The evidence is clear. Our two Presidential candidates this time are fundamentally flawed and this shows up in their favorability ratings. Trump is widely perceived as unqualified to be President, both temperamentally and in terms of relevant experience. Clinton is seen as untrustworthy and the likely perpetrator of shady dealings. The question for both of them is what can they do to change the narrative? Thinking about it, I don’t believe there is anything that would work. Both will try, and they are currently doing so, but it is probably fruitless.
If I am right, the best that either can do is to bear down on their opponent’s negative images, reinforce them, and make the case that voters should hold their noses and vote for the least worse candidate. Trump seems to do this automatically; it is a facet of his character. It doesn’t fit Hillary’s self-image so she is awkwardly trying to throw mud and see what sticks. At the moment her target is Trump’s tax returns, but other than suspicion she has nothing on which to base this. In any case, Trump’s history as the Teflon candidate in the primaries should give her pause to reflect. All of this bodes ill for a unedifying election season, one that no one should be proud of regardless of whom they favor.
For the rest of us, the question is which stink is fundamentally more odious? My personal belief is that Trump is more dangerous to our national well-being. His policies, insofar as they are evident, seem haphazard and not grounded in reality. Hillary probably would stay close to the Obama administration course, perhaps adjusted toward the fatuous ideas of Bernie Sanders’ lefties. With her, we would know what to expect, not great but probably not disastrous. Trump is a total wild card. Perhaps he is not the person who Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, SC) characterized as “…a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot [who] doesn’t represent my party.” But who knows, really?
What I fear is that many in the undecided column will choose Trump based on a somewhat plausible calculation. Untrustworthiness is a fundamental character trait. It represents a lifetime of experience and, short of lengthy psychotherapy, it can’t be changed. On the other hand, being unqualified could conceivably be fixed, with suitable expert help and a desire to change. I don’t see either of these two requirements being met by Trump, but others might take a more charitable view. With obvious exceptions, Trump supporters are not simply dullards, unaware of his shortcomings. Many of them are simply making a calculation which is very risky in my opinion, but they have somehow convinced themselves that it is worthwhile given the sorry state of our politics.