Still Think Jeb Bush Vs. Hillary Clinton Is Happening?
They’re the pundits’ front-runners, but they’re at odds with a restless electorate.
It has been a dismal decade for most Americans. Whether it's government incompetence (Hurricane Katrina, the Veterans Affairs' deadly lapses in medical care), economic recession followed by a slow recovery, deadly struggles in managing post-war Iraq, or the increasing threat of terrorism from a brutally repressive enemy, there's been good reason for voters to distrust their government and its political representatives. Indeed, since 2006, we've seen wave elections occur in four out of the past five cycles. Democrats capitalized on the public's anger to take back control of Congress in 2006 only to hit historic lows in representation across the country eight years later. If the United States had a parliamentary system, the government would be facing routine votes of no confidence.
So it's no surprise that this year's presidential campaign has been as unpredictable as ever. That happens when voters feel that government isn't working for them, and they've been feeling that way for nearly 10 straight years. In past elections during times of voter alienation, the unexpected happens. In 1976, the first campaign after Watergate and amid rising crime and inflation, a little-known Georgia governor (Jimmy Carter) came out of nowhere to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency. That same year, a Republican president (Gerald Ford) was nearly unseated by a conservative insurgent (Ronald Reagan) that few pundits took seriously at first. In 1992, in the middle of a recession, Democrats chose a fresh-faced Arkansas governor (Bill Clinton) while Republicans saw a populist (Pat Buchanan) threaten their president (George H.W. Bush) in early primaries—with a billionaire winning 19 percent of the vote running as a third-party candidate (Ross Perot).
This is why the expectations of a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential election never made much sense—it couldn't be more disconnected with voter sentiment. Bush's candidacy still hasn't captured the imagination of most GOP voters, and the Democrats' unification behind a Clinton campaign was as much a reaction to the lack of younger, up-and-coming successors to Obama as it was to genuine grassroots enthusiasm for the former secretary of State. At a time when anti-Washington, antiestablishment feelings are near all-time highs, why would both parties nominate candidates with political bloodlines who've benefited from their family connections? All the campaign money in the world can't change fundamental vulnerabilities. It shouldn't be too surprising that Donald Trump—not to mention all the outsider candidates, such as Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina—are surging in national polls.
Not surprisingly, Bush and Clinton's favorability ratings are consistently among the worst of the candidates running for president.