Clash of the Unpopular Titans

Or, what if they gave an election and nobody voted?

It says in the Washington Post:

Never in the history of the Post-ABC poll have the two major party nominees been viewed as harshly as Clinton and Trump.

Nearly 6 in 10 registered voters say they have negative impressions of both major candidates. Overall, Clinton’s net negative rating among registered voters is minus-16,  while Trump’s is minus-17, though Trump’s numbers have improved since March.

It takes some real talent for our two major political parties to  (presumably) nominate two people most voters don’t like.

At this point, the two candidates are in a statistical dead heat among registered voters, with Trump favored by 46 percent and Clinton favored by 44 percent. That represents an 11-point shift toward the presumptive Republican nominee since March. Among all adults, Clinton holds a six-point lead
(48 percent to 42 percent), down from 18 points in March.

This data about the close race between Clinton and Trump have gotten a lot of attention, but as many rightly point out, these numbers are likely to shift significantly before the election and don’t mean that much now. I still think Clinton will beat him.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has given Clinton a stiff challenge in the contest for the Democratic nomination, enjoys the most positive rating of the three. Among registered voters, Sanders is net positive — 49 percent to 41 percent — and has seen his image improve steadily the longer he has been a candidate.

He needed more time and public exposure to introduce himself to people before the primaries started. The Democratic establishment and mass media denied him that.

But what I really want to write about is, it appears the general election campaign will be between two unpopular candidates. How did that happen? And what does that say about the status of democracy in America?

First, this tells me the political system is being played, and not by the people. An honest competition actually decided by the people ought to have given us more popular candidates. What we’re seeing is a symptom of managed democracy, a term usually aimed at Vladimir Putin’s Russia but which, many argue, describes the United States.  In a paper about managed democracy in Russia, we find,

According to Tretyakov’s definition, managed democracy is a democracy (as there are elections, voters have alternative options, there is media freedom, leaders are changing), but it is corrected by the ruling class (or rather that part of it that holds power).

Put another way, this is why we can’t have nice things. We aren’t really in charge.

See also Ted Morgan in Salon, “This Isn’t How a Democracy Should Work.”

But the managing is happening in different ways in the two parties. If anything, Trump is a management failure.  He is not the guy the ruling class wanted. The faux populism the Right has cultivated so well all these years got out of control; thus, Trump.

Clearly, the Republican Party also has lost control of the nominating process; they barely controlled it in 2012.  Relaxed campaign finance laws allowed any clown into the race who could talk a few wealthy people into bankrolling him. Candidates on the Republican side more or less were independent franchises who didn’t need the RNC.

However, it’s also the case that the guy with the biggest fundraising chops, Jeb Bush, couldn’t sell himself to voters. One does wonder if he would have done much better with fewer, and saner, competitors.

With Hillary Clinton, we’ve got the candidate the Democratic Party elite chose over a year ago, and as I’ve said many times already, if she loses in the fall, that’s on her. And on them. She is a monumentally unwise choice. Not only is she unpopular, but as Queen of the Status Quo she is just plain wrong for the public mood. Her only advantage in this election is Trump; she may be wrong for the times; she may be a bad choice; but he’s absolutely appalling.

I hope the lesson the Democrats take from this is that competition is good. In the future, please don’t presume to choose the candidate for us. Give us a slate of candidates, and let us choose.

24 thoughts on “Clash of the Unpopular Titans

  1. The race the ruling class wanted was Jeb! vs Hillary. That would have been another kind of awful. — Why shouldn’t they want it? Both are backed by the same Rockefeller-Bush cabal, it would have been win/win whoever won.

    Hillary’s candidacy was so closely backed by Obama that as soon as he won reelection in 2012 his campaign organization began to merge with hers, not missing a beat. Her campaign, with Obama’s tacit backing, was up and running even before she stepped down as SoS, which was Feb.1, 2013.

  2. I recall that W was someone that many folks thought they could have a beer with, and those eight years turned out less than fabulously for the United States. Perhaps I’m an anomaly, but I don’t care whether or not I like the candidate (although that would certainly be a plus). What I want is to believe that a candidates will serve the country well and effectively. A more demanding wish is that the candidate knows how to govern and chooses to “govern” rather than “rule.” Likeability is overrated, and some concerns about candidates are more valid than others.

    • I agree that likeability is overrated, but that doesn’t mean gut-level dislike of candidates should not be a concern or is something we should ignore. Sometimes that dislike is just bigotry, but sometimes our guts know things before our heads do. Again, that two parties are both on the verge of nominating such unpopular candidates is unprecedented in U.S. history, I understand. This should worry us.

  3. I’ve never heard of the phrase “managed democracy”, I have heard “ceremonial democracy” applied to ours.

    • I hadn’t heard of “managed democracy” until recently, either, but the term resonates with me. The difference between the U.S. and Putin’s Russia is that instead of one central authority doing the managing, we have at least two, possibly more, competing cabals doing the managing. Or, at least, I think they’re competing.

  4. Give us a slate of candidates, and let us choose.

    That has happened:

    Clinton-12,989,134 Sanders-9,957,889 Spread-Clinton +3,031,245

    All this stolen election business, you have quite an imagination!

    • remindmeagain? Do learn to read, dear. The Democratic Party gave us one candidate, Hillary Clinton. This was arranged over a year ago. No other establishment Dems were allowed to run. Her only challengers were party outsiders, in one way or another. So no, we did not get a slate of candidates from the Democratic Party.

  5. “This was arranged over a year ago. No other establishment Dems were allowed to run”

    That’s quite an accusation, can you prove it, do you have some secret source that was in on the high-level meeting when DWS and Hillary came up with this conspiracy. Are there any democrats out there that will go on record saying they were not “allowed to run”?

