Hillary Clinton is attacked from all directions and receives more negative coverage than any other presidential candidate. Yet she is not only surviving – she is winning. We can’t think of anyone else who could pull that off.
A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that Hillary’s unfavorables have increased over the last month, but polling also indicates that she is likely to win New York by a double digit margin. How can someone so supposedly “unlikable” keep winning?
Or perhaps a better question is: Given that she keeps winning, is Hillary really unlikable?
The media certainly think she is—and are doing their darnedest to make it so. A recent analysis concluded: “The biggest news outlets have published more negative stories about Hillary Clinton than any other presidential candidate—including Donald Trump—since January 2015.”
We have spent a lot of time in this space debunking the false “enthusiasm gap” frame used to suggest Hillary lacks passionate support, the myth of her “untrustworthiness,” the sexist double standards to which she’s subjected, and other assorted media failures.
The media’s unrelenting efforts to undermine Hillary go beyond merely promulgating dishonest mischaracterizations of her and holding her to different standards, however. As a recent example shows, they actively assist her opponents in formulating attacks against her.
During the Democratic debate in Brooklyn, Bernie Sanders was asked by CNN moderator Dana Bash to provide an example of when donations had influenced Hillary’s voting record. He could not provide one. Immediately following the debate, Bernie was being interviewed by CNN’s Jeff Zeleny—the reporter who previously launched the “unqualified” attack and stated as fact that Hillary is “bought and paid for”—when Zeleny referenced that question and offered Sanders an example Zeleny believed he should have used: Bankruptcy legislation.
Days later, Bash interviewed Bernie on CNN’s “State of the Union,” telling him she would “give him another try at answering how rival Hillary Clinton favored big banks following donations with ties to Wall Street” since he hadn’t answered the question at the debate.
“So let’s try it again,” said Bash. “Can you point to a decision that Hillary Clinton made as senator that shows she favored banks because of the donations she received?” To which Sanders replied she had supported “bad bankruptcy legislation.”
The media is doing her Democratic opponent’s opposition research work for him. Meanwhile, Bernie is doing her (potential) Republican opponents’ work for them. After Bernie launched his “unqualified” attack on Hillary, Donald Trump tweeted: “Bernie Sanders says that Hillary Clinton is unqualified to be president. Based on her decision making ability, I can go along with that!”
Trump has recently taken to calling Hillary “Crooked Hillary,” which pretty clearly echoes Bernie’s insinuations that she is corrupt. But when asked by the Today show’s Savannah Guthrie if he’s doing Trump’s dirty work for him, Bernie demurred.
SANDERS: Donald Trump is very brilliant about creating statements that you guys respond to. It’s an ugly statement. What I have said is that, regarding Secretary Clinton, what I have said is we have a corrupt campaign finance system, in which billionaires and the wealthy-
GUTHRIE: You’ve gone further. You have said that she accepts this money from Wall Street —- big banks or fossil fuels and that affects her judgment.
SANDERS: Yeah, well, of course it does.
GUTHRIE: Would that be crooked?
SANDERS: Ha- in that case, the entire United States government is crooked. We have a corrupt system. I’m very proud that we are doing it differently. Our average contribution is $27. We received over 7 million individual campaign contributions. That’s what’s different about our campaign. We don’t get money from big money interest. I’m going to fight as hard as I can as president to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision. I believe in public funding of elections. I don’t want to see big money buy elections.
GUTHRIE: You’re not making Donald Trump’s argument for him, against Hillary?
Despite Bernie’s protestations, he is making the same attacks on Hillary that her Republican opponents are: She is corrupt; she is compromised; she lacks credibility; she cannot be trusted.
Karl Rove’s super PAC American Crossroads is preparing to release an anti-Hillary ad comparing her to Richard Nixon, having “determined Clinton’s trustworthiness is her foremost weakness.”
Whether from the left or the right, from her opponents or the media, from Republican voters or Sanders supporters, the attacks all sound the same. And they are relentless.
It’s no wonder her unfavorability ratings have increased.
In spite of it all, Hillary persists. She has racked up more pledged delegates and over 2 million more votes than Bernie. She is very likely to win the Democratic nomination and she is very likely to defeat whoever the Republicans run against her.
The majority of Democratic voters have not been fooled by this onslaught. They know the attacks are baseless—and many of them probably agree with CNN political commentator Errol Louis who said straightforwardly what very few media observers are willing to say: “a lot of this is sexism.”
Many of us see through the charade, no matter how thick and pervasive it is. And we continue to support Hillary, who keeps chugging along, required to navigate an offensive that no other candidate must abide.
If there’s anything that better underlines her venerable character than her capacity not only to continue but win under these circumstances, I don’t know what it is.
(Photo: Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)