4 Political Myths Destroyed By The 2016 Election
Holy thigh-sticking balls, it's election season! And if there's one thing we can draw from all the publicity, it's that nobody has any goddamn clue what's going to happen at the end. Regardless of where you stand on the political side of things, this is going to be an absolutely historic year. And, equally regardless of your personal politics, you've probably got a lot of misconceptions about how exactly it all works.
So let's grab a few of those ridiculous myths by their underwear and wedgie that shit out of existence.
"The 'Party Elites' Control The Whole Show"
Bernie Sanders is so popular on the Internet, he could be mistaken for a meme. Hell, for a long time, I thought he was an actual real-life lolcat. For millions of doe-eyed new voters, Senator Sanders represents our nation's last, best hope of breaking the cycle of "politics as usual" ... if he could only triumph over the Democratic Party elites currently trying their damnedest to stomp his movement down.
On the surface, this whole "superdelegates" thing does sound pretty messed up. Here's how it works: Every state awards Democratic candidates a number of delegates based on its population and how well said candidate polled in that state. But there are also 700-ish superdelegates who, in addition to laser-eyes and the ability to smell time, get to vote for whoever the Hell they want. These superdelegates are made up of high-ranking Democratic party officials (like former President Bill Clinton), and they overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton.
But here's the thing: There are 4,763 total delegates to be awarded in the Democratic primary race. And if Senator Sanders manages to sway the majority of the popular vote this primary season, there's a 0 percent chance the party elites will pick Hillary Clinton over him. We know this because the "party elites" supported Hillary during 2008's primary season too ... until she lost the popular vote to an exciting, Internet-backed upstart with a suspiciously Kenyan name.
You might remember him. He was all over the news a few years back.
Every time there's been a great clash between the "party establishment" and the Sanders campaign, the Democratic Party has backed off. They backed off after a fight over the voter database earlier this year, and they agreed to host additional debates after Sanders supporters on the Internet flipped the fuck out.
They needed this victory, after their crushing defeat in Operation: Build A Death Star.
And if you happen to be a Republican supporting that party's insurgent candidate, I've got some good news for you: While the Republican establishment is doing their damnedest to stop Donald Trump, they've so far proved completely incapable of actually doing so. He is the right-wing political equivalent of a Tupac song.
"It's pretty safe to say most are scared shitless right now. Mainly because he cannot be controlled. He doesn't have any super PACs or major donors. Keep an eye out for a story being planted about Trump's connection to mob-owned contractors in New York. I doubt it will get any traction, and the story has been out there before, but it's starting to surface again. The guy is Teflon."
That quote comes from a source I know within the Republican Party: He served as a member of the electoral college in 2012 and currently supports Marco Rubio. He sent me that email back in December, and a couple days later ...
Ho. Ly. Shit.
Obviously, it didn't stick, because Trump is still the current Republican frontrunner. The GOP's strategy of stacking the audience of the South Carolina debate with Rubio and Bush supporters didn't work either: After the debate, most South Carolina Republicans still support Trump. And you might remember when former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole spat some gangsta shit about Ted Cruz a few weeks ago ...
He says he'll "oversleep" on Election Day if Cruz gets nominated. And because he's 92, and fuck it.
Shockingly, this is still national politics, not elementary school gossip. Though, now that I think about it, I kind of want to see a 10-minute "Yo Mama" battle section in every debate.
My source suspects that was preplanned too, although he noted he didn't have "anything solid." Either way, Bob Dole is about as establishment as a Republican gets. And his attack didn't do jack shit to stop Ted Cruz from winning Iowa. No matter what drastic measures the establishment in either party does to stomp down on their upstarts, it doesn't seem to work.
So if the political class in Washington that everyone hates so much isn't behind this election being such a shitshow, then who is? Well, that's kind of a huge myth in itself ...
"Who The People Want In Office Doesn't Even Matter -- It's Out Of Our Hands"
Winston Churchill, former British person and inventor of the "Ew!" face, predicted in the early 1900s that, "Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of kings." You can argue about whether or not he was right on the "war" front, but politics absolutely gets more vindictive and petty the more democratic it becomes. The 2015-2016 primary season is probably the most brutal in American history, and we've got no one but The People to blame.
It all started in 1968, when a Senate commission headed by failed candidate George McGovern attempted to make the nomination process less "old white men in Washington deciding who gets to run" and more "old white men everywhere in America deciding who gets to run." Then the Republicans changed the way their primaries worked back in 2008, after McCain failed to win, on the assumption that they'd have picked a better candidate if they'd just given everyone more time to throw handfuls of shit at each other.
More time to find a running mate who can speak like an adult human might've helped, too.
So now, today, primary season starts earlier than ever and primary voter turnouts are the highest they've ever been. Consequently, this is also the only primary season where major candidates for either party have called their opponents "losers" or read the entire preamble to the Constitution as their closing remarks for a debate.
He could've at least tried to sing it.
What we're seeing here is politics in the age of fandom. It's not enough to support one candidate over another; you've got to scorch the goddamn Earth under the opposing candidate's feet. During a recent phone call, my source within the GOP hearkened back to the good old days, when people working on different campaigns were "really nice to everybody else, because if my candidate goes down, then I can get a job from you."
