Unfavorable Candidates

“Lock her up” – a chant referring to presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton – has been called the unofficial slogan of the Republican National Convention. When I first heard the crowd break into this cheer, my immediate reaction was that it went too far. Disagree with your opponent, say they have the wrong vision, but…calling for their imprisonment? That is a disrespect that goes too far.

But, of course, that reaction reveals my own partisan biases. Would I have been so scandalized if something similar had happened at the 2004 Democratic Convention? Accusing then-President George W. Bush of war crimes? And of course, we don’t even know what is in store for next week’s Democratic National Convention. I’m sure they’ll have some disparaging remarks of their own.

The primary difference is perhaps whose remarks I happen to agree with.

As I thought about this more, it really struck me how notable it is that both party’s candidates have the highest unfavorables of any nominee in the last 10 presidential election cycles. That will have a dramatic effect on our post-election nation regardless of who wins. Secretary Clinton is “strongly disliked” by just shy of 40% of the electorate, slightly outpacing President George W. Bush’s 2004 numbers. Trump’s average “strongly unfavorable” rating goes even higher, at 53 percent.

If Secretary Clinton wins the general election, some significant portion of the population will think she should be locked up for acts one conservative paper has described as bordering on treason. If Trump wins, a significant portion of people will believe we’ve handed the nuclear launch codes to an egotistical, xenophobic blowhard who values nothing but his own prestige.

Either way, it’s bad for democratic engagement.

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