When the election became a point of disgust

February 21, 2016

U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump points into the crowd while accompanied by his daughter Ivanka (L) and his wife Melania (R) at his 2016 South Carolina presidential primary night victory rally in Spartanburg, South Carolina February 20, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Early contests in the presidential race have drawn record turnout, but the swell of voter activity isn’t necessarily a wave of joy. In South Carolina, several people who voted in the Republican primary said they’d had to hold their noses.

“I don’t like any of them,” Johnny Totter, 82, told me a polling site in West Columbia. “I went in and I flipped a coin.”

Totter said he didn’t like the negative campaigning the candidates had engaged in, and used his disapproval to whittle the field of six down to two: front-runner Donald Trump and his rival Ted Cruz.

“I eliminated the guy with the hair in his face – Trump,” Totter said.

His frustration – over negative advertising, repeated accusations of lying lobbed among the candidates and scandals like controversies over dirty words – echoed in the reflections of other Republican voters.

“I’ve kind of soured on politics in general,” said Bob Davis, 64, who voted for retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. He said he feared Trump was a “loose cannon” and said he had at one time liked Bill and Hillary Clinton, but decided he was turned off by the perception that the two are dishonest.

Another voter, Jim Smith, 81, said he was disappointed by the 2016 race. He thought there were too many Republican candidates, and he was dismayed to see South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley backing someone he didn’t like, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

“This election has bothered me more than any other,” Smith said. In the end, he decided to vote for former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Bush later dropped out of the race.

Even in victory, there were pangs of discontent. Student Katelyn Bender, 20, voted for Trump and attended his primary results watch party in Spartanburg, S.C.

But as the crowd around her cheered to celebrate Trump’s win, Bender kept her head down and texted furiously on her smart phone. She said she’d come more out of curiosity than enthusiasm, and that even though she voted for Trump, he made her uncomfortable.

“I don’t like his arrogance, but I think he’s good at financial stuff so I think he’s the person who can run our country the best,” she said.

A grim opening to her political education, not dissimilar to the words of an old-timer, Johnny Totter’s uncle who Totter told me was in his 80s in the 1960s.

Totter recalled a favorite saying of his: “My uncle always said you can’t trust a politician in an outhouse with a muzzle on.”

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Besides Trump-bashing, is there any point to this ridiculous article? “My uncle always said you can’t trust a politician in an outhouse with a muzzle on.” What is that, some sort of Reuters Haiku?

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