Opinion » Letter From The Editor

Campaign 2016: Lessons Learned



It's Election Day as I write this. If the polls are to be believed, the cover of this issue would have Hillary Clinton on it, but we won't make that decision until late Tuesday night, or maybe even Wednesday morning, after this column has gone to press. Nevertheless, as I look back at this extraordinary campaign year, I think there are several lessons we can take away.

Lesson one: The primary system is irrevocably broken, beginning with the ridiculous tradition of starting the campaign with the Iowa caucuses, where mostly white voters in a small, mostly white state meet in living rooms and gymnasiums to vote on a slate of five to 17 candidates. The winners of this silliness are declared "front-runners." Then the whole bunch moves on to another tiny, mostly white state — New Hampshire — and plays out the game again. This process is in no way reflective of the will of the majority of voters in either party. This is how you get a Donald Trump.

I've written about this before, but my solution would be to have four primary election dates, one for each time zone, maybe two weeks apart. Candidates could campaign in the east for a few weeks, then move on to the midwest, etc. Scramble the order of the time zones every four years. Make the primaries reflective of the will of a broad majority of the two parties' voters, not the passions of a motivated fringe element in a single state.

Second, the media are suckers for an outrageous candidate. Donald Trump showed future candidates how to game the press, especially network and cable television. He spent nothing on advertising but received millions of dollars worth of publicity and air time merely by being willing to say anything. Once the national media learned that Trump coverage meant higher ratings clicks, the process accelerated and fed upon itself. Higher ratings and more website clicks mean more revenue. Trump was a profit driver for Big Media.

Third, fact-checkers are pretty much irrelevant. People will believe what they want to believe, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. One national newspaper reporter kept a daily post of "false things Donald Trump said today." Most days, it was well over 50. It didn't matter.

On the final day of the campaign, Trump told a rally audience that he'd once won "Michigan's Man of the Year" award. Journalists were unable to find any record that such an award existed, much less that Trump won it. The lie wasn't even mentioned on the national news that evening.

Fourth, we learned which Republicans have integrity, which ones are craven sellouts, and which ones don't have the courage to be either. Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, Jeb Bush, and many other Republicans were notable for their refusal to support their party's horrible candidate. Paul Ryan, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and others were notable for their weakness, endorsing a man who had viciously and recklessly insulted them and/or their families. Worst of all were those Republicans who refused to endorse or not endorse, those who kept quiet the entire campaign, hoping we wouldn't notice. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, I'm talking to you. I hope Tennessee voters remember what cowards you were during this pivotal election.

And finally, if against all predictions, Donald Trump wins the presidency, we will have learned that the polling industry is now utterly worthless, and, more importantly, that America has truly lost its mind, its heart, and its soul.

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