That's what this election has become. It hasn't been about competing or contrasting visions of government. It hasn't been about rooting out corruption in Washington or bringing change to the system. It certainly hasn't been about principle.
No, this election has become a simple decision: Do you want the thickheaded loudmouth who understands your problems, or do you want the cold and calculating robotic manipulator who doesn't? Do you want the real-life Archie Bunker, or would you prefer Mary Tyler Moore in "Ordinary People"?
That's what the latest polls tell us. They tell us that Americans aren't happy with either of their choices. Fully 45 percent of Democrats wish someone other than Hillary Clinton had won the primary, and the same percentage of Republicans wish someone other than Donald Trump had been nominated. Sixty-eight percent of Americans think Clinton isn't honest or trustworthy; 54 percent think she's running for personal gain rather than the good of the country; 57 percent say Clinton would divide the country as president; and just 38 percent say they'd be proud to have her as president. Trump's numbers are bad, too, but he has a significant advantage on honesty (with 55 percent saying he's dishonest). Forty-seven percent say he's running for personal gain, and 55 percent say he'd divide the country as president.
Trump is now beating Clinton where it counts. People believe that he understands their problems and believe that Clinton doesn't.
Here's the bigger problem, however: Electing politicians who "understand your problems" is a recipe for disaster. Governing properly isn't about identifying with the feelings of constituents; that position logically leads to a politics of individual "problem-solving" focused solely on curing constituents' ills. Governing properly should be about understanding that government's job (SET ITAL) isn't (END ITAL) to solve Americans' problems; it's about moving aside obstacles so that Americans can solve their own problems.
Bill Clinton is truly the father of the "feel your pain" politics, the notion that politicians ought to be beer buddies, folks who get what we feel and respond to it. This is a successful campaign strategy, but it changes what we're looking for. Now we're looking for candidates who can demonstrate that they get us and candidates who can provide for us. We're looking for President Benjamin Spock.
But government is not our parent. Though comedian Chris Rock may think that Barack Obama is the "dad of the country," he most certainly isn't. And if we think of our presidents that way, we're likely to stop holding them accountable. Even children of abusive parents love their parents. And even when nearly 7 in 10 Americans believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction, 56 percent of Americans think President Obama's doing a terrific job.
This means that our government is no longer accountable to us, even in our own minds. Government just becomes a popularity contest rather than a tool for the protection of rights. And our presidents become our parents; our parents become our dictators; and our dictators become unanswerable. It's comforting to think that politicians care about you, but they're lying. They don't. They care about themselves. And to project daddy and mommy issues onto those we elect is to hand over our God-given rights for the cheap promises of baby kissers.