Rarely does the American voter cover himself in glory, but it’s also rare that he abjectly debases himself as much as he has this year.
This year, American voters have brought us to a truly grim choice: a choice between a uniquely power-hungry career politician and the world’s most petulant billionaire. A woman for whom eight years in the White House did nothing to diminish the luster of being president versus a man who makes Silvio Berlusconi look like a model of balance and self-restraint.
The silver lining, if there is one, is that they appear to know what they have done. As revealed in a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, voters are driven primarily by hatred of the other candidate rather than the allure of their own.
While the survey found that “83 percent of Clinton’s backers and 79 percent of Trump’s supporters say they are very or somewhat enthusiastic about their candidate,” it also concluded that
antipathy toward the other side is at extremely high levels, as 87 percent of likely voters supporting Trump have a “strongly unfavorable” view of Clinton, and 90 percent of Clinton backers have a strong negative view of Trump.
This suggests voters, to the extent they’re excited about their own candidates, feel that way because they feel the other candidate is even more repellent. Around half of Republicans say they think Trump made unwanted sexual advances on women–notable because the candidate essentially has admitted doing it–but the real payoff comes later:
Both Clinton and Trump are viewed unfavorably by majorities of Americans. Clinton’s current net negative is 14 points (42 percent favorable and 56 percent unfavorable), while Trump’s is 25 points (37 percent favorable and 62 percent unfavorable).
At the same time, neither is viewed as honest and trustworthy, with 60 percent of likely voters saying Clinton is not and 62 percent saying Trump is not.
A slight majority (52 percent) say Clinton does not have strong moral character, and a much larger 66 percent say Trump does not have it. On these questions, there are significant and predictable partisan differences in perceptions of the candidates, yet 30 percent of likely voters who support Trump say he doesn’t have a strong moral character. Three times as many of his supporters say Clinton lacks it.
What this shows, and in a contorted way it’s refreshing, is that voters are excited about voting for liars whom they dislike and believe to be lacking in strong moral character. Nearly one in five Democrats–19 percent–reports an unfavorable view of Hillary Clinton, and an eye-popping one in three–33 percent–of Republicans hold an unfavorable view of Donald Trump.
This, in a sick way, is progress. Recognizing that we have elevated two odious people to stand for the highest office in the country is progress. The two party system, unfortunately, drives voters to choose the lesser of two evils. But recognizing evil as evil has to be the beginning of sanity. Given that, let’s give two half hearted cheers for the American voter. At least until election day brings us new reasons to worry.