In the light of recent poll numbers, putting Obama over 50% in approval yet with Hillary Clinton sinking ever deeper underwater, pundits such as Kevin Drum puzzle over the question: how can anyone like Obama but loathe Hillary?
After all, their respective position papers look pretty damn similar on all the usual issues, from guns to health care to LGBT rights. Maybe one or the other is just a smidgen to the right or the left on such-a-such thing if scored by a political think tank, but the average schmoe won’t even notice such minute variations, let alone care (leaving aside the big problem of her foreign policy hawkishness for the moment).
Part of the problem is charisma. Both Obama and especially Trump know how to move to an audience and to charm one-on-one; Hillary has the warm and welcoming nature of your average trapdoor spider.
But even more than that — it all comes down to the one thing that Trump has already zeroed in on: Hillary is corrupt as sin. That is one thing even the average low-information voter knows and one thing he can easily understand. Trade policy might leave Mr. Low-Info confused, but a thieving politician taking bribes?
DJT has an uncanny knack for giving his opponents easy-to-remember monikers that home in on their weaknesses, from Low-Energy Jeb to Little Marco to Lyin’ Ted, and he wasted no time in coming up with Crooked Hillary. It’s a charge even her most ardent defenders find difficult to rebut, what with the email servers and her corrupt insider cabal and the ’90s-era scandals and, above all, the Clinton Foundation.
Like all corrupt politicians, Hillary believes deeply in the principle of pay-to-play. But, unfortunately for her, she does not make up for it with the natural folksy charm of other slippery politicians like Huey Long, Edwin Edwards, or uh, Bill Clinton.
Meanwhile, not even the most obsessive, ODS-crazed haters of Barack Hussein Obama have ever come up with serious charges of corruption or being just in it for the bribes. They’ll call him a lazy incompetent Kenyan Muslim closet-commie America-hating gun-confiscating tree-hugging lizard person — but they’ll rarely seriously call him a crook.
By comparison, for any and every action President Hillary Clinton does, for a lot of people, it won’t be a question of whether she’s being paid off. It will be a question of by whom. If not through kickbacks through the Clinton Foundation, then by secret deals channeled through one of her various henchmen such as Lanny Davis and their own racketeering NGOs. And that is why her numbers suck and Obama’s don’t.
That’s also the biggest reason why Bernie continues to hang on against long odds and why he has such passionate support. Everyone knows Hillary represents the worst of business-as-usual in a way that’s completely independent of policy or white papers. Kevin Drum makes a good case that her healthcare policy is virtually identical to Obama’s — but he’s missing the point. A lot of centrist voters, or even moderate-conservative voters repelled by Trump, are attending those Bernie rallies that continue to overflow — even if on paper their views are closer to Hillary’s.
Because for people outside the bicoastal media bubble, position papers are far less important than the moral character of the candidate; their charisma; and their relatability. Sure, a lot of people have a strong tendency to vote straight-ticket D or R every single election no matter who’s running — but ask Walter Mondale just how absolute this tendency is.
Both presumptive nominees are dishonest, venal, grasping, nefarious people out only for themselves and, possibly, their closest cronies and family. Whatever his faults, few see Obama in this same light. Hillary’s greater problem is that Trump is able to paper over his odious nature with his reality-TV-honed charisma — but hers is unconcealed. It may cost her the election.