I have long maintained that Donald Trump doesn’t deserve to be elected president of the United States, and it is indeed a part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategy. He’s a bully, thin-skinned and underprepared for the demands of what, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is the single most challenging job in the world. A job that not only requires a great ego (which he undoubtedly has) but also a level head (which he undoubtedly does not have). One need look no further than his performance at the first of three presidential debates this past week.
So I set myself a challenge. If there is such a thing as a “normal” presidential election, it usually comes down to two (maybe more, depending upon historical events) candidates who are capable of doing the job and the winner is the one who convinces the majority of the electorate that they can lead the country better than their opponent(s). When you go to cast your individual ballot, you usually side with the candidate who more closely hews to your own beliefs and opinions. And, for the most part, you can recognize that the other candidate is up for the job, win or lose.
By those standards, this is not a “normal” election. There’s no question that Hillary Clinton is up for the job and for that reason alone, she deserves my vote. Donald Trump, however, is not. And the current disunity within his party illustrates this point. So I asked myself if there has ever been an election in which a major candidate was less deserving of the job, than Mr. Trump is today.
It’s easy to argue, for example, about the legacy of any given president during and after their tenure as presidents. The general consensus among historians is that James Buchanan was our worst president but he still had the resume and temperament to be president. But that’s not this question. Have there been any candidates — win or lose — who deserved to lose not on the basis of the issues but rather on the basis of the core of their being?
The first candidate that I thought of was William Jennings Bryan. Thanks to his infamous cross of gold speech, he seemed to want to be pastor-in-chief more than being commander-in-chief. But by all contemporary accounts, he seemed suited to the presidency anyway. So my distaste for him is actually based upon policy and not personality.
It’s times like this that general information could be helpful so I turned to Wikipedia for a summary of each election and the candidates involved. Strom Thurmond in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968 both got a frighteningly high number of electoral votes for campaigning on platforms that were overtly racist. I guess you could make the argument that they, too, were unsuited to the presidency. And while I don’t want to completely discount third-parties I don’t think enough people took their candidacies seriously enough to think they could actually win.
Ross Perot in 1992 had a few “wtf” moments, like when he thought someone in the government was going to sabotage his daughter’s wedding. See above for third party candidates and add in the fact that he got zero electoral votes.
So at least among the losing candidates, I couldn’t find anyone. But what about the victors? I’ve already mentioned that Buchanan was at least suited to the office, despite his numerous missteps and general ineffectiveness. I’m not trying to come off as sounding as if all presidents are of a common temperament (just compare Andrew Jackson to Calvin Coolidge in that realm to know how ridiculous that idea is) when I say this, but I can’t come up with a single president who didn’t take the job seriously. Each president to date has put his own stamp on the position (and they have all been men so far, so “his” is the appropriate modifier at least for now) and it has changed dramatically since George Washington first took on the role. But even the most bad-ass among our presidents (Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt being top among them) were up for the job all the same.
So there you have it: in my opinion, in all of American history, Donald Trump is the least deserving of all candidates who had a legitimate shot at the presidency. Is this what the greater democratization of the process by which each party chooses its candidates has wrought?