Trump Isn’t On The Ballot This Year — But In Many Ways, This Election Is All About Him [Opinion]

Americans have suggested in recent polling that their attitudes on the president's behavior while in office have influenced their voting preferences.

President Donald Trump holds his arms out to his sides.
Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images

Americans have suggested in recent polling that their attitudes on the president's behavior while in office have influenced their voting preferences.

The midterm elections of 2018 are, by definition, contests that do not include a question about the president.

Voters in all 50 states across the nation will go to the polls on Tuesday to choose their preferred candidates in local and federal elections. While President Donald Trump isn’t one of those candidate choices, most voters will likely be thinking of him when they go to the polls.

Previous reporting from the Inquisitr demonstrates as much. As many as 2-in-3 voters plan to base their votes, at least somewhat, in response to the current president’s tenure in office so far — whether they believe that he’s doing well or not. That’s a huge jump from past numbers: when asked that same question during a midterm when former President Barack Obama was in office, less than half of likely voters said that his leadership had influenced their vote.

It’s a conundrum that Trump himself has recognized. “Even though I’m not on the ballot, in a certain way I am on the ballot,” Trump said during a telephone town hall on Monday, according to reporting from Voice of America. “The press is very much considering it a referendum on me and us as a movement.”

This is not what traditional wisdom dictates — “All politics is local,” former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill said during the Reagan years, according to a commentary piece from the Washington Post. That idiom is being challenged, however, and Trump is a big reason as to why.

But really, who can blame voters for this shift in opinion? Many of Trump’s policies and statements over the past two years have been controversial, and for others, that word is too kind.

Voters hoping for a reasonable set of reforms on immigration standards, for example, were instead given an administration that put kids in cages, purposefully and inhumanely separating thousands of them from their parents, per BBC reporting earlier this year. The exclamation point on Trump’s dubious immigration views were put on full display this week as well, when his campaign aired an ad with racist overtones — forcing many networks to cease airing it altogether, according to reporting from SF Gate.

Immigration isn’t the only issue driving voters to the polls. Trump’s vitriolic rhetoric itself is likely influencing millions of voters on Tuesday. Whether it’s falsely claiming that immigrants have terrorist elements among them, as the New York Times pointed out, or ruthlessly suggesting that NFL players should be forced to stand during the playing of the national anthem — per previous reporting from the Inquisitr — Trump’s words and divisive demeanor have certainly made an impression on the American people.

Some voters, I imagine, are influenced to vote based off of Trump’s time in office because they believe he’s doing a good job. Indeed, that’s probably why Trump is pushing his last-minute controversial immigration ads — to get his base riled up to vote. But for the most part, unless polling data is completely off and we see a huge Republican upset later on Tuesday, it seems that voters are coming out in droves to the polls in order to voice their dissatisfaction with Trump, more than to show their approval of him.

Regardless of why people are voting, the vast majority are looking at this year’s midterms as a referendum on the president. That shouldn’t ordinarily happen, because these are meant to be local races, not national ones. The focus of these contests should be on topics important to communities and, at most, contests focusing on statewide candidates or issues — not the president.

That the focus is put elsewhere is a testament to how controversial and discordant Trump has been during his short time in office.