The Big Winners in the Trump-Clinton Race: Hatred, Prejudice and Voter Disgust
Policy + Politics

The Big Winners in the Trump-Clinton Race: Hatred, Prejudice and Voter Disgust

REUTERS/Max Whittaker

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump regularly calls Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton “crooked Hillary” and the “worst secretary of state in the history of the United States.” He says she should go to jail for her reckless handling of sensitive government emails during her four years at State.

Trump also dismisses Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) as “goofy Elizabeth” for her attacks on him and as “Pocahontas” for her claim of Native American ancestry. And he once denigrated Republican Sen. John McCain’s Vietnam War record and years in enemy captivity, saying “I like people that weren’t captured.”

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In a modern-era presidential campaign unrivaled for negativity, Clinton often gives as good as she gets. She regularly declares that Trump “is not qualified or temperamentally fit to be president of the United States” and that he displays the “classic behavior of a demagogue.”

The partisan exchanges may have reached rock bottom on Tuesday, when Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time lawyer, tweeted an image of Clinton claiming in part that she “murdered an ambassador.”

Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, was repeating the charge that Clinton had “murdered” Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed along with three other Americans during terrorist attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012.

Trump and many other conservatives have long sought to blame Clinton for the Stevens’s death, either for failing to provide adequate security for him and other U.S. diplomats in war-torn Libya or failing to adequately respond to reports of the attacks on two U.S. compounds in Benghazi. 

Related: Clinton and Trump Tied in 2016 ‘Bad Choice’ Election

Cohen’s tweet was published just hours before the Republican-controlled House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on the tragedy, which included no new evidence of wrongdoing or culpability on Clinton’s part.

“As you are well aware, I am not part of the campaign and do not speak on behalf of Mr. Trump,” Cohen wrote to The Washington Post Tuesday, after coming under pressure to back up his statement. “My tweets are mine and mine alone.”

There are growing signs that Americans have grown weary of the nasty exchanges and fear that the two armed political camps are unnecessarily generating hatred and contempt between the two parties. Vendors at Trump rallies can’t keep up with the demand for T-shirts that say, “Trump That Bitch.” Warren, who is in the running to be Clinton’s vice president, regularly lashes out at Trump as a “money grubber,” misogynist, racist and bully.

It would be difficult to imagine a less flattering from-the-gut reaction to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a statement accompanying a new national poll. “Voters find themselves in the middle of a mean-spirited, scorched earth campaign between two candidates they don’t like. And they don’t think either candidate would be a good president.”

Related: Clinton Escapes Damage From the Benghazi Report, but the Pentagon Takes a Hit

Asked in the latest Quinnipiac University poll whether they believed the 2016 campaign has increased or lowered the level of hatred and prejudice in the nation, 61 percent said that the candidates had increased the levels of hostility and only one percent said that they had lowered it. Among Republicans, 49 percent said that the campaign had fostered increased hatred and prejudice, while 73 percent of Democrats agreed with that assertion.

As for which candidate was more to blame for the prevailing ugliness and prejudice in the country, 67 percent of all those interviewed picked Trump, 16 percent blamed Clinton, and nine percent said they were both equally to blame.

But those views sharply diverged based on party identification: Just 25 percent of Republicans blamed Trump and 42 percent blamed Clinton, while among Democrats, 93 percent blamed Trump and just 1 percent blamed Clinton.

Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist, said on Wednesday that much of the hatred surfacing in the election campaign had long existed and surfaced when Trump, in particular, legitimized it with his relentless attacks on immigrants, Muslims, blacks and others.

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“When you’ve got a presidential nominations frontrunner espousing things that people have thought but not said, it enables people to feel comfortable to express these thoughts,” Baker said. “They’ve been bottled up. What was needed was basically a match to set the tinder alight, and Donald Trump provided that. He’s a combustible substance.”