X factors heavily influence elections. These unexpected detours from the grit of a campaign’s normal rhetoric can derail high-level debates, lending a tunnel vision effect to the election process. There was 2012’s “binders full of women,” Gennifer Flowers in 1992, Monkey Business in 1987 and Nixon’s cocker spaniel in 1952. All these small sideshows distracted from the traditional issues, if even for a moment.
This year, pages upon pages have been written delineating the choice between two candidates so submerged beneath the mud we cannot possibly know who they are. Political pundits have bled words on everything from Donald TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE’s charged comments and inappropriate behavior to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Armageddon elections to come Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second The politics of 'mind control' MORE’s propensity for deception and seeming adversity to the truth. It is as if the American people are deciding between two spoiled bananas but have no idea why they are in the supermarket in the first place.
Behind the vitriol and debauchery remains a real need for nationwide discussion and debate. Despite what happens on Election Day, the American people will be faced with an unfamiliar situation: there has been no real opportunity for the American people to debate the real issues.
Election time allows the public to vet candidates. More often than not, candidates’ campaign positions lead to a great outpouring of public debate regarding heavy-hitting issues such as taxes, abortion, the limits of capitalism and America’s position in the world. But in this year’s campaign, so plagued by scandal, the media has been wildly distracted, and Clinton has gotten off easy.
For example, the former first lady has not had to answer for her views on capitalism. Her private coziness with Wall Street and public calls for increased regulation spell out different presidential agendas.
Equally as important is America’s role in the world. The attacks leveled against Clinton for the 2012 Benghazi attacks are relatively unfounded: The president calls the shots about U.S. military action and diplomatic relations in the rest of the world. Now, we’ve heard a lot about Donald Trump’s man crush on Vladimir Putin, but we’ve heard precious little on how Clinton would manage an escalating military and cyber conflict with Russia. Beyond buzzwords, Americans have no tangible idea how either presidential candidate would walk the tightrope of the Syrian civil war or curb the growing presence of he Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in the region, all the while protecting the home front from radical terrorism.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors of scandal, political crevasses await the 45th president of the United States. While we express our horror that some men objectify women and that a secretary of State buried embarrassing emails, Wall Street has been weaving even more complicated financial vehicles, Russia presses the boundaries of the world order, and major human rights abuses proliferate across the globe. The next president will have to answer these questions. Yet the best we can do on the national debate stage is to ask the candidates to say one nice thing about each another.
Clinton’s argument used to be “I’m with Her” — now it’s “I’m not him.” This is a far cry from a campaign built on lifting up even the lowest among us. Instead, Americans are more polarized than before the campaign started.
If polls are to be believed — though one candidate in the election does not — Clinton will be our next president. Trump’s political soap opera is about to end, and when the sideshow is over, her uncontested candidacy will become an untested presidency.
The day will come when we inaugurate Clinton, and on that January morning, we will all wait and see what surprises that presidency brings. Hopefully, we have learned something and have a little hindsight in 2020 to avoid an untested, uncontested presidential run again.
Tyler Grant is a graduate of University of Virginia School of Law and Washington and Lee University.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.