If current surveys are taken as predictive, the Democratic Party will nominate President Joe Biden for reelection next year, the Republican Party will nominate former President Donald Trump, and whoever wins will begin his term in 2025 as one of the most disliked politicians in American history.
How can this be? As I’ve previously argued, our system of presidential primaries is broken. It needs a major overhaul. But even if we were able to shuffle the primary deck — allowing states other than Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina to go first, for starters — I’m not sure we’d get a different outcome.
Some partisans of The Big Guy™ or The Perfect Caller™ claim the public isn’t really so sour on the frontrunner they champion, that it’s all a mirage, and that the political polls suggesting otherwise must be biased or misinterpreted.
Their claims are without merit. In a just-released Civitas Poll, my John Locke Foundation colleagues clarified the matter by posing a straightforward question to 600 likely voters in North Carolina: who would they like to see take the oath of office for president in 2025? Respondents were presented with five alternatives: Biden, Trump, another (unnamed) Democrat, another (unnamed) Republican, or someone from another party (also unnamed).
The “winner,” in a sense, was Trump. A plurality of 29% said they wanted to see him returned to the White House. Only 18% favored reelecting Joe Biden. As for the rest, 18% wanted a different Republican, 20% a different Democrat, and 8% the standard-bearer of another party. The remaining respondents were unsure.
So, just 47% of likely voters say they want either Trump or Biden to be our next president. If these two men are the major-party nominees on next year’s ballot, most North Carolinians will be unhappy — a finding that makes me prouder than ever to be a native of the Tar Heel State.
Neither man possesses the honesty, temperament, and judgment to run the executive branch of the federal government. There is no need to hazard guesses about this matter. Both men have already demonstrated their inadequacies in the office.
Still, given that Trump currently retains enough support among likely primary voters to get the GOP nomination, and that Biden faces only token Democratic competition, the matchup most voters disdain appears to be the matchup they may well get.
For months now, the No Labels movement has been preparing for this eventuality. Led by a gaggle of former Republican and Democratic officeholders and activists — including those with North Carolina ties such as former Gov. Pat McCrory and former NAACP leader Ben Chavis — the organization states that if Trump and Biden are the major-party nominees, it is likely to place an alternative ticket on next year’s general-election ballot.
If so, North Carolina will be one of the states offering such an option. After some awkward foot-shuffling, the State Board of Elections voted earlier this month to approve No Labels as an official political party. Voters were already likely to see Libertarian and Green alternatives next to the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. Will they also be able to vote for, say, current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia or former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman as the No Labels pick?
No one really knows — though many Democrats are certain that if No Labels exercises its “insurance policy” and supplies a presidential slate, that will guarantee a Donald Trump victory by pulling voters disproportionately from Joe Biden.
I’m not certain of this, though I have my own reservations about No Labels. I don’t fault the intentions of its leaders, some of whom I know and respect. But when I examine its stated principles and goals, I don’t see a coherent policy agenda for a potential administration.
The United States of America remains the greatest and most powerful country on the planet. It deserves a better president than Biden or Trump. Alas, how that can practically be accomplished remains unclear to me.
John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, “Mountain Folk” and “Forest Folk,” combine epic fantasy with early American history (FolkloreCycle.com).