Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Which one engenders hatred in more voters? The answer to that question will likely determine this year’s presidential election, as both candidates are viewed unfavorably by a majority of voters. My analysis doesn’t provide an answer to that question. The polls currently favor Clinton as being hated by fewer voters, but it is hardly by a safe margin at this point. In fact, the way the polls have tightened over the last few weeks, it may be fair to say that the number of Trump haters has reached its height, while the number of Clinton haters may still be growing. And with more WikiLeaks revelations promised, and FBI leaks possible, in the campaign’s last two months, more anti-Clinton fodder may be in the offing.
The nature of the hatreds is different, however. One is visceral; the other is cerebral.
The hatred of Hillary is visceral, dating probably to her years as the First Lady during her husband’s administration. Recall that she was vilified by mainstream Republicans for her leadership in the universal health care proposal that never got sufficient traction in Congress or with the American people. And then, of course, she added to the vitriol when she “stood by her man” during the Lewinsky scandal, asserting that he was the target of a “right-wing conspiracy,” right up until the day the stained blue dress told the true story.
Let’s face it: Just being a Clinton (or an Obama) is enough to garner hatred from a sizeable segment of the Republican rank and file. And it is largely a visceral attitude. I will never forget the conversation I had with a Republican cabinet member in California in late February of 1993. At that point Bill Clinton had been in office for all of one month. “The main thing we have to do,” he confided in me (assuming, I suppose, that I was open to the idea), “is get him impeached.”
In the years I worked in and around the California Legislature, I encountered an ever increasing number of Clinton haters. Most of it in those days was directed at Bill, of course, but Hillary was the recipient of her share of it. They just didn’t like them, partly because they were Democrats, to be sure, and partly because they were uppity wonks (Yale Law School grads, liberals from Arkansas, young, popular, full of ideas about how to move the country back to the left, away from where Ronald Reagan had taken it). Yeah, they hated them then, and nothing the Clintons have done since has lessened that hatred.
And I say it’s visceral, because if you look at the record either of them has produced, it certainly isn’t ideologically offensive. Yes, it’s left of center, but neither Clinton can rightfully be called a flaming liberal (or a “pinko leftie” to resurrect a disparaging term from the 60s). And on the hawk-dove scale of foreign policy, Hillary is probably as hawkish as any Republican short of Dick Cheney at this point.
In truth, Republicans worked well with Hillary when she was a U.S. Senator, and she got high marks from them as secretary of state (until the Benghazi tragedy and e-mail stories broke). But as soon as she announced her campaign for president that visceral attitude went viral, and it is driving the vote for Trump more than any other factor in the election for many Trump supporters. These are the voters who would vote for Mickey Mouse against Hillary Clinton. They hate her that much.
And, of course, she adds fuel to the fire whenever she tries to pussyfoot around her foolish, “extremely careless” decision to use her own e-mail server while she was secretary of state. She is so bad at playing the “I take responsibility, but don’t hold it against me” line that every time she does, another undecided turns away from her. I have one Republican friend, a woman, who sums up best her dilemma. She acknowledges that Trump is horrible, but she still leans to vote for him because, she says, “I just don’t trust her.”
And it doesn’t matter that she and countless other voters like her would, if pressed, admit that they have no reason to trust Trump any more that Clinton. She will vote for Trump, because, in addition to not trusting Hillary, she also doesn’t like her.
Trump is hated even more deeply by those who can’t abide him, but the hatred of him is intellectually based. Voters hate Trump because he is, for them, a hateful man. To be more specific, he is seen as a bigot, a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe, or all of the above. And it is fair to say that many of those charges are supported by Trump’s own statements and actions. This is, after all, the man who led the charge that questioned Barack Obama’s citizenship and his academic credentials, and has called Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, and has criticized women solely because of their physical appearance, and has mocked a disabled reporter, and has argued that all Muslims should be denied entry into the country, and has criticized a Gold Star mother, just to name a few of his many outrageous statements.
But there is an even stronger basis for the hatred of Trump, and that is his complete lack of the qualifications to be president. This reasoning starts with his character, which is best characterized as a combination of ignorance and mendacity. Trump is willfully ignorant of just about everything he talks about in terms of his campaign issues. He claims illegal immigration is rampant; in fact, it is de minimis. He claims the Obama administration has been lax on deportations; in fact, deportations are higher under Obama than under any previous president. He claims the budget deficit is higher than ever; in fact, it is lower now than it was when Obama took office. He claims crime is out of control; in fact, the rate of violent crime is lower than it has been in the last twenty years. And those are just a few of his wholly ignorant campaign statements. (Another way to characterize them would be to call them lies, but that characterization might be giving the man too much credit. He does lie, repeatedly and shamelessly, but he doesn’t know enough to convict him of lying for those misstatements.)
And then there is his megalomania. (Others call it narcissism, but that word is too charitable.) Have you ever heard Trump speak of himself as other than great? Have you ever heard him express anything approaching humility? He attacks anyone who dares to criticize anything about him, as if he cannot accept that he is less than perfect in every respect. It’s scary to think that this man could be confronted by a foreign leader who would have the temerity to tell him to his face that he is a buffoon, a charlatan, or a demagogue. Would he claim the country had been disparaged and start a war? Would he consider using nuclear weapons to gain retribution for the slight? Would he have the good sense to realize that he might be putting the future of the human race at risk?
Trump isn’t hated because he is a Republican, or because he is wealthy, or because he flaunts his greatness. He is hated because he is evil, malevolent, sociopathic. And that hatred is cerebral, not visceral. He is a threat to the republic, and his presidency would, at best, be a disaster.