A wise man once noted, “If nothing else, you can always serve as a bad example.”
Unfortunately that’s the best that can be said about the Democratic and Republican nominees for president.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are each uniquely qualified to reflect the worst in America today, and the main positive that can be gleaned from their characters is that by illustrating our faults we can start to work on them.
Clinton is the politician who tells the public one thing, while actually doing another, without fail that benefits a special interest. Many Americans perceive, and often rightly so, that the system functions not to provide for the common defense or promote the general welfare, but to serve the narrow goals of the business and political elite.
She took millions giving speeches to Big Business and supported a Pacific trade deal, but then suddenly became anti-corporation and free trade when Sen. Bernie Sanders’ populist, left-wing campaign became a serious threat to her getting the Democratic nomination, one of many such examples.
Also, Clinton has been unable to avoid corruption.
Her campaign has been dogged by ethical lapses involving both an imprudent attempt to avoid public records laws by using a home email server while serving as secretary of state and then making it worse by deleting many of the emails after scrutiny started building.
There have also been legitimate and serious concerns about donations made by foreign governments to her family’s charity, The Clinton Foundation, while she was secretary of state. Although there’s not been a smoking gun, it’s easy to see the thinking of interest groups: Pay money to Clinton’s private interest to get extra consideration from her public position.
And then there was the plot with the Democratic National Committee, which is supposed to be neutral during the primary, to derail Sanders.
Those are not aberrations but part of a career-long trend. How many more scandals would America face during another Clinton presidency?
Public distrust of what the Clinton family embodies opened the door for Trump’s campaign.
Unfortunately, rather than ceasing on that with substantial ideas, Trump has used his prominence to deepen another of America’s great faults: The divide between people of different racial and social backgrounds.
No longer simply Americans, the camps are divided between red states and blue states, black and white, Christians and the secular, Fox News and MSNBC.
Trump has used his platform as the Republican nominee to cater to the fears of many more traditional Americans. Those fears are legitimate and based on what appears to be a weakened economy and faltering morality.
But Trump’s campaign is shockingly devoid of solutions. Instead it’s been about how great he is and how bad anyone who opposes him is.
His claims of a rigged election and media conspiracy are baseless, and those conspiracy theories are only further dividing the republic.
The campaign has further cemented Trump’s character — which voters should have already known after three decades in the spotlight — that he is a vain egomaniac who only looks out for himself.
He has done the seemingly impossible: Showing himself to be even less trustworthy than Clinton.
That was once and for all time revealed in 2005 tapes from the set of “Access Hollywood” where Trump is heard crudely bragging about forcing himself on women and trying to have sex with a married woman. It’s entirely fitting with Trump’s career that his downfall came via an appearance on a celebrity gossip show to tout his role on a soap opera.
It’s amazing that no public policy idea has taken hold as a key issue during the campaign, despite massive news coverage. Everything has been focused on the unseemly personal characters of the candidates.
As such, neither are fit for this newspaper’s endorsement for president.
Given such bad options, what should voters do on Nov. 8?
First, think about it from a pragmatic perspective. Nationally, Clinton is a shoe-in, something Trump seems to have acknowledged by deepening his appeals to the right wing that is already supporting him rather than reaching out to the center. And in Mississippi, Trump will undoubtedly win handily, both because of a deep distrust of Clinton and a demographic that matches well with Trump’s appeals.
In that light, your vote is not going to change who wins this state’s electoral votes or the White House.
What it can do, though, is help show the two parties that people want something different.
Over the past three presidential elections, Democrats and Republicans have averaged a combined 98.5 percent of the vote.
Can you imagine how much attention it would grab in party headquarters if the number going away from them increased to 5 percent or 10 percent?
Those would be voters that both parties could court to turn the tide back in their favor. Doing so would require a shift away from the things that turned those people off: Namely, corruption and special interests, as personified by Clinton, and the ugly divide between people who think differently, as personified by Trump.
In that sense, voters on Nov. 8 can thank the nominees for shining a brighter light on what our nation most needs to fix: a broken political system and a lack of unity.
A vote for a third-party, independent or even a write-in best makes the point that our great nation needs something different from its leaders.