Donald Trump has historically high unfavorable ratings for a president. He is still president. He seems to be having a good time, although I know he is missing his golf courses during this government shutdown.
Nancy Pelosi is so unpopular that every Republican campaign ad or policy position promises not to be “like Nancy Pelosi.” She retook her position as Speaker of the House last week. She seemed pretty happy about it.
Paul Ryan had a 12 percent approval rating when he left the office Speaker Pelosi now holds. He certainly isn’t going to spend the rest of his life penniless and hopeless because he isn’t well liked.
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced she was running for president in 2020, the storylines immediately turned to how “unlikeable” she is. In an effort to be likable, Warren is featuring her lovable dog at media events and having a beer with her Instagram followers.
America is a funny place. The most hated people are running the show and somehow people think Warren not being easy to like is a problem for her campaign.
Honestly, her biggest problem is being a woman. I have never met Senator Warren. She is obviously a very smart and successful person. But it was true when I ran campaigns in the early 1990s and it is only slightly less true now, many people - not just men - have an issue with a woman who has authority and asserts it. The problem is amplified when these women challenge a man.
Society has come a long way in its view on women, but there is still a strong negative reaction anytime a woman fills the traditional male role. That is changing, but change takes time.
Donald Trump was considered tough when he bullied 16 other Republican candidates out of the race. If Warren or Hillary Clinton did and said the same things, they would be called shrill or harsh. People would tell them to smile more.
When I ran a state senate campaign for a woman, an older gentleman in Tuttle, Oklahoma, told me he wouldn’t vote for “some power hungry (word that rhymes with something you would scratch.)” That guy is probably dead now, but his ideas aren’t.
That was 1992. You heard the same thing about Clinton in 2016 and you’ll hear it again about Warren and Pelosi and any other woman elected to office who chooses to see herself as an equal to the elected men instead of smiling in the background of press conferences while the big tough men talk to the press.
But I don’t think likability is going to be what keeps Warren from winning the presidency in 2020. That race will be complicated.
It is possible - although unlikely - that Donald Trump could be removed from office due to criminal indictments or impeachment. I would hope that isn’t the platform of any Republican hoping to run in his place or Democrat hoping for a different opponent.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is on pace to wrap up in 2024 as Trump leaves office after a second term - should he win re-election in 2020.
You can already see men like Sen. Mitt Romney, retired Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Gov. John Kasich who have left the official Trump mutual admiration society. Romney’s niece, GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel - who gave up the Romney name to please the president - came to Trump’s defense when Romney called him a man of low character who hasn’t risen to the office in his two years in the White House. McDaniel said last Wednesday that her uncle was out of line. In return, Trump tweeted effusive praise for McDaniel Thursday. That is what Trump wants. This is a president who starts each cabinet meeting with members taking turns praising him in various ways. Dissent is not allowed in new America.
While likability isn’t going to stop Warren from winning the White House. Dissent won’t be the big issue either.
I think she is too well-known. Barring a GOP disaster scenario, the Democrats will be choosing someone to run against Trump. Hillary Clinton couldn’t beat him before he was an incumbent. I don’t think Warren could either, now that he is.
This isn’t just a female issue either. Joe Biden won’t win that race. Biden became more beloved after he and Barack Obama left office. He has even been featured in cute memes. Biden missed his chance in 2016. That was when he had his best shot. He is four years older and four years removed from the public eye. I don’t think he comes back around and sweeps Trump out of the White House.
I’m sure Biden, Warren and Bernie Sanders are the betting favorites to win the top of the ticket for the Democrats in 2020, but none of them could come close to picking up electoral votes that Clinton lost.
If the Democrats are to have a real chance against an entrenched Trump who is “unpopular” but enjoys a rock solid base, the winner will be someone who is the answer to a trivia question you don’t know yet.
There were great candidates in Texas for Senate, and Florida and Georgia for Governor. However, all of them lost. They are far enough outside of the mainstream to do better than the old hats, but I don’t think any of them can beat Trump. I think the nominee who can get the win will rise through the newly seated Congress. It needs to be someone new who can accomplish something of their own and still take on the president successfully on other issues.
It’s a longshot, but anytime you try to beat an incumbent, it’s a longshot.
Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.