Guest Opinions

The presidential election is ‘rigged,’ but not in the way you might think

Character counts when it comes to presidents and presidential candidates. Then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, seated from left to right, take part in an event in Berlin, Oct. 31, 2009, marking the start of celebrations recalling the crumbling of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. Bush is remembered for using tact when dealing with other world leaders. (AP)
Character counts when it comes to presidents and presidential candidates. Then Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush and former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, seated from left to right, take part in an event in Berlin, Oct. 31, 2009, marking the start of celebrations recalling the crumbling of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989. Bush is remembered for using tact when dealing with other world leaders. (AP)

If Hillary Clinton wins this election, you can be sure it was rigged in her favor. How else can you explain such an unpopular candidate winning the presidency? The thing is, Republican primary voters rigged the campaign in her favor by nominating a candidate who is less popular than Hillary.

Credit Donald Trump, I suppose, for not changing his stripes after capturing the nomination. He is now who he was when running for the nomination, so we can’t claim surprise with the current state of affairs. As a result, we are now witnessing Hillary’s ascension and Donald’s demise.

I bet Hillary never thought the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” of which she once complained, would elect her president of the United States.

To understand the present, it is helpful to look at the past. Recently, historian Jon Meacham described the better character traits of presidential candidates after they took office. He illustrated these personality traits with three examples:

▪ John F. Kennedy for his humility after learning from the Bay of Pigs fiasco that he should have sought the advice of experts when the Cuban missile crisis arose.

▪  Franklin Delano Roosevelt for his sense of proportion when navigating the U.S. into World War II.

▪ George H.W. Bush for his empathy by not overplaying his role in bringing down the Berlin Wall, and the Soviet Union along with it, when doing otherwise could have spurred a resurgent USSR.

Voters are increasingly deciding Trump lacks presidential temperament and that character counts, especially among presidents. Witness Bill Clinton, whose presidency could, with time, have reached near mythical reverence among the Democratic faithful of the likes that Republicans reserve for Ronald Reagan. Yet, nearly two decades after Monica, Bill Clinton is still the punchline of jokes on late-night comedy shows. If character didn’t count, those jokes would have gone stale a long time ago. Republican voter concern, nay embarrassment, over Trump’s temperament, buttressed by concerns over his lack of relevant experience and, frankly, party credibility, is eroding his base of support and with it his chance to be the next president.

Idaho Republicans are not to blame for the status quo. Idaho’s primary winner was Ted Cruz, so any aspersions must be cast in the direction of other states’ Republican primary voters. Perhaps for them it is glorious to fall on their swords in the name of a great cause such as throwing the political establishment out. But at the end of the day, after you fall on that sword, you’re dead.

Now, Republicans face the very real possibility of four years of another Clinton presidency. Buckle up. If Hillary Clinton wins, big government will get bigger, high taxes will go higher, the Supreme Court may see a tectonic shift lasting a generation, entitlements will outpace the national security, and so forth.

Perhaps next time around, Republican primary voters will remember 2016 and rig the general election in their favor by nominating a candidate with broad and deep support among Republicans generally — a candidate who can beat a highly unpopular Democratic candidate by a landslide. It’s not a high bar.

William G. Myers is a partner in the law firm Holland & Hart and one of five community members serving on the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board.

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