    • I linked to the proof in the article. I will provide a couple of links here before I ban you from the site for violating commenting rules (see rule #7e and 8; basically, read the post before you assume what it says or ask me to explain it to you, because I don’t have to to re-explain things I’ve already written). Here are two articles written by serious political reporters both saying that Clinton had already clinched the nomination — in March 2015. More than a year ago. I will also link a post I linked to in this article that goes into more detail.

      Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg News
      Ezra Klein, Vox
      me, another post you didn’t read

  6. But, but, but……..I can see that on the Democratic side there was no slate of candidates but what about the Republican side. They started out with 17 and who ended up as the nominee, the one the party didn’t want but who the people wanted. I don’t know if this is democracy or not. Besides, “they” keep telling us we are a republic, not a democracy. I’m sick of the whole mess!!

  7. grannyeagle,
    The GOP boasted about their “deep bench,” because they had no starters!

  8. Meanwhile, you can pick up a copy of the National Enquirer at the supermarket and read how the noise machine is recycling the 1990s accusations against the Clinton. Today is was the Trumpster doing that himself with his remarks about Vince Foster. This crap is a preview of what we’re in for every day between today and election day.

    The Republican Party has put forward as nominee a sociopath who lies without effort or remorse, promises to do all sorts of crazy stuff that amount to crimes against humanity, and what’s happening here?

    More Hillary bashing. Because, it would appear, Maha has convinced herself that Trump is a joke who has no chance of being elected and therefore deserves no scrutiny at all.

    I get that you’re angry about the way the Democratic presidential nominee selection process has panned out. I get that you’re angry about Hillary Clinton’s questionable fund raising schemes.

    So am I.

    The thing is, I do not view Trump as a joke. There are a whole lot of Americans who crave an authoritarian leader, and a GOP party apparatus that has apparently decided to support Trump either because they, too, believe he’s a joke who cannot win, or because they’re just doing what they always do: get in line and tow the line.

    • JDW: I believed I called Trump a buffoon, which is not the same as a joke. Lots of powerful politicians are buffoons; Kim John-un comes to mind. You lack an appreciation of the subtleties of language.

      However, I’m not concerned about Trump’s dredging up of the old 1990s era scandals. And do you know why? Because in 1990 and 2000, at the end of Bill’s term, both Bill and Hillary had approval ratings in the mid- to high 60 percent. Bill actually hit his all-time popularity high 0f 72 percent in December, 1998, according to Gallup. With a few minor dips, the more he was attacked, the more popular he got. And the scandals were *fresh* then.

      What makes you think those old charges would be more damaging now? Trump’s base will eat that stuff up, but Trump can’t win unless he can expand his base, and that old crap isn’t going to do it for him.

      Granted, Bill in his prime could charm his way out of just about anything; Hillary lacks that skill. But I don’t think she’ll need it. She can just stay above it all, or else fall back on her tried and true Victimized Feminist Martyr act.

      At the same time, we know that Hillary is capable of running a campaign that’s as vicious, deceptive, dirty, scorched-earth, and take-no-prisoners as campaigns get. But she’ll be a lot more sophisticated about it that Trump is capable of. So I’m really not concerned.

  9. HRC, is “unlikeable” because the right-wing media have spent 25 years attacking her day-in and day-out, that liberals have bought into the conservative lies isn’t a sad remark on them but on liberals and so-called Democrats.

    By the same logic since Republicans decided to undermine and destroy President Obama we should all hate him to because of what he did to the country.

    Conservatives decided to throw a fit, destroy the Nation and tell the American people that unless their demands were meet they’d do it again in 2000. Thus we got President W(orst Ever) and millions dead, but because liberals are whinny assholes they are willing to allow the same thing to happen again ebcause of their precious fee-fees.

    Oh, Bernie or Bust, waaah waaah waah!

  10. In 2008 I was sure the USA would never elect a black man. It took a financial collapse to make it possible. Likewise I am sure in normal circumstances the USA today would not elect a woman. It appears the Trump may make it possible.

    • Chocura750 — I disagree that there’s that big a resistance in the electorate against women presidents, or at least against a generic woman candidate. Hillary Clinton, however, would lose to an establishment Republican. She got lucky.

  11. Trump looks unhealthy and mentally stressed. Perhaps he’ll implode before Cleveland. Romney will then step in. God forbid.

  12. Maha, fool I might be but I don’t hate the Democratic Party and I judge HRC by her enemies, while you might believe this makes me a tool I remember what the 3rd Way people gave us in 2000, and yes Nader and the anti-Democratic Party gave the Republicans the ability to steal the election and what they did afterwards led to ISIS and the complete destabilization of the Middle East, all because they couldn’t lower themselves to vote for Al Gore.

    • Grung_e_Gene: You’re changing the subject; vote for whomever you like. I called you a “tool” because you argued that the only reason people dislike Clinton is because of the hate campaign waged against her from the Right. While that does impact some people, the fact is there is plenty to criticize from the Left that has nothing whatsoever to do what the charges the Right has ever made against her. The claim that it’s all just about Whitewater, Vince Foster, etc. is a way of sweeping legitimate criticism of Clinton under the rug, and I won’t have it said here without challenge. But this is not necessarily an argument to not vote for her. I don’t tell people how to vote.

  13. I get the sense that the R’s are falling in line behind Trump because they think they can control him administratively through the selection of the cabinet and various other undersecretaries, aides, advisors, etc. Good luck to them on that if and when. Depending on the choice of the VP if I were DRUMP I’d have a food taster on staff.

    Various not quite accurate lines come to mind: “Ride the Tiger.”, no that’s not quite right. “Grab the bull by the tail and face the situation.”, not exactly. “When you’re up to your neck in alligators you’ve lost your chance to drain the swamp.”, that’s the one.

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