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Facing Disasters, Both Parties May Be Making Desperate Mistakes

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It doesn't feel like much of a party these days for the two parties trying to win the White House.

After both appeared to foist their preferred candidates upon their voters -- Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Jeb Bush for the Republicans -- they are now scrambling to respond to the immense frustration and dissatisfaction with the so-called "establishment" class. And somewhat uniquely to this cycle, it's frustration that's coming from moderates as well as the far left, the far right.


The numbers tell the story of an American people grown road-weary and fatigued by a political system they no longer trust. Since 1958, according to Pew, trust in government has eroded significantly. From its all-time highest during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations at 77 percent, it has twice sunk to as low as 17 percent, once during the Clinton administration and again in 2008, just after the financial collapse.

In the most recent 2015 Pew poll, only 24 percent trust the federal government to do the right thing "at least most of the time."

And the candidates and parties are feeling it, too. Only 34 percent of voters view Hillary Clinton as trustworthy, and the words "liar," "dishonest" and "untrustworthy" were the three top responses when Quinnipiac asked voters what came to mind first when they think of Clinton.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress score abysmal approval numbers, with 12 percent and 27 percent respectively, according to Quinnipiac.

All this bad news is forcing both parties to get a little desperate. And when people get desperate, they tend to act irrationally.

The Republican and Democratic parties have mirror-opposite problems. The Dems are trying to deal with the unexpected collapse by their frontrunner, and the Republicans are trying to deal with the unexpected rise of theirs.

And neither was particularly prepared for these scenarios. Over on the left, the Democratic bench is barely offering any credible or electable (sorry, Bernie) alternatives to Hillary Clinton, who is limping through a worsening email scandal and, as previously noted, a huge trust problem.


On the right, where there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to credible candidates, perhaps the least electable one (not sorry, Donald) is sucking all the oxygen out of the room.

So what are they doing to correct course? Possibly making some serious mistakes.

Let's start with the Democrats.

To stave off a Bernie Sanders nomination, which Democrats rightly assume would put a Republican in the White House, party leaders have been pleading for Vice President Joe Biden to run. While even just the whispers and anticipation of a Biden run weaken Hillary's position, at this point she and Democrats better hope he decides to do it.

If Biden doesn't satisfy Democratic voters' thirst for an alternative choice, this storyline will follow Hillary and the party all the way to the convention. And while Hillary certainly doesn't want the appearance of a coronation, she really doesn't want an ABC caucus -- "Anyone But Clinton" -- to dominate the headlines for a year.

If Biden chooses not to run, and no one fills that void, Democrats may look back at their efforts to recruit him as a huge mistake.

Over on the Republican side, the Republican National Committee finally got Donald Trump to sign a pledge to run as a Republican and to support the eventual nominee. Super, right?

Wrong. While the RNC wants to avoid losing Republican voters to a third-party candidate, it just gave Democrats their biggest gift: being able to paint the Republican Party with the Trump brush.

While other candidates like Jeb Bush and Rand Paul have been screaming at the top of their lungs to anyone who will listen that Trump isn't a Republican and doesn't represent the party, the RNC just announced (in writing!) that Trump pledges to be one.


Trump's campaign of subtraction, not addition -- offending all kinds of voters and demographics Republicans need to win the White House -- is proof he doesn't care a lick about the future of the Republican Party. So why does the party want him pledging his allegiance?

This too may be one of this season's biggest mistakes if Democrats use this to draw a line from Trump through all the other Republican contenders.

Presidential elections are messy and unpredictable, and this cycle is unpredictable on steroids. But the party that stays nimble and avoids overreacting will likely be the one that finishes on top. We'll know in 14 months if these decisions were smart or fatal.

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