Americans are complex, although not necessarily logical, thinkers when making their President selection choice. Political pollsters keep voters abreast of what appears to be a changing or evolving selection process.
The process begins with a simple question, “do I like the person running for President”? (Would I have a beer with this person?) Since most Americans do not really know the candidate, “liking” the candidate reflects actually an image formed by a mix of commercials, news stories, and recent television images.
The next overlay asks the question, “is the candidate from my party”? Since there is such a large block of so-called “independent” voters, it stands to reason that most Americans answer the question, “no, the candidate is not from my party”.
This raises a barrier for Democrats and Republicans but none for the Independent. Never the less, voters are ready to move on to “what are the key issues and where does the candidate stand on these issues”?
After a protracted period, voters begin to develop a more complete mental picture of each candidate and a sharpening preference for one. Negative ads, personal appearances, and debates are all digested and lead up to a preference leaning towards a choice. Polls taking along this path often show one candidate or the other gaining and then losing a lead.
For 2016, Donald Trump offered many the economy has left behind a potential new advocate. Trump’s television image was appealing, not as a grandfatherly type, but as a tough nosed sheriff, right out of the wild west. Donald Trump would solve everything which was wrong in America. Trump offered an image easy to like and a program which seemed to be what the doctor ordered.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, projected a matronly, not quite grandmotherly, image. She appeared as the female version of the standard Presidential candidate. But this was candidate Clinton’s second time around, and the initial infatuation which usually provides a candidate a grace period, free from hard scrutiny, was missing. Hillary took hard hits in the public square.
As more voters got to “know” Donald Trump, many rejected him and his candidacy, and by default resigned themselves to Hillary Clinton. (Not much love there).
In most years that would be the story. Clinton wins in a landslide.
But 2016 does not look like it will be like most years. Hillary Clinton has been hounded by questions of trustworthiness. While many of the charges have their roots in partisan politics, her association with the Clinton Foundation and with the use of a private email account (and server) present voters with a putrid conflict of interest odor (whether real or imagined).
The conflict of interest charges are, in and of themselves, a worry if she were to become President but more immediate, these charges interfere with Clinton’s messaging and as a result offer voters less reasons to hold their noses and still vote for her.
The 2016 election challenges voters. Selecting Donald Trump will send to the White House a poorly prepared candidate, one who shows strong attention deficit disorder symptoms. Of course, Trump could surround himself with a competent team, and potentially play a satisfactory (of better) commander in chief role.
Just recall George W Bush, who was also unqualified to become commander in chief on his own merits. Bush was surrounded by former experienced GOP leaders who ran rough shod over him, ultimately leading to Dick Cheney’s Iraq war and to the near depression economic melt down of 2007-2008. There is no reason to expect a Trump support group “team of experts” to do better.
Selecting Hillary Clinton does not portend the same risk of government mismanagement given her past experience and demonstrated ability. Hillary Clinton, however, may bring a darker shadow (appearances of a conflict of interest) which reinforces many voters impression that government is too large and not interested in the average Americans situation. A Clinton Presidency will likely evoke an increasing partisan divide and exacerbate further the already well established Congressional dysfunction. (Not a pretty picture to look forward to).
IMO, there are sound reasons to select Hillary Clinton even with her known baggage.
Clinton may be flawed but she is a qualified commander in chief.
- Clinton will appoint center left Supreme Court Justices who will not try to drag the country back 50 or more years.
- Clinton may attempt to change the Affordable Care Act but not in a way to decrease the number of Americans covered.
- And in the messy world of foreign affairs, Clinton is likely to maintain a broad perspective covering the broad list of countries whose policies are important to American interests (Russia to China to India to the European Union to Japan) and not become myopic on the Middle East.