Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings are lower than any other candidate in the history of presidential politics, except for one – Donald Trump. It’s not surprising that Trump’s ego-centric, bombastic, bullying demagoguery is off-putting to a large segment of voters, but what is it that causes the same type of visceral negative reaction toward Clinton?
After all, few candidates have ever been as qualified by experience to be president as is Clinton. Hillary’s professional life as a lawyer, First Lady of Arkansas and then in the White House; followed by twice being elected United States senator from New York; almost becoming the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 and then serving four years as Secretary of State, has positioned her to become the first woman president. In building her qualifications, Hillary has followed the same formula and has done what all the men before her have done to become president. In contrast, Obama had far fewer experiences and qualifications to become the first black president, beyond the fact that he is black.
The problem for Hillary is that many Americans believe it will take more than simply being qualified to function as a president to earn their vote. There are those who, in fact, believe that her panoply of public experiences actually disqualifies her to be president. Clinton is seen as manipulative, scheming, calculating, unscrupulous and devious. In other words, Clinton is identified as a consummate professional politician. Unfortunately for her, such a moniker comes at a time when professional politicians are looked upon with little more than disdain and scorn. But there is something different in the attitude toward Hillary. After all, Bernie Sanders has been in politics just a long as Clinton (and is far more liberal) and yet he is not identified or despised as a politician. Why is that?
Maybe it’s because scandals of one type or another have dogged Clinton’s history. Hillary haters have accused her of being complicit in all sorts of scurrilous activity that has run the gamut from illegal land deals, Filegate, involvement in the death of aide Vincent Foster, pimping for her husband, being personally responsible for the Benghazi attacks and using a secret (and illegal) private email system when Secretary of State. It seems of little matter to the Hillary detractors that there has never been any credible evidence of illegal activity on her part and the results of every investigation into the supposed skulduggery have fully exonerated her of any intentional wrong-doing.
Hills for Hillary to Climb
The first challenge for Hillary to overcome is the tsunami of anti-establishment feeling triggered by a seismic disconnection of the voters and politicians. People are simply put-off by what they see as the same old same old from professional politicians. Clinton worked hard to become the epitome of an establishment politician because that has always been the game plan men have followed to become president. But voters have signaled that they are in search of an option – any option – to what they see as the pandering promises and failure of establishment politicians to address the important issues facing the country.
This wave of frustration and dissatisfaction engulfed all of the qualified establishment candidates in the Republican primaries and drove them from the race. Trump won the Republican nomination, not because of his experience, intellect or clearly defined workable policies, but because he was the most anti-establishment candidate the voters could find. As for Hillary, her failure to secure the Democratic nomination until the very end of the primaries is clear evidence that the anti-establishment feeling of the voters crosses Party lines. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have few policy differences, but Sanders made the nomination a battle because votes for him were seen as a way for Democratic voters to express anti-establishment feelings. Had it not been for Democratic Party rules that tilted heavily in favor of a candidate favored by the establishment, Hillary may have even lost the nomination.
There is an even steeper hill for Hillary to climb if she is to become the first woman elected president. Despite the progress that has been made by women – especially in business – there is still a silent, deep-seated gender bias against strong women in power. This prejudice is not about “equality,” as women do have legal equal rights (although it does show up in the lack of equal pay), but it is about power. There is an undertow of chauvinism that still exists when it comes to women in power; especially in politics. Interestingly, this prejudice against women seeking political power is practiced equally by men and women.
Certainly Clinton is manipulative, scheming, calculating and devious and will prevaricate when she thinks it is in her own best interests. But, what is unique about that? Every other male candidate for president could be described by using the exact same adjectives. The truth is that a candidate cannot be elected president, unless they are that way. Do you think that men running for president have not been embroiled in scandals? (The list is too long to detail here, but Google “presidential candidate scandals” to see how common they are.) Of course you need go no further than the scandals of Donald Trump to get the idea. So why is it that the scandals of Trump are virtually ignored, while the scandals of Clinton are considered a disqualifier? Why is Clinton held to a higher standard? It is because she is a woman seeking power in an area that has been (and still is) considered the purview of the male.
Be honest: Do you think that Trump could have gotten away with his antics, slurs and bully tactics if he were a woman? When a man seeks to gain or use political power by being manipulative, scheming, calculating and devious, what is he called? A leader. When an experienced, strong woman seeks power doing the same thing, what is she called? I don’t have to tell you, you know the answer.
If a man who possessed the background and experience of Clinton were running against another man with Trump’s temperament, background and experience (or lack thereof) the election would not even be close. This is not to suggest that Clinton should or will be elected president, but if she were male, there is little doubt that “he” would win.