Matthew Yglesias is usually a thoughtful, insightful political commentator.

mathew-yglesiasIn a piece yesterday at Vox, Mr. Yglesias may have fallen a little below his usual standard.

Yglesias drew attention to the fact that seems to be becoming disturbingly clear to most commentators: the race for president of the United States is tightening. According to Yglesias this is true for “one painfully simple reason” (nb: proceed with caution whenever anyone has “one painfully simple reason” for anything).

Yglesias writes,

Political junkies have probably heard the factoid that Clinton is the least-popular major party nominee of all time — except for Donald Trump….. It is totally unheard of to win a presidential election while having deeply underwater favorable ratings, and it is actually quite common to lose one despite above water favorable ratings.

…the fact remains that her basic problem in this race is almost painfully simple. Over the course of her winning primary campaign she became a deeply unpopular figure. And it’s hard — indeed, unprecedented — for such an unpopular person to win the presidency.

the solution according to Matthew Yglesias is apparently equally simple:

For a stable lead, Clinton needs to be liked.

http://www.vox.com/2016/9/15/12919800/clinton-trump-polls-tighter

Well glad we solved that one.

There are two pressing questions, Mr. Yglesias does not address:

1. Why is Hilary so unpopular?

2. What is she supposed to do to suddenly “be liked”?

In response to question 1, I see three options:

1. Hilary really is a conniving scoundrel who deserves to be unpopular and should be beaten by Donald Trump… who presumably is less of a scoundrel.  (This is certainly the argument here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/travel-back-to-an-early-clinton-scandal-1473982077. But then of course the author was a speech writer for Ronald Reagan. And there is this: http://observer.com/2000/04/why-peggy-noonan-hates-hillary-so-much/.) This of course begs the question how exactly Hilary became the Democratic presidential nominee and what their choice of a scoundrel says about the Democratic party.

2. Hilary is simply misunderstood. This begs the question of her communication skills, or lack thereof.  It also gives one pause to wonder about the leadership of the Democratic party. With the marketing skills of the Democratic election machine, and with the money they have in their campaign war chest, the Democrats should be able to explain trigonometry to a potato in a lucid and convincing manner.

3. Hilary is a powerful, capable, smart woman and men don’t like powerful, capable, smart women. Nb: a significant number of voters and political commentators happen to be male.

Sadly, of these three options, I fear only #3 really makes sense. Even more sadly, if #3 is in fact the problem, there is absolutely nothing Hilary can do about it which makes Mr. Yglesias’ advice to “be liked” useless.

We all know what happens to the unpopular kid on the playground who sets out to “be liked.” It is usually not a pretty sight.

Seriously, what would Mr. Yglesias suggest Hilary do to “be liked” by the general population. If the answer to my first question is in fact #3, the only thing Hilary can do to “be liked” is to stop being a woman. This is not a campaign strategy any thoughtful person would endorse.

What does it mean for the health of a democratic society when a candidate for president who is as clearly exceedingly ill-qualified for the position as Donald Trump, has the chance of winning the presidency simply because his opponent has not been able to make the electorate feel warm and fuzzy (ie. she is not “liked”)?

It seems that it does not matter what your qualifications may be. It is apparently not important how much experience you may have, how good your grasp is of the issues a president must face on a daily basis, or how stable, steady, disciplined, thoughtful, and committed you are.

What people want is someone likeable.

How one becomes likeable enough to sway an adequate majority of the population to become president is a mystery. Likeability is not something you can simply turn on at will.

A lack of likeability is not a character flaw and should not be the criterion upon which a candidate is disqualified from any job, except perhaps filling in for Mr. Rogers in the Neighborhood.

When the saber-rattling begins, likeability is going to be much less important than steadiness, intellectual awareness, deep grasp of issues, and an ability to communicate clearly and intelligently. Whatever her flaws, these appear to be qualities Hilary demonstrates in abundance, particularly compared to her rival.

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