By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Election without bumper stickers

How strange is this year’s presidential election? Let me count the ways.

It’s no secret that candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have the highest combined unfavorability ratings of any presidential race. One interesting but not surprising result is an almost eerie lack of public displays for either candidate.

An ABC News / Washington Post poll of U.S. adults, taken in the last week of August, found unfavorability ratings of 63 percent for Trump and 56 percent for Clinton. Among registered voters, the gap closed to 60 percent for Trump and 59 percent for Clinton; and more recent ratings suggest about 58 percent Trump and 55 percent Clinton.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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As Trump might say, “not good … not good.”

Looking around, I don’t see presidential bumper stickers or lawn signs in numbers similar to past elections. In fact, even in a state of little importance to the candidates, Oregon seems virtually devoid of those public displays.

Stories from Colorado and California note the same phenomenon, and I suspect it is common across the country. There is such strong anti-Trump and anti-Clinton sentiment that people don’t want to advertise their personal choice, perhaps for fear of damage to their vehicles or houses.

Even private conversations about presidential preferences seem muted this year. Often, the ultimate admission of support comes out as, “I’m going to hold my nose and vote for ------ .”

Examining each candidate separately, it’s hard to understand why he/she isn’t trailing by a mile. Then you remember — the competition is equally distrusted.

Even that observation, however, fails to explain the strong showing by Trump, whose shallow life and coarse ways would have disqualified him in most election years. People are so fed up with political gridlock and system failure they are willing to overlook the obvious risks of a Trump presidency in hopes that change equates to improvement.

The electorate includes a vast array of people who can’t imagine casting a vote for someone wearing Trump’s cloak of narcissism, or with Clinton’s connection to a nanny-state political system. And Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, a natural beneficiary of that situation, is sadly lacking in world views.

We can hark back to March, during the primary, when Ron Fournier wrote in The Atlantic:

“What could be worse for a creaky, cancerous political system than what the Democratic and Republican parties are brewing up? Nothing really. This is as bad as it gets.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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