Bernie or Bust: What makes Hillary so unlikable to Sanders supporters?

Remember this?

Remember when 65% of Americans had a favorable view of Hillary Clinton?

Of course no one can maintain that level of favorability through the primaries. Nate Silver has been assuring us for years that we shouldn’t expect Hillary to ever win by the kinds of double-digit margins that were predicted by polling in 2013 ( As Secretary of State, she was relatively removed from the “partisan fray” that drags down the likability of presidential candidates. Now that she’s deeply entrenched in electoral politics, of course she doesn’t look quite as rosy.

But something strange has been going on this election season, and it’s more than just politics as usual. One month ago, the Republican party looked like it was truly on the verge of fracturing, with most establishment Republicans vowing that they would never support a Trump candidacy. After a series of strong wins, Hillary seemed to be wrapping up the democratic primaries, and her campaign began to pivot towards the general election. But oh how the tables have turned since then.

Since Trump locked up his party’s nomination, prominent members of the GOP have been falling in line to support him. Even Paul Ryan has given his endorsement to Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders has warned, “The Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention,” and the Bernie or Bust movement is gaining momentum. Democrats are actually promising not to vote at all in the next election if Bernie Sanders isn’t the nominee.

Polls have been showing the gap between Clinton and Trump has been closing, with Trump actually taking the lead in some of them. Both candidates are more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past ten presidential cycles ( Clinton isn’t quite as strongly disliked as Trump at this point, but she’s still disliked at record high levels, which is major change from the record favorability she was enjoying as Secretary of State. So what’s changed?

Ed Klein tried to diagnose “the problem with Hillary” in his new biography, “Unlikeable.” According to this book, taking advice from her husband Bill, Hillary Clinton actually sought advice from Steven Spielberg on ‘how to be more likeable,” in order to re-package herself in 2016. Why would she do that? Remember this?

Well the polls and the pundits are in agreement that Hillary’s attempt to re-brand as “A strong but loveable older woman — more Golda [Meir] than Maggie [Thatcher]” — was unsuccessful. The polls and the pundits agree that Hillary is unlikeable. So what’s changed since those ridiculous photos of Hillary getting to business, wearing her sunglasses on an airplane?

Is it that we now know she was using her phone to access official state department emails on a private server? Is it Benghazi? What’s so different now?

I get it. Bernie’s a charming guy. He keeps talking about revolution, and many of us are sick and tired of the incremental changes that get through Washington gridlock. Bernie promises free health care for all, with no premiums or co-pays, and free college education, more generous Social Security benefits and 12 weeks of family leave! As one of the country’s many progressives who looks wistfully at the social policies of Nordic countries and their correspondingly excellent outcomes, I totally get the appeal. But let’s not forget that the Tax Policy Center said in a study of Sanders’s full economic plan, “Even though Sanders would raise taxes on nearly all households by a total of more than $15 trillion over the next decade, his plan still would add an additional $18 trillion (plus at least $3 trillion in interest) to the national debt over the period” and thereby “create an enormous fiscal challenge.” Even eliminating the defense budget wouldn’t come close to balancing his books.

There’s a reason governmental change tends to happen incrementally. Making major changes to the healthcare system is, as the saying goes, like trying to replace a jet engine mid-flight. You can’t just take out one engine and stick another one in without the whole plane crashing to the ground. So you have to make little tweaks. And when it comes to healthcare, there’s never a good time to land the plane to make repairs — we can’t make the country agree to stop getting sick while we re-vamp the entire healthcare system and start from scratch. That’s why it makes much more sense to improve upon the progress made by the Affordable Care Act than to trash the employer-based private insurance system that insures the majority of people in this country to build up some sort of Medicare-for-all. And also, we’re a representative democracy, intentionally designed to require slow, incremental changes, so that no single individual can come into office and change the entire system with one fell swoop. So there’s that.

But let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton is pretty liberal, particularly when it comes to economic policy. She and Sanders voted together 93% of the time when they were in Congress together. Sanders supporters will not get universal free healthcare and free college if they vote for Hillary, but let’s face it, a President Sanders wouldn’t be able to deliver that either. However, when it comes to pushing the liberal agenda, Hillary is clearly the choice that will represent their interests — much more than Donald Trump. So why is it that 61 percent of Sanders voters have an unfavorable view of Clinton, against just 38 percent with a favorable one? Clinton favorability among Sanders supporters has been gradually declining over the past several months.

What is going on with Bernie or Bust? Is there something about the Sanders campaign that makes Hillary less likeable, or is it Hillary herself, and her behavior on the campaign trail? Or does it really come down to her damned emails?