Gallup has new, "unaided reactions" reactions to the words Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner for her party's presidential nomination.
It's not good, with "Dishonest/Liar/Don't trust her/Poor character" pulling 21 percent among U.S. adults. The next thing that comes to mind? "Dislike her," at 9 percent.
In addition to the 21% of responses in the "dishonest/don't trust her" category, another 7% of Americans use even stronger words in a similar negative vein, including "criminal," "crooked" and "thief." Nine percent say they dislike her.
A slight majority of us (51 percent) express "something negative" about Clinton while just 29 percent have kind words to say about her. Her rival in the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders, engenders both more positive and less-intense feelings, with 29 percent saying something positive with only 20 percent saying something negative.
Here's the kicker: As bad as the numbers are for Clinton, she's doing better than the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump. Three weeks ago, Gallup found that a whopping 60 percent of Americans viewed Trump negatively and only 33 percent felt favorably toward him. Out of recent presidents, only George W. Bush pulled higher negatives and that came after he'd been in office for seven years (in April 2008, Bush managed a record 66 percent disapproval rating).
What does it mean that the two frontrunners are broadly disliked by the electorate? The short version: It means real and continuing trouble for the major parties, who have worked overtime to alienate the average voter.
As I've noted before, party identification is at or near historic lows for the Democrats and Republicans. Just 29 percent of us tell pollsters that we're Democrats and just 26 percent admit to being Republicans. The 2016 election is not going to reverse that. If fact, it may even drive those numbers into single digits (here's hoping).
This is precisely the situation that Matt Welch and I wrote about in The Declaration of Independents. The major parties have stuck to the same scripts and coalitions that worked well enough for them in the 20th century. The Dems patched together private and public-sector unions and various minority groups while the GOP called out to social conservatives and small business owners, among others. Neither those interest groups nor concerns are relevant enough in the 21st century to keep broad-based parties solvent. The Democratic Party has become a party fetishizing the past of industrial jobs that will never come back. Both Clinton and Sanders attack the few bright spots in the economy, such as Uber and Airbnb, as somehow cheating the workers who flock to those services and the customers who love them. They each now oppose school choice, the single-most-obvious way to help poor inner-city kids get a chance in life. The GOP is ready to shut down the government not over out-of-control spending by the government but over $500 million given to Planned Parenthood for birth-control and contraceptives. If we're lucky, the next debate might feature Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio speaking in Spanish about which one is more dedicated to keeping Latinos out of the country. The GOP speaks the language of liberty but talks only of building walls and, increasingly, trade restrictions and war. Most of its leaders are in perpetual pants-pissing mode over the end of "mainstream" America and the rise of alternative everything.
The major parties can keep running on fumes because they are effectively the only electoral game in town and unlike duopolies in the private sector, they get a huge stream of taxpayer cash to sling around and eke out win after win at the ballot box. But when your two top candidates are disliked, distrusted, and disapproved of by a majority of Americans—and when shrinking numbers of people will identify with you—there comes a moment when a reboot will happen.
That's the opportunity for those of us with alternative approaches to politics, whether coming from the broadly defined right or the left. Obviously, I'm convinced that a broadly libertarian approach to politics—one that combines social tolerance and fiscal conservativism—is the way to go. Somewhere on this page is a 2014 meme put out by Tim Moen, a Canadian politician. It's seemingly a parody of a libertarian politician's stances but each is wildly popular among American voters at large. Throw in dislike of heavy regulation, skepticism of the U.S. acting as the world's policeman, and concern over national debt and the need for entitlement reform, and you could win just about every election at every level of government.