Ugly Skinny-Dippers

The 2016 Presidential election cycle was a great moment in American politics. The tide abruptly went out and both legacy parties were caught swimming naked. And it was ugly!

Each legacy party came away from the election with a serious loss of reputation. Both parties experienced an uprising, a revolt of sorts, led by an “outsider,” which challenged the established leadership of that party. One party successfully snuffed out its rabble-rouser and the other was captured by theirs.

The warring forces on the Democrat side were Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, and self-professed socialist, versus the establishment Democratic National Committee, supporting Hillary Clinton. Sanders was hugely popular among some Democratic constituencies, especially among young people. He represented a breath of fresh air with his radical ideas, pro-peace stance, and the “crazy but good, old guy from down the street” vibe. In a fair, non-corrupt fight, The “Burn” might very well have coasted to an easy victory against Hillary Clinton. But this wasn’t a fair fight. The details of just how the Democrat establishment manipulated the process to give Clinton the nomination are still not entirely clear. What is clear is that those Bernie supporters came away from the experience with a terrible taste in their mouths and little desire to cast a ballot for the Democrat Party.

The forces at war on the Republican side were Donald Trump, a businessman and media personality with no previous political experience, versus the Republican establishment that had previously nominated the Romneys and McCains and scuttled the campaigns of outsiders like Ron Paul or Gary Johnson. In 2016, the Republican establishment had not made a clear choice of candidate. During the Republican primary process, Trump was demeaned by the party establishment and considered to be something like a sideshow freak. The many establishment candidates, the Bushes and Kasichs and Cruzes, largely towed the company line, speaking in generalities, only softly touching popular topics, and skillfully avoiding anything of substance. Trump’s often inflammatory populist rhetoric stood out from the crowd, and many people were drawn to it. The mainstream media gave Trump non-stop coverage making them a very effective, yet perhaps unintentional, promotional vehicle for him. With the nomination wrapped up, Trump dominated the media, and despite all the outlandish and tasteless things being said by him, the public fell for the scam and elected him. After Clinton, Trump is possibly the most disliked individual in politics currently. Trump left many die-hard Republicans embarrassed and looking for alternatives.

Many Democrats hated what they saw when the tide went out, a managed nomination process in which the voters’ wants didn’t matter. Many Republicans didn’t like any of their choices, and certainly didn’t like the idea of pulling the lever for the “grab ‘em by the pussy” showman guy. And now that he is the President, mainstream Republican voters have gone even deeper into hiding, knowing the fully exposed party of Trump is putrid even to glance at. 

Remember, this is a proud Libertarian speaking. I believe that what the 2016 election boiled down to is a gain for the Libertarian Party. With almost half of registered voters not showing up last year, it is safe to say that disenchantment with Trump will bring many of them off the sidelines. There are also about 20 million people eligible to register to vote who have not. Perhaps President Trump will also motivate them to register and participate in future elections.

by Michael Smith – Secretary of the Libertarian Party of Broward County