What do Kerry, Gore, Dukakis, Mondale, and Hillary have in common?
One of the more revealing political questions of recent years is, “Who would you rather have a beer with, Candidate A or Candidate B?”
The question actually made its way into a Rasmussen poll last summer, when it was still conventional wisdom that Hillary Clinton would easily beat Donald Trump in November. The conclusion: 45 percent of voters said they’d prefer to drink with Trump, while only 37 percent chose Hillary.
It’s an absurd result, for several reasons. First of all, Trump doesn’t drink, and thank the gods for that. Look how he acts without alcohol. He’s about half a pint of piss-weak lager from being Pol Pot. You’re not safe from his creepy Chucky Doll hands even when he’s stone cold sober. What chance would you have after you’ve split a pitcher of Leinie’s?
Secondly, if you want to drink with a guy who’s sure to gaslight both you and the waitstaff about your bill, feel free. This is someone who refused to pay a group of undocumented Polish laborers for their work, and then threatened to have them deported. He consistently screws over contractors. He used “legally dubious” means to avoid paying taxes. Do you really think he’d pay his bar tab?
Finally, have you ever had a drink with someone who can’t shut up about how awesome and rich he is? Nothing could be more boring.
With Hillary, you might spend two hours discussing the minutiae of U.S. agricultural policy, but at least she won’t be making it up as she goes along.
But that points up Hillary’s biggest handicap — and it’s the loam from which most of the problems with Hillary the Politician stem.
Most people just don’t find her likable. Full stop.
Is that unfair? Absolutely. Hillary is brilliant, passionate, dedicated, compassionate, unbelievably hardworking, and as well prepared and knowledgeable as anyone who’s ever run for office.
But does she have the common touch? Not really. Sorry.
Hillary’s new election post-mortem, What Happened, is largely a litany of reasons why she fell short in her bid to make — and change — history.
A lot of those reasons — maybe all of them — are legitimate. James Comey didn’t just throw her a curveball at the end of the campaign, he beaned her in the head. The person who gets 3 million more votes than her opponent really should win the election. Sexism didn't just galvanize the Hillary-haters throughout her career and at the polls, it handcuffed her during the campaign. Think a man would have had to worry about being called shrill or hysterical if he wheeled around and told an opponent who was invading his personal space during a debate to back the hell off?
But you can make excuses all day long for a result that should never have been close. When it comes right down to it, the biggest reason she lost was her own lack of political charisma.
Hillary would have very likely been a great president — and to varying degrees, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John Kerry would have been good to great too.
But they all lost — and, significantly, Gore and Kerry lost to the biggest dimwit who’d ever run for president before 2016. Gore was riding the coattails of a surging economy, and he still couldn’t get it done. War hero Kerry had chickenhawk Dubya’s woeful record to point to, and by the time the campaign was over, half the country thought he was Ho Chi Minh.
And Hillary, one of the most talented policy wonks in American political history, lost to the most loathsome, unqualified, dishonest, unstable, and frightening idiot — by far — who’s ever run for high office.
To this day it’s still unbelievable, but it’s also undeniable. Donald Trump is president.
Why? Because Hillary suffers from the same handicap as the last four Democratic also-rans. Americans see her as condescending, professorial, and pedantic. And most people don’t want to be reminded of school. They want to watch reality TV.
To many voters, Hillary seemed like the annoyingly intelligent girl in the class who reminded the teacher that she forgot to assign homework. Hey, some of us liked that girl, but a whole lot of kids didn’t.
Why isn’t intelligence and keen, sober judgment enough to win anymore? Because, duh. More than ever before, talent simply doesn’t matter as much as showmanship.
Don’t just look at the last five Democratic losers. Consider the winners. Bill Clinton, a brilliant policy wonk in his own right, was also a transcendent politician. Who wouldn’t want to sit down and have a beer with Bubba?
Barack Obama is not just the coolest president we’ve ever had. He’s one of the coolest guys ever.
And if you want to dismiss this as just another in a long line of tedious, sexist anti-Hillary rants, take a moment to contrast Michelle Obama’s inspiring Democratic National Convention speech with Hillary’s workmanlike effort. There was no comparison.
Were Democrats ready to follow Hillary into battle? Without a doubt. But we needed more than that. We needed someone to convince us to charge into the fray, swords and teeth flashing. And we needed independents, fence-sitters, and Green Party progressives to join the wave.
That’s the difference. And that’s something that we progressives need to understand, emphasize, and internalize sooner rather than later.
As Hillary proved, it’s not enough to simply not be Trump, as repellent and ridiculous as he is. And it’s not just about policies that appeal to voters on an emotional level. We have to elevate candidates who have the same X factor Bill and Barack had.
We’ll know it when we see it … and so will the rest of the country.