I promised recently that I would try hard not to bother you with obvious or boring developments in the election.
But something is steadily creeping up on all of us, and we should be wary and anxious. Just a few weeks back, Clinton had a clear and steady lead of about 9%. You may have noticed that her lead has shrunk to about 4%, though Trump’s overall percentage has remained pretty steady at about 39%. He seems not to be gaining, but she clearly is slipping.
At the same time Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, this year’s more prominent third-party candidates, have gone from next to nothing to 9% and 3% (respectively) for a total of 12%. Considering that less than 1% of Americans can probably tell you anything about either, that is an amazing number. It seems unlikely that so many people actually support Johnson and Stein, but more folks of various political stripes are saying pox on Clinton than on Trump.
This is a big deal. Remember the Perot election year: he nearly tipped that election away from Bill Clinton by getting 19% of the popular vote.
Something similar to that seems to be hatching here. Yes, the Electoral College still gives Clinton an advantage, and Trump has to hold and improve his overall percentage. But it does not take a lot to imagine that things could get very scary near the end.
Strategically, Clinton does not need to keep hammering so much at Trump’s clear and present weaknesses. She needs to cast some light on those two third party candidates and remind everyone that (since neither of them have any chance of being elected) a vote for Johnson or Stein might just turn out to be a vote for Trump.
Unless a prospective independent voter is aware of that consequence and is OK with Trump, he or she should rethink their support. However, if Clinton seeks only to dismiss and or discredit Johnson and Stein, she may perversely make them better known and even encourage others to their cause.
As one analyzes the options, the only one that seems practical is for someone—Michael Bloomberg, who just months ago dropped his third party bid, would be perfect—to help create a large, inclusive bi-partisan group of recognizable leaders from all parts of the country to make a rational pitch to the growing number of prospective voters for the independents.
The essential core message is VERY simple: this is not a moment in time for voters to engage in the theatrics of a protest vote. The consequences are HUGE—they threaten the very core of America. But, these people who indicate their wish to vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton surely have their genuine concerns: it appears that many of them may hope that Clinton will defeat Trump, but wish to deny her an overwhelming victory, which might then seem to give her a mandate to practice a type of politics that they deplore.
Perhaps such a Bloomberg led group could inspire Clinton to publically pledge that she will be fully transparent, avoid ALL conflicts-of-interest, and end blatant favoritism. That way, after the election, we—Clinton included—could all know that any mandate to govern comes with conditions: that she put a stop to the sort of behavior that has led so many Americans to view her with concern and suspicion.
Perhaps, IF she responded to such a pitch to the independent supporters by ENTHUSIASTICALLY embracing such a proposed pledge, she could blunt and reverse the trend toward the independents.
It is still not too late for Clinton to “soften” by changing her approach to her weaknesses and letting down her hair. She might still have time to remind everyone that she is human by accepting not just the legal responsibility but the ethical and personal responsibility for the events that led the public to fear her trustworthiness. By doing so, she very likely could regain some of her lost independent support, which just may be the key to the election.
This is a tricky business that needs a lot of careful thought and analysis, as this election is not just a two-way street.
At the moment it feels something like a multi-level cloverleaf interchange.