Our viewpoint: Bizarre presidential election is one for the history books

An editorial from the ECM Editorial Board:

Our recent election will undoubtedly go down as one of the most bizarre presidential contests in our nation’s history.

Election Day was a surprising climax to a contest that wound a tortuous course over the past 20 months. It was the biggest upset in a presidential contest in seven decades.ECMEditorial_Q

While former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been virtually anointed by party leaders as the Democratic “Presidential nominee in waiting” long before her announcement in April of 2015, few considered Donald Trump to be a front runner among the 17 Republican presidential candidates when he became a candidate in June of 2015.

When Republicans and Democrats attended their respective precinct caucuses in Minnesota on March 1 of this year they voted for their presidential choice. Donald Trump finished a distant third behind Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz among Republicans. In what likely was a warning of problems ahead, Democrats overwhelmingly selected Bernie Sanders over Clinton by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent.

As the parties’ debates, primary elections and caucuses produced delegates for regional, state and national conventions, the fields were pared and the major party nominees, Clinton and Trump, were selected. The nation was essentially left to choose between two candidates, each of whom poll after poll showed to be viewed unfavorably and untrusted by a majority of voters.

In March of 2015, the month before announcing her candidacy, the New York Times reported that Secretary Clinton had used a private email server while performing her duties as secretary. The saga of her private server was to dog her throughout the campaign and likely cost her the election.

The role of FBI Director James Comey and the timing of his letters and pronouncements in late October and early November regarding Clinton’s emails clearly damaged her campaign and will undoubtedly be the subject of scrutiny well into the future.

Trump ran a very unorthodox campaign, but clearly connected with a large segment of the voters. He personally attacked other Republicans, from Carly Fiorna’s appearance to Ted Cruz’ father, as well as Clinton. He made many outlandish claims and undeliverable promises.

His candidacy was all but written off when a tape was released a month before the election revealing Trump boasting of sexual exploitation and assaults. Many Republicans publicly disassociated themselves from Trump. Some, along with several newspaper editorials, even called for Trump to step down. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty called him “unhinged and unfit” to be president.

There were virtually no polls or pundits in the weeks before the election suggesting that Trump was the likely victor. Yet it happened!

This election was only the fifth time in 58 presidential elections in our nation’s history that the candidate with the most votes lost the election. Trump will become president with the majority of electoral votes while receiving the vote cast by one and one-half million fewer voters than Clinton. Trump received just over 47 percent of the votes cast while Clinton received almost 48 percent.

The election returns in Minnesota generally were similar to the national vote totals. In the presidential contest, Clinton was the choice of 46.5 percent of voters to Trump’s 45 percent. In state legislative races several DFL incumbents were defeated, resulting in Republicans gaining the majority in the Senate and maintaining their House majority.

There were some noteworthy aberrations among Minnesota elections. Only one incumbent Republican legislator was defeated for re-election, but it was David Hann, the Senate Republican leader. The voters in the Eighth Congressional District favored Trump by a significant margin, 54 to 38 percent, but DFL incumbent Congressman Rick Nolan was re-elected. Neither political party, nor any pundits, considered incumbent DFL Congressmen Collin Peterson or Tim Walz to be vulnerable. Yet, both survived close encounters with Walz winning a rematch against his 2014 opponent and Peterson defeating a relatively unknown opponent.

With Clinton winning the nation’s popular vote but losing the Electoral College, one could argue that the system is rigged. In fact, ironically Trump made that argument four years ago when he tweeted that “The Electoral College is a disaster for democracy.”

During the early returns four years ago it looked like Mitt Romney might win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College. Trump tweeted, “We can’t let this happen. We should march on Washington…” In reaction to street protests two days after this year’s election, Trump tweeted, “Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!”

While peaceful protests are very much a part of the fabric of American history and culture. They are to be tolerated and even encouraged where appropriate. We do not, however, condone protests that include violence, destruction of property or risky behavior, like shutting down freeways.

We call on all Americans to remember that we are a nation of laws, and Donald Trump is now the duly elected President of the United States, and all of its citizens.

 

– An opinion of the ECM Editorial Board. Reactions to this editorial — and to any commentary on these pages – are always welcome. Send to: [email protected].