The most unpopular candidates ever!

Now Donald Trump surely is the worst human being and least qualified person to be a major-party nominee in modern times, but Hillary Clinton strikes me as a flawed, but certainly not historically so, candidate.  I’ve been thinking that is more than just these two individuals that are at work in all the “most unpopular candidates ever!” we’re always hearing about.  Lee Drutman to the rescue with a nice structural explanation for what’s going on:

The standard explanation for their dismal ratings is that they are both flawed candidates. Certainly they have their problems. But take a moment to do the following thought experiment: What if Republicans had nominated Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio and Democrats had nominated Bernie Sanders? Would any of these candidates have had high favorability rankings at this point?

I’m pretty sure the answer would be no. And here’s the reason: We are at an unusual moment in American politics, in which the coalitions underlying both parties are falling apart and divisions among competing factions are growing. In such a moment, it’s hard to conceive of either party finding a truly unifying candidate, a candidate who can garner the enthusiasm of the entire party.

And in the absence of such a candidate, a party has only one strategy left to it: Blast the hell out of the other party’s candidate until fear and hatred make the choice clear. You might not love your team’s candidate, but the other team’s candidate is a true menace.

This lack of affirmative consensus means the parties can only unify in the negative, in opposition to the other party. No wonder neither candidate has enthusiastic support. In that, both Trump and Clinton are products of this particular moment in political history. For all their problems, their biggest weaknesses may be that the parties they represent both lack a meaningful consensus in what they should stand for.

Yep. That all makes a lot of sense.  Plus, Trump is pretty much the worst candidate ever :-).

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The most unpopular candidates ever!

  1. rgbact says:

    C;mon now. Trump had by far the lowest favorablity of anyone on the GOP field, Its not like he was running against nobodys. Kasich won in a route in a swing state just two years ago. Yes, he’s actually fairly well liked. Democrats are a tougher guess. Would Bernie’s favorability have plunged? Would Biden have been demonized? IDK. I’d like to think you don’t have to nominate a fringe socialist…..just so you can keep voters from hating a “traditional politician?.

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