Election Commentary

The 2016 presidential campaign put the ‘ugh’ in ugly

The Republican primaries of Campaign 2016 gave us “Jeb!” Bush and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina and so many others that the GOP debates had to be divided into two segments to cram everyone on a stage. John Kasich was the sleeper who hung in there till the end.

Democrats felt the Bern, even if Sanders’ fire eventually flickered out.

The primaries gave us taco bowls, penis jokes, penis boasts and schoolyard nicknames.

Forget debating the issues. People debated whether Trump was prone to blurting out “bigly” or “big league.” (It’s the latter.)

It wasn’t just Trump who went low in the primary scramble.

Rubio (“Little Marco” to Trump) mocked the New York businessman’s “small hands.” And that triggered Trump’s eye-popping reassurances during a nationally televised debate that there were no problems with his genitals.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie predicted he would beat Clinton’s “rear end” if he met her in a debate. Bush called Trump a liar, a whiner and a jerk. Cruz (“Lyin’ Ted” to Trump) mocked the GOP front-runner for his “Trumpertantrums.”

And so it went.

None of it could trump Trump, with his never-ending fusillade of insults and bluster.

He dissed Sen. John McCain’s history as a Vietnam prisoner of war, mocked Fiorina’s face, and deemed Pope Francis’ criticism of building walls “disgraceful.”

He proposed a “total and complete shutdown” of immigration by an entire religious group — Muslims — to fight terrorism, only later morphing the idea into a call for “extreme vetting.”

For all of that, it turned out that it was Trump, incongruent in his suit and red ball-cap, who best channeled the anger and disaffection percolating among Americans fed up with establishment politics.

Remember when Barbara Bush said the country had had enough Bushes? Her son (“Low-energy Jeb” to Trump) would’ve saved a lot of heartbreak and expense if he’d just listened to mom.

Trump drove the direction of the campaign, said GOP consultant Kevin Madden, “because he went out and took it, blocking the sun from his opponents while they were busy announcing their latest slate of endorsements of local sheriffs or pushing a policy white paper around.”

On the left, it was Sanders, a grumpy socialist, who stirred passions with his promise of a political “revolution” against the entrenched, monied interests on Wall Street. The young voters who’d powered Obama’s campaigns gravitated to Sanders. To Clinton, not so much.

Clinton was busy scrambling to explain her use of a private email setup and what the FBI director called her “careless” handling of classified information.

While Clinton tried to play down the email controversy in public, beneath the surface her aides fretted and fussed over damage-control strategies.

“There Is Just No Good Answer,” Clinton adviser Philippe Reines wrote in March 2015 in one of hundreds of emails flying back and forth in the Clinton campaign on the subject.

We know that courtesy of WikiLeaks, which released tens of thousands of private emails from the Clinton campaign that U.S. intelligence officials said were hacked by the Russians. Never before had the innards of a campaign-in-motion spilled out like this.

That didn’t seem to bother Trump, whose campaign has been one big, long friendly overture to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Through it all, Clinton soldiered on, even if she didn’t always excite.

The groundbreaking notion of electing the first woman as president had its appeal, but never generated the electricity attached to the election of the nation’s first black president.

Millennials seemed to take the idea of a female president as a given.

Once the voting started in the Democratic primaries, Sanders and his zealous supporters managed to claim victory in 22 states but never could find a pathway to the nomination.

Before the voting started in the Republican primaries, people questioned whether Trump’s lead in the polls was for real.

Would people really cast ballots for the provocateur whose promise to “Make America Great Again” was so light on details?

In a word, yes.

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