At this point in the primary election, what looked like a simple marathon has turned into an Iron Man, with each party’s races projected to continue for at least the next couple of months.
Left at this juncture are five very different candidates. Three are among the country’s most hated politicians, one is rather shrug-inspiring and the last is quickly becoming the affable great-uncle many of us wish we had.
Donald Trump is appealing to the ugliest corners of our country and ourselves, mining fear of change and fear of others, and like the political alchemist that he is, converting those useless ores into precious votes. His almost allergic reaction to the truth, paired with his indifference to the real-world consequences of his rhetoric, have justifiably made him one of the most despised politicians in the country, as quantified by his record breaking “unfavorables”.
Ted Cruz has also earned his badge of disdain from the populace. He went to the Senate promising his constituents that he would make it his duty to obstruct governance at every opportunity, and he has kept that promise and then some. The only reason America doesn’t hate him quite as much as his Republican colleagues is that his colleagues know him better.
The only reason America doesn’t hate him quite as much as his Republican colleagues is that his colleagues know him better.
Hillary Clinton, who I am a fan of by no stretch of the imagination, rounds out our list of the despised. But what, exactly, has she done to be plunked on a list that Trump and Cruz actively campaigned to be on? And why has she been on that list for 25 years running?
Her scandals as Secretary of State pale in comparison to, for example, Colin Powell. (Yellow cake, anyone?) She misspeaks (lies) at about the same rate as her husband, which is a pretty steady clip. But she lacks his charisma to make the lies sound good, leaving her off the list of folks you’d “drink a beer” or “play a sax” with. And, let’s just put it where it is, she’s a woman. A certain percentage of America, be they men or women, just don’t like women who don’t conform to their norms.
Through some trick of primary politics, as if the election gods left this one in Loki’s hands, these three people are the ones best positioned to win their party’s nominations.
'The Meh' and 'The Bern'
But what about Kasich and Sanders, the two candidates whose favorables aren’t sandwiched somewhere between bad and terrible?
Well, in Michigan at least, it appears they should be our candidates. Yesterday, EPIC-MRA released their latest poll, showing that the Governor of Ohio has 50% favorability, and the Senator from Vermont has 48%. (For comparison, Clinton is at 39%, Cruz is at 34%, and The Donald remains the cellar-dweller at 26%.)
In my liberal schadenfreude, (which I pray won’t come back to bite me in November!), I am delighted to see the GOP’s last remaining electable candidate so far away from their party’s nomination. If realism had anything to do with winning the elections, John Kasich would have laid the whooping stick on Trump, Cruz, and the rest of the field weeks ago. But state after state, Republicans continue to vote for their favorite flavor of magical-thinking, reality-free populism. So I’ll turn my attention to my personal favorite… The Bern.
In a previous post, I explained why I thought black voters were backing Hillary over Bernie. Basically, she’s the consensus “electability” Democrat, and black voters don’t like to wager their votes on unproven commodities. But we're an industrial town in an industrial state, and Bernie is that kind of blue-collar guy that we profess to love so much. If politics were construction, Bernie would be the guy with the hardhat and shovel, rather than the supervisor in the unscratched pickup.
After Bernie’s upset win in Michigan, I got nervous that I may actually get what I so desperately wanted: a truly progressive candidate running in the general. The fear that he may not actually be electable only started to creep into me once it seemed possible that he may have the opportunity to fail in the general election. But with her net favorables at -15%, and Bernie’s at +5%, why must we keep assuming that she is the surer bet?
But with her net favorables at -15%, and Bernie’s at +5%, why must we keep assuming that she is the surer bet?
Yes, the GOP fear-and-loathing machine hasn’t been pointed at Sanders yet, but this election has gone on so long that he has been vetted by voters in every corner of the land. In a country that (sort-of) elected George Bush over Al Gore, partly because they preferred cowboy boots to earth-toned khakis, likability is a major factor.
Half of America likes Sanders, which is a ringing endorsement in this political climate. The stain of socialism doesn’t seem to stick on Bernie’s baggy suits and somewhat-ironed shirts. If America isn’t afraid of him, Democrats shouldn’t be either, since he really may be their best bet to have an energized base carry them into the White House.
Ben Duell Fraser tweets as @BDCanuck,and is thinking about bringing back the Detroit news and politics podcast, Slash Detroit. He was born in Canada, raised in Detroit and ponders identity from an odd perspective.