There is a remarkable assumption behind the argument that the best—maybe the only—reason to have voted for Donald J. Trump was that he “was better than Hillary Clinton.” Supposedly this somehow distinguishes, and taints, the Election of 2016. It does not. That one candidate is likely to do better in office than the other is always the only good reason to give him your vote. Indeed, this is merely a description of what an election is.
Yet the lamentations along these lines are still with us, and people nod their heads in doleful agreement that however bad Clinton might have been, the choice of Trump is still somehow tarnished—if not downright ignominious—because he isn’t all one might hope for in an American hero, or something. It seems we should despair and imagine ourselves in some uniquely regrettable state of human affairs: that two deeply flawed human beings were vying for the nation’s highest office.
Pardon me, but I’ve seen this movie before, and quite recently. It’s just that in the 2012 version, those deeply flawed human beings used much more “polite” language while insulting each other. So perhaps we can be forgiven for not noticing that neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney was destined for Mount Rushmore . . . or even worthy of an airport homage. I also saw this movie in 2008. I’ve seen it in every presidential election of my lifetime, and I’m more or less certain that it describes every democratic election that has ever taken place at any time, anywhere.
If the Election of 2016 was unique, it was not because the people involved in it were flawed but merely because the scales were removed from the eyes of so many voters about the nature of the political choice before them.
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