We Americans have a long tradition of holding election-night parties, gathering friends around the TV to cheer or bemoan the results -- but this year I propose a break with tradition. While this is kind of last-minute, it’s entirely feasible. Hold your party tonight instead. After all, we’ve got something big to celebrate: The whole depressing, exhausting, distasteful, miserable business of election 2016 is over. Tonight the campaigning stops.
How have we hated it? Let us count the ways.
We hated the candidates. Donald Trump is the most disliked and least trusted nominee ever measured; Hillary Clinton ranks second but still outpolls any previous nominee. In some polling, when voters were offered a choice of Trump, Clinton, or neither, “neither” won – the first time that has happened or even come close to happening in the 32 years pollsters have posed that choice. How many people have you encountered who abashedly defend their choice as “the lesser of two evils?” Polling by the Pew Research Center found that large proportions of voters on both sides said they were voting for their favored choice mostly because they wanted to vote against the other one. America walks into the voting booth this year holding its collective nose.
We hated their ads. This was apparently the most negative presidential campaign ever, which is saying something. Of course, you could blame the candidates; both offered so much to attack. Nonetheless, Americans claim to hate negative campaigning and advertising, and this cycle we were immersed in it. Both candidates closed with parallel negative ads: “Hillary Clinton: unfit to serve,” said Trump’s, while Clinton’s called Trump “unfit to be president.”
We still hate Congress. If we hoped that averting our gaze from the presidential slimefest would raise our spirits, we were disappointed. Gallup’s latest pre-election survey shows that America despises Congress, and no, it wasn’t ever thus. Through the 1970s and 1980s we gave Congress approval ratings around 40% or in the high 30s; through the 90s and early 2000s its ratings climbed to around 50%. Now it’s 18% and hasn’t been above 20% in years. Separate polling has found that Congress is less popular than cockroaches and colonoscopies.
We just hated the whole stupid, loathsome thing. When CBS News and the New York Times recently asked voters if they were “excited” or “disgusted” by the campaign, 82% chose disgusted. You’ve probably encountered families divided bitterly by this race; ABC News interviewed one in which Dad said of his adult daughter, “I’ve made her cry.”
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All of which raises the obvious question of why we put ourselves through this torment. The answer is that we haven’t always hated election campaigns; in fact, it appears we’ve never hated one like we did this time. We used to love it all. Politics was America’s favorite spectator sport, with an option to participate. But this year something changed, and America can’t wait for it all to end.
Which happens tonight. So buy some fizzy beverages and invite friends to your house for a big “It’s Over” party. You won’t have to explain further. And I bet they’ll show up.