Politics & Policy

After Eight Years of Obama, America Needs Someone Better than Trump or Clinton

(Photo Illustration: NRO; Bill Pugliano, Alex Wong/Getty)

Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster who helps conduct the Wall Street Journal’s running surveys, offered a stark assessment this week: “America is on the path to electing the most unpopular president since 1948.”

He’s not wrong. 56 percent of registered voters see Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton negatively. That makes her the second least popular candidate left running for the highest office in the land. Luckily for Democrats, the least popular candidate is the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump, viewed negatively by 65 percent of respondents.

Americans’ animus to the remaining options doesn’t stem from a fear of change; they are unhappy with the status quo, too. Yes, this spring Obama’s job-approval rating has ticked up a bit, to around 50 percent. But since mid-2009 — right as the glow was fading from Obama’s honeymoon — voters have been consistently pessimistic about the country’s direction, with 60 to 70 percent of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track.

How did we end up here? The 2016 cycle began with many Americans feeling like the promise of the Obama era was never kept. There has been no grand era of racial healing; crime is on the rise in many cities. The future of the next generation seems ever shakier; will they ever find real jobs, pay off debt, and start independent lives? The world beyond our borders feels more dangerous than before, with European cities bombed while our president dances the tango. A politically correct thought police on campus, broken families, an explosion of addiction and suicide — it’s as if the social fabric unravels the harder we try to cling to it.

RELATED: No, Trump Isn’t Actually Better than Hillary

Democrats may reflexively defend Obama, but their primary votes betray them; you can’t simultaneously believe that the Obama presidency was a boon to Americans and that Bernie Sanders is right to complain of a runaway oligarchy.

Bad leaders and bad times probably create a vicious cycle. If you feel like America’s in worse shape than it was four years ago — or eight, or twelve, or sixteen — you’re probably skeptical of the next president’s ability to make it much better. And a choice between Clinton and Trump isn’t likely to ease your worried mind.

#share#Is there any reason to think a Clinton presidency would represent a big change from the Obama years? Maybe she’s a bit more hawkish than Obama, but she would still be the head of a fundamentally isolationist, anti-war party. Perhaps she’s instinctively inclined toward the center — too far right for an increasingly liberal party, though still much too far left for conservatives — but she is also a Clinton, acutely attuned to the political winds and willing to do anything to keep them at her back. When it comes down to it, she’ll maintain Obama’s policies if it means keeping her base happy.

RELATED: Why President Trump Would Be a Bigger Disaster than President Clinton

Ordinarily, in a country that voters overwhelmingly believe is on the wrong track, the prospect of electing Hillary Clinton to maintain the status quo would be enough to throw the White House to Republicans. But the prospect of electing Donald Trump to burn the status quo to the ground may ultimately prove even less appealing.

#related#If we basically know what we’re getting with Clinton, ugly as it is, we have no idea what to expect from Trump, a man who is all too eager to tell you what he thinks, even though he’ll likely think the opposite ten minutes from now. True, in this he’s much like Clinton, willing to say or do whatever he must to win. But Clinton has a basic policy knowledge, which Trump doesn’t even pretend to have. Clinton fights dirty, more or less, within the established norms of American politics. Trump has risen, in no small part, by destroying those norms with the utmost glee.

The Democrats appear hell-bent on nominating Clinton, and at this point, FBI Director James Comey has a better chance of derailing her nomination than Bernie Sanders. The good news for Republicans is that they still have a shot at beating her. They just need to pick someone even a little bit more popular. It’s not exactly an impossible task.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

Most Popular

White House

The Mueller Report Should Shock Our Conscience

I've finished reading the entire Mueller report, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel's Office. We've become accustomed to Trump making up ... Read More
World

What’s So Great about Western Civilization

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter), One of the things I tell new parents is something that was told to me when my daughter still had that ... Read More
White House

The Problem with the Mueller Report

So much for collusion. The media conversation has now officially moved on from the obsession of the last two years to obstruction of justice. That’s because the first volume of the voluminous Mueller report, the half devoted to what was supposed to be the underlying crime of a Trump conspiracy with Russia, ... Read More
Sports

Screw York Yankees

You are dead to me. You are a collection of Fredos. The cock has crowed, you pathetic sniveling jerks. The team I have rooted for since 1965, when I first visited the House that Ruth Built, where I hawked peanuts and ice cream a lifetime ago, watched countless games (Guidry striking out 18!), has gotten so ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Trump Can’t Cry ‘No Fair’

If I may jump in, I take Charlie’s point and I think he’s largely correct. I also think David is correct. There’s not that much of a contradiction in that because I think to some extent they’re talking about different things. And this reflects a larger frustration I have with many of the ... Read More