Raising the Standard at UGA since 2013.

Consent of the Governed

Which of the candidates has earned your vote? (Photo credited to Rich Girard)

As November 8 approaches and the presidential election enters its final month, the terrible choice facing the American people becomes more clear and the flaws of the candidates progressively more glaring.

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as the two major-party nominees, the electorate has been presented with arguably the worst choice of candidates for president in American history. Nonetheless, the American public must lend their consent to one them to lead our nation over the next four years.

Because of the intense polarization in the country and the unpopularity of the major candidates, it is easy to forget why voting is an affirmative act, not a negative one. While it is sometimes easy to say, “I really don’t like candidate one, but I hate candidate two more, so I’m going to vote against two by voting for candidate one,” more so in this election than any election in recent memory, this is not the way that democratic consent is designed to work in a republic such as ours.

There is simply no way the government can function when a majority of the country is voting for a candidate despite their heightened dislike for her because they dislike the other candidate even more. This election cycle, negative attitudes seem to be driving voter preferences, as a Pew Research Center poll finds that 55 percent of voters are “disgusted” with the 2016 campaign and about one third of the supporters of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will only be voting for their candidate as a way to vote against the other.

The legitimacy of the presidency – and the government in general for that matter – is built on the consent of the people. If the presidency is decided based on which candidate is more disliked than liked, whoever is elected in November will thereby lack a wholly legitimate mandate to govern.

The American people must find a reason to vote for one of these candidates. Despite the candidates’ flaws, no matter how serious they are, the potential benefits that each of them could bring to the White House is an important part of the campaign to consider.  

For many Americans, Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air from politics as usual in Washington D.C. He does not speak like a politician. He does not act like a politician. He cares about the problems facing the most economically downtrodden workers and is not afraid to tackle the issues head-on. He operates a multi-billion dollar real estate and entertainment empire and could utilize his experience in the private sector to improve the economy and create many new jobs.

Hillary Clinton may be the one of the most qualified candidates to ever run for president. Having served as First Lady, senator, and Secretary of State, she has first-hand knowledge of the intimate workings of both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Having served under President Obama, she could represent a steady, consistent transition of power and leadership while the world is in such uncertain times.

Of course, trying to analyze the potential positives that each candidate brings to the table without also looking at the negatives in this election is the intellectual equivalent of putting your fingers in your ears and singing, “I can’t hear you, la, la, la.” Nonetheless, when both candidates’ lists of problems are so long and the potential downsides are so many, it is more beneficial for voters – and the legitimacy of the system ­– to focus on the favorable effect of voting for a candidate.

Voting for Donald Trump to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president and vice versa are two equally futile actions for voters. If Clinton wins because of these types of voting patterns, then the Washington elite will resume their work with the same degree of separation from the will of the people and continue to simply put up the “next-in-line” from their cabal of insiders. If Trump wins because of these patterns in voting, then the next presidential campaign will only take his strategy of vitriolic attack to the next level.

Voters must make it clear to prospective elected officials that going forward, they will be required to earn and deserve every vote they receive. They cannot simply orchestrate a campaign to put the spotlight of their opponents problems and hope that people are disgusted enough to turn away. The preeminence of negativity in political campaigns, originating from both candidates and voters, must come to an end.

— Connor Kitchings is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE

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