the US many voters are scratching their heads at how we came to this point with these two major candidates: a Republican outsider with no experience in office, whose controversial actions have led more than 100 leaders in his own party to say they won’t vote for him; and a Democratic insider who battled a potential indictment as well as a tough opponent whose die-hard (Bernie Sanders) supporters fought long and hard against her and the system she represents. A Gallup poll in mid-July showed that one in four Americans disliked both candidates.

What’s different this time?

According to politics professor Richard Ellis, a nationally known expert on the American presidency, has written books on how the presidency was founded and how it developed into what it is today. He admits that it’s tempting, as a historian, to say this election isn’t that different from some in the past. Yet, he struggles to make that claim. “If it had been Hillary Clinton versus Ted Cruz, it would have been a divisive and bitter election, but I don’t think that would have been anything new,” Ellis says. “Trump does feel new. You’d be hard-pressed to find another major party nominee in the past 50 years who has had so many people from their party’s intelligentsia, as well as former elected and government officials, who have distanced themselves from and won’t endorse their party’s nominee.”

Many of those Republican leaders based their denouncement of Trump primarily on his contentious rhetoric. So many, in fact, that at the end of August, The New York Times posted an online graphic titled, “At Least 110 Republican Leaders Won’t Vote for Donald Trump. Here’s When They Reached Their Breaking Point.”

Political professor Michael Marks, who taught “Political Metaphors” last spring, attributes Trump’s use of provocative rhetoric to one reason: It works.

“Trump doesn’t speak in terms of broad metaphorical concepts like progress, and apart from ‘Make America Great Again,’ he rarely presents slogans,” Marks says. “He talks to people like they talk. They feel, in a weird sort of way, less talked down to because he doesn’t use slogans that they feel are devoid of meaning, like a lot of other politicians do.”

Donald Trump has convinced a lot of voters that US political and economic systems are “rigged,” and that, as an outsider, he will be the agent of change. His supporters relish the unprecedented nature of his campaign, because they see it as anti-establishment. Who cares that he’s uncouth in an unprecedented way, and that he says outrageous, unprecedented things, laced with an unprecedented level of lying, goes the thinking: He’s doing things and saying things that the “rigged” political establishment has never done. He’s breaking the traditional mold. He is literally re-forming [in the sense of creating something new] political campaigns. And In Trump World, the more outrageous, the better.

         In Hillary Clinton’s camp after the recent “October” bombshell of a new FBI investigation into more e-mails related to Clinton lashed out at the FBI’s handling of a new email review, leading a chorus of Democratic leaders who declared the bureau’s actions just days before the election “unprecedented” and “deeply troubling.” The news shook up a campaign that has seemed largely on auto-pilot for many weeks, with Clinton holding a stable lead. The New York Times and NBC both reported that the e-mails were discovered in the course of an investigation into former Representative Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton’s closes aide Huma Abedin, who is being investigated for allegedly sexting a North Carolina teenager. The Times reports that the e-mails were found on a device shared by both Weiner and Abedin. This new investigation could be dangerous for Clinton’s presidential campaign, which seemed to have escaped the worse danger from the investigation over the summer. After months of investigation, FBI director, Comey announced in early July that while Clinton and her aides had been “extremely careless” with classified information, there was no evidence of intent to break laws on her part or anyone else’s. As a result, he recommended that no charges be brought against her, a recommendation the Department of Justice accepted several days later. Since the Clintons have a long history of controversies, there are any number of past scandals that continue to float around: The Clinton Foundation probe, Whitewater, Monica Lewinsky, Travelgate, etc.

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, sources working with the White House have indicated that President Obama will likely pardon Hillary Clinton of all her crimes that the FBI is investigating her for.  It has happened before in United States history, as President Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon before he was ever charged with a crime. The decision was highly unpopular, and damaged President Ford politically.  It would certainly damage Democrats for years. However, if Trump wins the election, we can be certain that Obama will pardon Hillary to protect her from prosecution. Obama would also be forced to pardon her because we know that a Trump-led administration would prosecute her to the fullest extent of the law.

The most “unprecedented” USA election will soon be in the history books.

In one aspect of the Trump legacy, win or lose will lower a number of bars when it comes to the hurdles that future contenders have to clear be considered viable candidates.  Conversely, it will be interesting to see whether the publication of Hillary Clinton team’s e-mails by WikiLeaks – disastrous in any other election year will elevate the public’s expectation of, and hunger for, transparency in its future candidates. Thanks to those leaks and FBI investigation, Clinton – one of the most notoriously guarded and private figures in politics may have involuntarily run the most transparent campaign in modern history, though you can expect both continue to dog her presidency and provide ammo for a recalcitrant Republican House.

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