The 1996 Election: Of Dullards and Bores
- by David Matthews 2
Well the 1996 Elections are over.
It was, to say the least, an election season that any political cynic would love. The two dominant and domineering parties were championed by candidates that were less than appealing. Democrats encouraged voters to re-elect Bill Clinton to oppose the Republicans. Republicans encouraged voters to elect Bob Dole because he isn’t like Bill Clinton. Two parties pushing career politicians, and trying to push voters AWAY from the other party.
The best that can be said of this election year was that it was a year of dullards and bores. While the Dole campaign was hampered from the start with a clear lack of vision, Clinton’s camp offered little in comparison, save for the promised "bridge to the 21st century." Clinton passed himself off not as a "New Democrat" but rather as "Republican Light," essentially signing on to everything the GOP stood for. Even David Brinkley, a veteran journalist, commended after the election that Clinton lacked any original thoughts and considered him to be a "bore."
And they wondered why this was the lowest voter turnout since 1924!
Worse yet was the result the turnout had on those who, in this writer’s opinion, would have done a better job as President - namely the third party candidates.
Libertarian candidate Harry Browne, who was on the ballot in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia, came in fifth nationally, behind Green candidate and famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who was only on the ballot in half the states in the country. This small fact was like fresh blood to detractors of libertarianism, who quickly went on the newsgroups to bash the Libertarian Party. Never mind, of course, that Nader is a nationally-known celebrity, while Browne - a relative unknown - had to work HARD for every vote he got, and ended up getting short-changed.
The Reform Party did not fare as well either, though many can attribute it to Ross Perot. People could not trust Perot this time around, and thus support for his party was in the single digits - just enough to be branded the spoilers of a possible Dole victory.
Then there are the pundits, who interpreted this election to whatever suited them. Democrats couldn’t declare they had a mandate (because they didn’t get 50% of the vote) but came close to it by saying the voters wanted politics-as-usual. Republicans who didn’t want Dole as much as they didn’t want four more years of Bill Clinton, practically conceded the election a week before by advertising they wanted to keep their newly-claimed majority in Congress to offset Clinton’s re-election.
Now the politicians say they want to enact "campaign finance reform." This coming from the allegations of foreign contributions in the Democratic Party, and certain inaccuracies in how they reported donations. Yet the Republicans are not saints when it comes to contributions. In fact, early in the Dole campaign, the GOP nominee was under fire for some of his campaign contributions. And the GOP isn’t exactly blameless when it comes to foreign influences, taking in money from special interest groups in Great Britain and elsewhere. Politicians LOVE to enact such reforms, but only as long as it doesn’t affect THEIR pocketbooks.
But the real losers of this election year are the American public - especially the 51% of the populace who stayed home and didn’t vote. They played right into the hands of the two dominant parties, because instead of voting third party, they robbed those third parties any semblance of credibility, and made it appear to the pundits and the politicians that they instead WANT politics-as-usual.
If there is a lesson to be learned in this election, it’s that the best thing you can do to help career politicians, and political parties so inundated with them, is to not vote. Bill Clinton didn’t win because of a majority of voters. Clinton won because a majority of registered voters DIDN’T vote. And if they did there would have been no doubt that neither Clinton nor Dole would’ve been happy with the results. That is something third party candidates need to remember four years from now.