Heading into the last month of the election cycle, everyone — regardless of political affinity — seems to agree that this has been one of the most singular and interesting elections in recent memory.
According to research by the polling …
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According to research by the polling website FiveThirtyEight, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump are the most disliked candidates in the past 10 elections.
“This is a tough election for everyone,” said Anil Matha, chair of the Adams County Republican Party. “There is a lot of anger on both sides, and a lot of discussion and debate.”
Pundits, pollsters and people on the street have all pointed to this year’s election as the most polarizing in recent history. Some blame the divide on the candidates themselves, some on their disparate approaches to government.
“It’s no wonder people feel that there’s a little more hate,” said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University since 2004. “It’s no wonder that people feel that society’s a little more on edge. It’s because it is.”
“Basically,” he said, “what we are seeing is a reflexive dislike for somebody on the other side, and the fear that goes along with that.”
With Election Day nearing, local Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians are working hard to get the word out about their candidates.
“We’re optimistic about a good turnout for this election,” said Cheryl Cheney, chair of Jefferson County’s Democratic Party. “We have people who are actually anxious to vote. We get a lot of questions about how soon the ballots will be sent out.” (Ballots will be mailed to registered voters Oct. 17.)
Both Clinton and Trump had to fend off nominees with a great deal of support — Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, respectively. And it has been up to local advocates and volunteers to help bring the parties together.
“All of the concerns and challenges of the primary season were not all resolved by the convention,” said Don Ytterberg, chairman of the Jeffco Republican Committee. But “most of that has gone away, and we’re united. I think it’s safe to say the excitement is building.”
Robert Blaha, chairman of the Colorado for Trump campaign, describes the election as “contentious” rather than “divisive.”
Both Trump and Clinton have made inappropriate comments, Blaha said, but they are only “one of the things in the mix.” A bigger cause of the divide, he said, is their different approaches to issues like the economy and immigration.
“There is a lot of emotion about this race,” said Blaha, who likes Trump’s businessman’s perspective. “When you add that emotion and excitement to the mix, you get a lot of people who are upset on both sides.”
Residents can expect a big push from all parties heading into the home stretch. The parties will have phone banks calling people and volunteers knocking on doors and at community events.
“Everybody is doing a bit of something to get the word out about our candidates,” said Antonio Esquibel, chair of the Adams County Democrat Party. “Hopefully, the message will resonate with people.”
But the unpopularity of both major party candidates also has caused more people to consider third-party options such as Libertarian Gary Johnson.
“Gary is turning heads and getting people to look at our party,” said Jay North, state chair of the Libertarian Party of Colorado. “People are saying both Clinton and Trump are so terrible, they want another option.”
The unpredictability of the election could signal a change in how people think about elections and the two-party system, North said.
“If people don’t just go back to their normal lens, we could see more attention on our system,” he said. “It’d be great to see people more focused on liberty and our rights.”
Saunders, the CSU professor, who contends third-party voters tend to make choices along partisan lines in close races, also notes the challenge to reboot the political system is complex and depends on more than just the politicians.
Polarization in Congress has become unyielding in the last 10 to 15 years, with party lines taking precedent over principle, he said. That opposition, he said, is reflected in the electorate.
“How do we get past that?” Saunders asked rhetorically. “It’s really hard to think about how that would happen without a pretty large reset of the system.”
If voters supporting Trump and Clinton follow their leaders’ example, there may not be much cause for optimism.
“We have one candidate who says ‘Can’t we all get along?’ and another candidate who says ‘Nope, we can’t,’ ” Saunders said. “It’s a tough time.”
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