Obnoxious and Disliked
In the musical 1776, as the founding fathers are searching for someone to write what will be called the Declaration of Independence, John Adams, first played by the acerbic William Daniels, invokes his unpopularity, and finds no disagreement:
Mr. Adams, I say you should write it
To your legal mind and brilliance we defer
Is that so? Well, if I’m the one to do it
They’ll run their quill pens through it
I’m obnoxious and disliked, you know that, sir
Yes, I know
It is somewhat harder to imagine Paul Giamatti’s more earnest miniseries version of Adams admitting to be obnoxious and disliked, though he was chastised by Franklin for a blunt approach that made him many enemies. But the real Adams received enough votes to be elected Vice President, trailing our first President George Washington, and was elected as our second President after Washington set a precedent by not seeking a third term. Of course the electorate was mostly white men back then.
So now we have two obnoxious and disliked candidates for President. According to FiveThirtyEight, Hillary Clinton’s 37% ‘strongly unfavorable’ rating surpasses George W Bush’s 32% during his second election. Were it not for the emergence of Donald J Trump’s celebrity roast style of intraparty campaigning, she would hold the record. As it is, Trump leads by far with 53%.
Even their net strong favorability, which is strong favorables minus strong unfavorables, is historically low, Clinton at -20% and Trump at -41%. A few people like them, but most people either don’t like them, or really can’t stand them.
The Clinton camp’s admonishments that everyone must band together to stop the demon Trump seems like the only strategy she will need right now. But if Trump manages to reduce his unfavorables, or hers get even worse, I do wonder how she will compete.