The media are fond of reminding us that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have high unfavorable ratings. However, the reasons for those unfavorables couldn’t be more different – not to mention that Donald’s are “setting modern records for political toxicity.”
Much breathless discussion has been had among members of the national media about the high unfavorable numbers attached to both major-party presidential candidates. But one of these things is not like the other.
For one, Hillary’s high unfavorables are, as explained by Peter Daou, “the result of a billionaire-funded conservative effort to destroy her image.” For decades, she has been subjected to a relentless campaign of character assaults and rank sexism, until demonstrably false narratives about her get repeated – even and especially by journalists ostensibly reporting only facts – as though they were true.
Donald’s high unfavorables are, on the other hand, straightforwardly attributable to his observable and indefensible flaws, as both a candidate and a human being: He is incompetent, reactionary, abusive, colossally vain, and an unrepentant bigot.
Additionally, while Hillary’s unfavorables are indeed high, Donald’s are off the charts.
Greg Sargent took a look at an analysis of Donald’s “historically high” unfavorables and notes: “While Hillary Clinton is also disliked, there is just no comparison to Trump.”
One is strongly disliked by a majority of Americans (at least in those two polls), and the other isn’t. That’s a key distinction: It suggests that Trump could be inspiring a level of mainstream antipathy and even revulsion that could prove harder to turn around than the less intense dislike Clinton is eliciting.
Which is a reflection of the first distinction: There are a lot of people who have some vague sense that Hillary isn’t trustworthy or likable, many of whom, when pressed, can’t come up with specific examples of why that might be. That’s a function of decades of personal attacks, which have zero basis in policy critique or provable fact.
It is, as we’ve written previously, the result of having “created enough smoke that some voters reflexively assume there must be a fire. But there is no fire. There is only a smoke machine.”
Conversely, most of the people who don’t like Donald can articulate precisely why without hesitation. There’s no invocation of some hazy unease based on something they might have heard once upon a time. It’s a concrete list of objections, a litany recounting any number of his myriad failings.
And this despite the fact that over the past year, the media have been tipping the scales in his favor.
Consider what it means that Donald has unprecedented unfavorables, even when he’s gotten an assist from the media, who are simultaneously running their same tired game on his opponent.
If the playing field were even, he’d be even more disliked. And, clearly, that is really saying something.