Back in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama turned to his competitor, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he told her, “You're likable enough, Hillary.”
And it's 2016 and we're back to “likable enough.”
If one listens to NPR or various call-in shows, the millenials are losing their mind: they cannot vote for Hillary; sure, she's capable but she's a 70-something year old woman and she's shrill and there was that server, and frankly, Bernie seems like a better choice. Or Elizabeth Warren, but she's not running.
So we'll stay home, thank you very much.
There's been this talk, all along, about the enthusiasm gap: people believe Hillary is strong and pragmatic, but she is not inspirational, she's not relatable, and there's the whole server thing, and no one like that so much. (And, we don't want to admit it, but she's an older woman. Her laugh seems false, her cankles are unseemly, and, ohmigod, what is she wearing??? Is that one of Guinan's castaways? She should not be dressed like Star Trek, Next Gen…she just shouldn't, because that was TV!)
Well, mostly, it's just that the Clintons carry drama. It's inescapable. Clinton equals both scandal and dynasty and, honestly, the American people are just, so, tired.
So there's Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side: strongly weighted on domestic issues, a stalwart and honest senator…and MIA on foreign policy.
And the Republican field has dropped to
P.T. Barnum Donald Trump, a former pizza spokesperson and reality TV star who “owns” a couple golf courses and worn-out towel hotel-casinos. Plus the rather indigestible Ted Cruz and the slick, pore-free, and idea-light Marco Rubio. Sure, Ohio governor John Kasich is still in there, but he's dead on arrival, in Michigan and in his home state of Ohio, if the polls are to be believed.
There is no one likeable left in the election. It's the likeable-enough election. And the American public is having a difficult time deciding who is “enough.”
And, ultimately, is that enough to bring people to the polls? To inspire a country forward into the 21st century? To heal race divides, to conquer economic stagnation? Is it enough to manage climate change? To assist a middle and lower class that (a) resents being “classed” and (b) seriously just can't make it?
As long as the question to the electorate is phrased as “is America currently great” or “can America be great again,” the essential problem of how to govern a 320 million group of Americans will fall by the wayside.
Who's likeable enough to be president?
Hell if I know. But the American people need someone, someone substantial and capable and even likable. Not likeable enough.
There are some things that “good enough” is not good enough for. It might be that president is one.
And there's no answer for that in the 2016 field.