by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Whatever the outcome of this fall’s presidential election, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute argues at National Review Online that the winner should not consider victory as a sign of a mandate from the electorate.
Whoever wins in November will likely be the most unpopular presidential candidate ever elected. The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows that 53.5 percent of voters disapprove of Hillary Clinton. And many of those polls were taken during her post-convention bounce. That means that the best she can hope for is that somewhat over half the electorate doesn’t like her. But she actually looks good compared to Donald Trump. Just a third of voters approve of Trump. Nearly 63 percent disapprove.
Even voters who have settled on a candidate are less than enthusiastic about their choice. Less than half of both Trump and Clinton voters say that they “strongly support” their candidate. Overall, 57 percent of voters say that they are dissatisfied with both candidates, including 31 percent who are “very dissatisfied.” Only 13 percent report that they are “very satisfied” with their choice.
Since, barring a Gary Johnson upset or intervention by the Sweet Meteor of Death, one of them will have to win, millions of Americans will be voting for someone they don’t think should be president. In fact, half of all those voting for Clinton and 55 percent of those voting for Trump say that they are actually voting against the other candidate rather than for their choice.
That’s not exactly what one would call a mandate.
Of course, even if Trump or Clinton were far more popular than they are, it’s hard to see what either of them would have a mandate to do. Both candidates have changed positions with almost metronomic regularity. About all we really know about Donald Trump’s program is that he wants to build a wall, loves guns, and doesn’t love Muslims. And for all of Hillary’s 257-page position papers, does anyone really know what she is for besides a vague idea of higher taxes and bigger government? Perhaps that’s why 59 percent of voters say that they are more focused on the candidates’ personalities than on their positions.