Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two most thoroughly disliked presidential candidates in memory, are both struggling to rehab their battered images.
Here’s one thing they could do to immediately make many voters like them more, or at least hate them a little less:
Agree to serve only one term if elected.
Their strongest supporters will surely find my modest proposal objectionable. I’m not sure it’s more than just an interesting idea myself. Still, I can’t imagine that swing voters and undecided voters wouldn’t find it appealing.
Here are three good reasons why:
▪ The Age Factor: Hillary Clinton’s bout with pneumonia serves as a vivid reminder that we’re dealing with two people who would be among the oldest ever to take office. Who doesn’t remember all the whispering about Ronald Reagan’s mental faculties deep into his second term? There’s no guarantee either Clinton or Trump – despite his bombast about his extraordinary stamina – would make it through two terms without the major health issues known to set in with advancing age.
▪ The “Blech!” Factor: No matter who wins Nov. 8, the deep polarization of the electorate means a big slice of the country will wake up the next day thinking, “Blech!” Isn’t it fair to think those on the losing side might be at least a little less crazed and disruptive if assured the object of their hatred will go away in four years? Besides, does Hillary really want eight years of being called a lying, murdering b----? Does Trump really want to trade his cushy New York boardroom and corporate yes-men for the messy realities of Washington, where a stubborn Congress and a fiercely independent press corps will be itching to keep him in check?
▪ The Tell-It-Like-It-Is Factor: If the national polls remain as tight as they are now, I can’t imagine either of these two coming into office with a clear mandate. We’ll have just another replay of the last two presidencies, full of hyper-partisanship and devoid of common-sense compromises. Who better to break through the logjam than a Bulworth president with nothing to lose? He or she could frame this one term as a tell-it-like-it-is service to a divided nation, not an extension of a political campaign.
I realize my modest proposal isn’t something either candidate wants to commit to. Clinton’s been chasing the presidency for decades. Hard to imagine she wouldn’t hold onto it as long as possible. Trump’s king-sized ego and strange affection for authoritarian dictators suggest the Secret Service might have to forcibly remove him from the Oval Office after eight years.
Also a problem: Many voters will think they’re lying if they say they’ll only serve one term.
Still, here’s something for Trump, Clinton and their supporters to consider. Each desperately wants to win Nov. 8, and each desperately needs to improve their likeability to do so. Think of the electorate as a homeowner who opens the door to find an unwanted guest on the stoop.
Isn’t “I won’t stay long, I promise!” exactly what you want to hear at that moment?