DAVE LEROY: What to Make of a Crazy Election

By David Leroy

As published by the Idaho Statesman on November 12, 2016
As published by the Idaho Statesman on November 12, 2016

What a night! Call it historic, amazing, depressing, unprecedented — pick your own adjective. Here are my takeaways from an epic election evening:

1. Unpopularity drives turnout, too. A survey last week concluded that 82 percent of likely voters nationwide distrusted both candidates. With 125 million votes cast, the second-most in U.S. history, voting against someone or for the lesser of evils proved a superior motivation.

2. Can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Americans waited eight years for the “Hope and Change” promised by President Barack Obama over two election cycles. Almost nobody in America wanted a third term of Obama, which Hillary came to represent for many voters, especially as the president hit the campaign trail for her so prominently in the closing weeks.

3. The bottom line is money. People still do and probably always will vote their pocketbooks. The best simple explanation for why the liberal, central, blue states flipped red is that Trump’s jobs message struck home.

4. Polling is neither an art nor a science. Boy did the prognosticators miss the call! Hours before the polls closed, based on their trusted field data, many respected pollsters were predicting a 340-vote Clinton electoral landslide. Obviously, new methodologies are needed.

5. Ignorance trumps illegality. The Republican nominee said impolitic words, exhibited ugly attitudes, did disqualifying acts. However, the specter of significant and lingering criminal entanglements, gross and continuing untruths and the Clinton disregard for the rule of law ultimately pushed away more voters than did the Trump offenses.

6. Conventions are archaic, perhaps parties, too. Though much heralded as the keystone of every national campaign, neither convention spectacle foreshadowed much about the issues or strategies that played out over the ensuing months. The fractured political parties were marginalized, especially when some of the formerly faithful, including historic leaders, endorsed or voted across party lines.

7. No spoilers this time. In Idaho, eight separate presidential tickets appeared on our ballots. The 5 percent of popular votes garnered nationally by third-party candidates, if redistributed in key states, could have altered the outcome. However, because such parties were positioned on both the liberal and conservative edges of the political spectrum, no one is yet claiming that they either spoiled or made a victory. They simply held both major candidates under 50 percent.

8. The lawyers stayed home. The margin of electoral victory was wide enough and distributed throughout a sufficient number of states that neither candidate dispatched a bevy of lawyers to the airport to begin legal challenges over “hanging chads” and miscounted ballots. That is a good thing for America.

9. No media honeymoon for trump. CNN was the first network to call a Trump victory, at about 12:41 a.m. Mountain time, 19 minutes to midnight in North Idaho, when they awarded him Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes. The president-elect took the stage in New York City a little while later. Fewer than 10 minutes after his gracious speech, the commentators on MSNBC were citing various provisions of the U.S. Constitution that will necessarily preclude a President Trump from achieving the programs and promises he has made.

10. Trump seems educable. The address to supporters and the national audience struck all of the proper conciliatory, inclusive, hopeful messages achieving a presidential tone. He stayed on teleprompter script, with a minimum of ad libs. That was a promising start.

11. Pardon me? Barack Obama has already begun to vigorously exercise the presidential pardon power. Invoking the precedent of Presidents Ford and Nixon, as the 44th chief executive exits, I believe that he will absolve both Hillary and former President Bill Clinton from any and all crimes they may have committed in their recent public and private lives. That won’t stop the parade of revelations or prevent other legal consequences, but it will make Foundationgate a sideshow, rather than a national preoccupation.

We have again accomplished the peaceful revolution and transfer of political power under our Constitution. Hillary Clinton made a warm, strong and encouraging morning-after concession speech. Trump begins holding both our nation’s hopes and its fears. God bless America.

Boise attorney David H. Leroy is a former Idaho attorney general and lieutenant governor.

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