With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moving closer to securing the nominations of their respective parties, we could be moving toward a historic general election. How so? Among the primary voters in each of their respective parties, both Trump and Clinton have unusually high negative ratings for presidential candidates. This means that neither candidate is particularly well liked by voters in their own party.
What might such a scenario mean for the general election, assuming that these negative ratings do not change between now and November? Record low voter turnout seems like one likely possibility. If voters decide that they do not like the candidate their party nominates enough to support him or her, they might not bother to show up to vote. If enough voters on both sides feel this way, we could be looking at lower turnout than usual.
I expect that the primary approach both sides will use in an effort to counter this will be to demonize the opposing candidate in the hope that voter turnout can be increased through fear and hatred. They will expect us to vote against the other candidate by supporting their flawed candidate as the lesser of two evils. Undoubtedly, this will propel some people to their voting precincts; however, it is difficult to imagine that it will solve the problem. This may be especially worrisome in a year when many people seem to be objecting to politics as usual.
Another possibility, albeit one that seems far less likely, is that this ends up being a good year for third party candidates. We could conceivably find ourselves with a strong independent if one were to run, or we could end up with third party alternatives to both Trump and Clinton. The mainstream news media continues to report that significant numbers of Republican voters have told them that they would support a third party candidate if their party nominates Trump. And while I have not seen any coverage of it in the mainstream news media so far, I have seen several supporters of Bernie Sanders on social media saying that they will not vote for Clinton. Dr. Jill Stein of the Green party is one name that is beginning to receive some attention as a possible third party option for Sanders supporters who are not interested in Clinton.
Consider the possibilities of low voter turnout and the increased appeal of third party candidates. Now combine them with the possibility of some sort of unanticipated scandal and the near certainty that Trump will continue to surprise us if he receives the Republican nomination. We find ourselves in a climate of uncertainty. We really could end up with a President Trump...or even another President Clinton! Everything could change...or nothing could change. Interesting times to be sure.