Election Watch Blog: Four days and counting

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— By Linda Peek Schacht, leader-in-residence and veteran political communicator in White House, the Congress and presidential campaigns


10 Things That Challenged Norms in This Election


Shattering glass ceilingbreaking with historic precedent, ignoring societal expectations: this election season and these candidates have challenged norms in ways that will shape the country, for better or worse, as the next President takes office.


The first five:


1. Hillary Clinton’s historic nominationLet’s start with the obvious:  for the first time in history, a major party chose a woman as its nominee for President.  Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination just four years short of 2020, the100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. Like many symbols in this election, her white pantsuit for the acceptance speech was no accident.  The suffragettes wore white, even as they were beaten and sometimes jailed for fighting for the right to vote.


2. Two candidates with historically high negatives: The candidates quickly learned that the way to move up in the polls was to keep the focus on the other person.  When Trump’s temperament, comments on women and minorities, and divisive rhetoric were the focus, particularly after the debates, his numbers went down.  When Clinton’s emails, private server,and allegations of corruption were in the news, she went down in the polls.  For the last week, the focus has been on Clinton, and the race, which seemed Clinton’s to lose two weeks ago,has tightened in battleground states and nationally.


3. Challenges to the Tenets of American Democracy

 This election has been a stress test on our democracy and two of its foundational tenets.


The Peaceful Transfer of Power:  

Donald Trump, in the third debate, became the first major party nominee to refuse before an election to agree to accept the will of the voters and instead promised to keep us in suspense. Subsequent answers included “if I win” and finally a grudging “if it is fair and not rigged.” By the morning of November 9, the suspense will be over.


The Integrity of the Voting Process:

Allegations of widespread voter fraud and a rigged election: 

Repeated allegations of widespread systemic voter fraud and a rigged system, despite evidence to the contrary, continued through the last month of the campaign, undermining citizen belief in a fair election. All polling places, many overseen by Republican secretaries of state, have official poll watchers from both parties. There are strict rules on where and how and who can approach voters.  But those facts do not fit into the narrative of a rigged election.  


Evidence of voter suppression

Democrats benefit from a high voter turnout; Republicans benefit when the turnout is low.  This is the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court struck key provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  In North Carolina a judge has ordered the names of legitimate voters improperly purged from the voter rolls in minority communities over the last several weeks to be reinstated by election day. Legislatures in some states have passed restrictive voter ID laws, reduced the number of early voting days or eliminated early voting on Sunday, traditional Souls to the Polls” day in African American communities.  Misleading texts and emails are telling voters that they can stay home and vote by phone with a number to call or text.  No such system to vote this way exists, but some people may be misled.  


4. Foreign Influence in US Elections:  

US security agencies have identified a major foreign actor-Russia-as responsible for hacking one party’s emails and using Wilileaks to influence the election and favor one candidate.  That candidate repeatedly refuses to accept the conclusion of those security agencies that Russia is the culprit.  As we move into the final weekend before the election, those agencies have raised the prospect of a November 8 hack that could disrupt the election.


5. The R rated, sometimes X rated, campaign: 

Thanks to the FBI, the sexting of Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Hillary Clintonaide Huma Abedin, entered the testosterone-fueled election discourse last week.  


Donald Trump’s attitudes, language and actions toward women have defined much of that discourse. He set the tone early in the primaries by describing Fox News anchor Megan Kelly as having “blood coming out of her eyes and out of her wherever”.  He doubled down on a years long feud with a former Miss Universe over her weight, texting at 3 am to check out a nonexistent sex tape.  In crude, graphic language he boasted about his actions toward women on a leakedAccess Hollywood tape then denied actually doing anything in his boasts. Following that denial, the American people were subjected to the details of fourteen sexual assault allegations.


Words describing Hillary Clinton at Trump rallies, on t-shirts, in chants, cannot be reported by journalists or shown on family-friendly television.  The “nasty woman” quote in the last debate was just one example of how Donald Trump has normalized doing what we tell our children not to do.  No matter our politics, we should all be concerned about this low point in political discourse, which caused parents to refuse to let their children watch the debates and networks to bleep out candidate’s words.


Look for the final five ways this election broke norms in my next post.