It’s only May 2015, but the game of high-stakes presidential politics for the November 2016 election is already well underway.
The problem is, so far there is an actual lack of intriguing candidates in the field, or even on the sidelines, considering a run. While that may create an interesting environment for political junkies, it leaves much to be desired for the general population, especially following an eight-year letdown of the famous “hope and change” promise.
Just for a quick history refresher, in 2007 (about the same point in the presidential election cycle as we are now), then-freshman Sen. Barack Obama was a fresh face. He was going to be different. There was excitement about the first potential African-American president.
Because of that, a higher percentage of eligible voters turned out in the 2008 presidential election, nearly 57 percent nationally, which was more than had turned out in any presidential election going back to 1968 between Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. Alabama even beat the national average in 2008, with 58.4 percent turning out to vote.
In 2012, some of the excitement waned, which was to be expected after the luster of Obama had worn off and the Republicans, for whatever reason, nominated a former governor and former presidential candidate in Mitt Romney — who failed to achieve the party’s nomination in 2008 after leaving the Massachusetts governor’s mansion five years earlier with a 34 percent approval rating.
There’s only room for improvement this go-around, right? Not exactly.
Although the field will have some new faces on the Republican side, the 2016 field to date seems to include a number of charlatans, misfits and grifters, and for now it’s hard to see how the level of excitement Obama generated eight years ago can be matched.
On the Democratic side, it’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a few people no one has ever heard of. Sure, she’ll be the first female Democratic presidential nominee and possibly the first female president. The public, however, has supposedly been “ready for Hillary” since her husband Bill Clinton left office 14 years ago.
In addition to her being a sort of stale candidate, especially after the failed bid for her party’s nomination in 2008, there are all these questions of her and her husband’s financial dealings involving the Clinton family foundation.
That’s going to make her vulnerable and it’s also not going to motivate the hopeless voter, who thinks the system is broken and corrupt, to get to the polls.
Let’s face it, after the young phenom Barack Obama hit the national stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, the Democratic Party hasn’t done much to develop a bench. Much of that is the product of electoral politics over the last six-and-a-half years. Democratic incumbents have been able to hang onto their offices for the most part, but where there has been a transition, it’s been from blue to red and not vice versa.
Thus, the fresh-face quotient among Democratic politicians is lacking and may cost the party in the long run.
On the Republican side, it’s the worst of both worlds. You have a couple of has-been candidates giving it a go, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has the baggage of his brother to overcome.
You also have some really fresh faces in three junior senators — Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. That youth may not appeal to voters, who are looking to someone with some gray hair, especially after having elected a young, hopeful upstart eight years ago.
Several current or recent governors are interesting potential candidates — Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Bobby Jindal and Rick Perry. And you also have a few wild cards in Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina.
That, however, is a crowded field that could turn into a circular firing squad in a hurry. After all is said and done, the Republicans will have a bruised and battered nominee to take on the current heir apparent, Hillary Clinton.
Philosopher Joseph de Maistre wrote in 1811 that every nation gets the government it deserves, especially in a democracy. In this case, our nation perhaps deserves a little better because the apparatus of our two-party system may have let us down.
Technically, that’s attributable to the voting public. But it’s also a product of technology, with 24-hour news channels and websites creating an over-amped political landscape that is exhausting, especially with presidential politics playing out a year-and-a-half away from the actual election.
For now, unless you’re the junkie or are somehow involved in the business of politics, it’s advisable to step away from the blow-by-blow of the early moments of this campaign. Turn off Fox News and MSNBC and go fishing. You’ll thank me later.