[Note: A shorter modified version of this post appeared as a Letter to the Editor, Boston Globe,May 14, 2016]
The road to 270 electoral votes on the map shows an advantage to a generic Democrat over a generic Republican, mainly because Democrats have the edge in former swing states where the minority population is growing fast. Of course neither Clinton nor Trump are generic candidates. They both are regarded by voters with historic levels of unfavorability.
The election will be entertaining if one likes a good Three Stooges movie – lots of pratfalls and pies in the face. To serious adherents of democracy it will be very distressing.
It’s always been a puzzle to me how a voter could be “undecided” once a presidential general election is underway but for the first time in my 72 years I am an undecided voter. I’m leaning towards Trump because of the likelihood of Supreme Court appointments and even there Trump is suspect and could wind up appointing Judge Judy. It was in anticipation of a Trump that our Founders built the Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances into our system. The Gridlock of which people always complain will be a Godsend in the event of either a Trump or Clinton presidency. The genius of the Constitution is that we can survive nearly anybody in the White House.
Here’s some advice for Hillary Clinton though: Don’t debate Donald Trump. She is very smart but gets in trouble without a script. If she remains under control in the face of a Trump barrage, she will appear to be bullied – think Jeb Bush. Nobody likes a bully but voters would prefer a bully to a president who can be bullied. If Trump provokes her into action she will come across as “shrill” or a “bitch” – those sexist words that will turn off millions of voters.
Clinton should just announce:
“I will not debate Donald Trump. I will not dignify him or demean myself by getting on the same stage with him. We have all seen the Republican debates. Donald Trump does not debate. He doesn’t respond to arguments with counter-arguments. He changes the subject or responds with irrelevant ad hominem personal attacks on one’s appearance or brags insecurely about his physical endowments. He lies, secure in the knowledge that – so far at least – he gets away with it. When an opponent speaks the truth he shouts over him. He cannot be controlled by rules or a moderator. He seems to think the public wants a circus act in the White House. I think he’s wrong about the public but I am not going to engage in that competition.”
Trump will respond that she will have to deal with Putin. Clinton can reply that foreign leaders know the difference between strength and being a loudmouth blowhard.