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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

Fuck This Election

With more than two months of bitter, malicious campaigning in front of us, let's acknowledge that the 2016 election is garbage.
A Donald Trump effigy burns on March 26, 2016 in Mexico City during Holy Week. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Presidential campaigns are usually compared to horse races, but if you've ever been to the track, you know that the best thing about horse races is that they're short and meaningless. There's a bell, a sudden surge of flesh and hooves, a bunch of old men quietly cursing, and then it's on to the next race. A horse race that lasted for more than a year would be awful—and so is this election.

According to the latest national poll from CNN/ORC, Donald Trump is currently basically tied with Hillary Clinton. However, according to another poll that tracks each state individually, Trump is in a lot of trouble. You can read a lot about the relative merits of these and other polls, and listen to a lot of smart people debate which polls are more or less accurate. There are smart people everywhere in politics, and the political media offers a Trump Tower's worth of opinions every day.


There are multiple cable news channels that spit out nothing but election content 24/7. There are websites that offer nothing but analysis—a lot of it intelligent, some of it interesting, all of it totally cromulent. And yet, people seem unwilling to point out a fairly obvious truth, which is that this campaign is a shitty fucking piece of garbage and everyone hates it.

On one side, you have a loud-mouthed millionaire who claims he's a billionaire, the Flava Flav of Manhattan real estate, who coasted to the Republican nomination thanks to his willingness to go full racist in an overcrowded field of GOP primary candidates and the media's inability to look away from him. Trump lies constantly and has shitty political discipline, but the real problem is that he's too lazy to develop much in the way of policies beyond "Build the Wall" and "I am Donald Trump, you know, from TV."

As a result, this whole election cycle has orbited almost entirely around his magnetic but grating persona. Trump is a difficult candidate to cover because it's expected that, by the time someone becomes a credible presidential contender, that someone will have laid out a lot of policy plans; but Trump can count the number ideas he has on the fingers of one stubby hand. He occasionally pretends to deliver substantive speeches, and the press, not knowing what else to do, discusses those speeches, even though most of the shit Trump said could have come from the mouth of a vaguely racist suburban teen half-drunk on two BuzzBallz.


That the media is at a loss when it comes to covering Trump is obvious from a pair of recent newspaper endorsements. Over the weekend, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, a major right-leaning paper in Virginia, endorsed Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson, a dude with no shot of winning the election, presumably out of the editorial board's distaste for Trump. The Dallas Morning News made its position clear on Tuesday with an editorial that just listed all the reasons the newspaper hates the Republican nominee. Who are readers supposed to vote for? The Morning News doesn't say—Clinton's name isn't even mentioned.

Clinton, for her part, has seemed happy to keep the focus on Trump, confident that America is not far gone enough to put a spray-tanned snake oil salesman in the White House. But though Clinton is better prepared to be president than her rival, she's also disliked by a majority of the Americans she'd be governing. Her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state—a scandal just barely legal enough not to result in actual criminal charges—shows, if nothing else, how deep her desire for secrecy runs.

Some voters have been following that fairly complicated story closely, but even those who haven't seem vaguely aware that Clinton went to pretty aggressive lengths to hide her online activities, and many of them mistrust her for it. If she wins, she'll be in the tricky spot of governing a country that doesn't appear to like her all that much.


It says a lot about this race that, on both sides, the most prominent campaign commercials have all been attack ads. Mudslinging is to be expected when you have two candidates with as much baggage as Clinton and Trump, but the sheer volume of this negative campaigning is enough to wear anyone down who pays much attention to it. Sure, feel-good slogans about "Morning in America" and "Hope and Change" can come off as naïve or hokey, but there's something to be said for a positive vision, especially when the alternative is 18 months of vicious political knife-fighting. It's hard to imagine a change in tone making much of a difference in the polls, but it might make Americans feel better about participating in the world's oldest continuous democratic system.

There are vast differences between the 2016 candidates, and this election really is important, so Americans should probably vote. But it can be hard to remember those simple truths when we're being bombarded by bullshit: Bullshit from Trump's relentless mouth, from networks forced to stretch two hours of news into 24 hours of programming, from the Clinton campaign claiming Trump is not just a dumbass but a possible Russian agent. Trump lies more and more loudly than Clinton, but both have been guilty of hiding important details from voters—for Trump it's his tax returns, for Clinton, those deleted emails—and both are dogged by real and media-contrived scandals.

So if you've tuned out, I don't blame you. At this point, I should encourage you not to and invoke the idea that an engaged citizenry is the foundation of the republic—but I just can't. There are 62 days left until the election, and hundreds of stories will be spun and respun between now and then. Almost none of them will matter.

Your best strategy for digesting news is to find a website you trust, check it once a day at a maximum, and avoid stepping into the sludgy rivers of social-media arguments about politics. Sixty-two days is just two months—that's not too long. And after November 8, things will get better. I hope.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.