But now, he told me, there's none of that mutual respect or politeness between the competing campaigns. "Everyone's angry," he said. If you remember the 2004 or 2008 elections, you might recall this guy:
A shining example of how some parents are just so much more popular than their wiener kids.
Ron Paul was the first political candidate the Internet really fell in love with. And in true Internet fashion, they showed this love by threatening to murder anyone who didn't like him. At the time, we all assumed this was something inherent to Ron Paul's supporters, not in how the Internet had changed politics. But now we live in an age of "Bernie Bros," where Democrats debate the merits of their respective candidates with image macros like this:
"She makes Bill roleplay as Jar Jar in bed too."
Because a woman pandering to voters deserves to be mocked, while a man who spends his entire career fighting immigration and then starts canvassing for Hispanic votes as soon as he runs for President is the epitome of consistency. Meanwhile, on the Republican side of things (which is always amped up about two degrees of ANGRY above the Democratic side) Trump supporters have actually beaten people for disagreeing with them. No word yet on whether or not the victims have changed their political stance as a result.
"Leave me the fuck out of this." -Jesus
So far, the 2016 election has shown us that giving We The People an increasing say in who gets to run for president only makes for much, much uglier campaigns. It's a lot harder to get emotionally invested in a candidate some cigar-chewing fat-cats picked in a smoky convention room than the candidate you've followed (and donated money to) for the better part of a year. This election has given the people more say than ever, which is why random Facebook and Twitter users keep getting to ask questions during debates and why the Internet-search volume for each candidate is treated as meaningful news.
You The Person have never had more say in who becomes your next president. And this fucking nightmare is the result. This actually brings me to another myth ...
"In Traditional Elections Like This, Polls Are Extremely Important"
I started emailing with my source in the GOP last fall, when the Republican primary race was still new and Donald Trump looked like a hilarious outlier. I brought up the possibility of a Trump nomination or a "brokered" convention (what would happen if the primaries fail to produce a clear winner). He told me this was all basically impossible: "After Super Tuesday, we will have a nominee and security will start to relax."
And Trump can go back to pursuing his real dream of one day becoming WWE champion.
A few months later, in December, he was much less sure: "Either everything is going to be settled on Super Tuesday and we will have a solid nominee and everyone will fall into line just like in '08 and '12, or all Hell breaks loose. I am still leaning towards everything will be settled after Super Tuesday, but now I am only like 51 percent sure about that."
And then, when we spoke again in early February, he admitted: "Everything I thought I knew, I've just thrown out the window."
My source wasn't a dummy back in Fall 2015 -- he was just listening to the best political experts in America, who all said the Trump campaign had zero chance of lasting past the first few debates. These predictions, and all predictions, were based on all the data available from every presidential election in history. Unfortunately, there have only been 57 presidential elections in the history of the United States.
Exactly two of those have occurred since the birth of social media.
If you were trying to predict the effects of a drug on the general population, you'd want thousands of test subjects before you started drawing any conclusions. Or at least one guy who has done thousands of drugs ... I'm not entirely sure how drug science works. But if you're a political pollster trying to determine who's going to win a given primary, or the election, you have only a few dozen prior elections to look to for context. There's a reason the Iowa polls all failed to predict Ted Cruz's win, and it's not just because he's sneaky like a ninja.
Right down to Wolf Blitzer taking a shuriken to the throat off-screen, probably.
Political junkies of every stripe will continue to follow every poll that shows their respective candidate ahead, but we'd all do well to remember Nate Silver's words in 2012, when he pointed out that polls taken the day before the election were still off by an average of four points. At this point in the cycle, guessing the general election's results based on polling data is only slightly more reliable than cutting open a chicken and presenting its gizzard to the sacred oracle at Delphi.
Which brings me to the most common myth ...
"Why Bother Watching? It's The Same Old Shit Every Four Years"
It's a lot easier to get all excited and bothered when you can define yourself in opposition to some new terrifying historic trend, like an upswing in politicians being openly bigoted or the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 5. But what happens if all the opposing historic trends are punching each other in the balls simultaneously? Well, that's what we, as a nation, are about to learn. The 2016 election is simultaneously the first where a self-funded billionaire is paying his own way to the presidency, and also features a candidate with more individual donations than anyone else in history.
"Other than that whole 'it's the only thing separating us from a literal monarchy' thing, we mean."
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are both absolutely groundbreaking candidates. But it gets more insane than that: This election has seen the first Hispanic primary winner, the first non-Christian primary winner, and will see either the first female nominee or the first Jewish nominee in presidential history.
Or the first boot-headed wizard nominee.
There are literally no national presidential candidate options other than Jeb! Bush (who has roughly the same odds of winning the presidency right now as Bloom County's Bill the Cat) who wouldn't be absolutely historic choices for their respective parties. Donald Trump is the only plausible candidate in this entire election who is also a white, Christian man.
"White," but still.
We're so caught up in the 2016 election that it's almost impossible to view what's happening right now with any kind of perspective. At this moment in American Democratic politics, a woman who supports gay marriage is considered an "establishment" candidate. While we're all busy getting butthurt over delegate counts or complaining that our respective party keeps edging out our preferred candidate, future generations will be spellbound by how unbelievably historic this election is.
Let's all try to appreciate that for a second, before Super Tuesday comes around and it's time to obsess over poll numbers that don't mean anything, again.
Robert Evans is a Cracked editor and his book, A Brief History of Vice, is available for pre-order now.
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