As we come around what may be the final curve of the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look positioned to be the two horses who break free of the pack and make a neck-and-neck run down the final straightaway toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That pairing and the likely outcome tell us some interesting things about America’s voters and their chosen candidates.
Specifically, it tells us that many voters are the political equivalents of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully from Fox’s long-time fan favorite show The X-Files: They want to believe.
Believe in what? Well, that varies.
Trump’s supporters want to believe that, working with him, they can “make America great again.” Nobody seems to really know how that might come about, except that it will involve getting Mexico to pay for a wall. But not to worry: It will be yuuuuge. It will be very nice. They’ll like it a lot, winning so much that they get bored with winning. They want so intensely to believe this that, as Trump himself says, he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” They don’t care whether or not he’s a “conservative” or about his actual policy positions. They don’t even demand that he make any sense from day to day.
Clinton’s supporters want to believe not only that she can win, but that she’s the only Democrat who can. They want so intensely to believe this that they’re willing to ignore her mediocre past electoral record, her dismal performances in elected and appointed office, her yuuuuge (like Trump’s) public disapproval numbers, the significant chance that she’ll be indicted over her mishandling of classified information, and the fact that she’s only been a “progressive” for about a minute, because it came to her attention that that’s what people like about Bernie Sanders.
If the voters resemble Mulder and Scully, the candidates remind me of the candidates in Napoleon Dynamite: Summer Wheatley, the “popular” student the regular kids actually love to hate but apathetically assume will win the student body presidency in a walk, and Pedro Sanchez, the upstart new guy who promises that if his fellow students vote for him “all of your wildest dreams will come true.”
I love The X-Files. I enjoyed Napoleon Dynamite. But I’m not sure I can take eight more months of watching e-run marathons. Can you?
Maybe it’s time for a crisis of political faith. Maybe it’s time to crank up Netflix and find a new show to follow or a new movie to watch. So, two recommendations:
First, pull up Doug Stanhope’s comedy special Beer Hall Putsch on Netflix.
Second, if you must vote, vote Libertarian.
Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.