On Who Gets to Be Likeable

Throughout her entire political career, the media has been obsessed with Hillary Clinton's "likeability." Specifically, the alleged lack thereof. And one of the things I have read over and over in election postmortems, is that a significant part of the reason she lost is that people just don't like her.

No matter how many people who have worked with or for her speak about how kind she is, no matter how many average people publicly share stories of the ways in which she's generously gone above and beyond to help them, no matter how remarkably few negative interpersonal stories there are about a person with a decades-long political career, no matter how perfectly pleasant and decent a person she seems in her public appearances, the assumption is always that she is secretly a monstrous she-devil.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump is demonstrably a deeply malicious man, about whom there are abundant stories of his abuse, exploitation, and cruelty. His behavior is repellent, his policies are malignant, and countless people who have interacted with him personally or professionally report that he is an aggressively awful human being. He has a historically low approval rating, and that's clearly more than just about the terrible job he's doing.

Virtually the only people who give him high praise are his own children and media types who want continued or restored access to him.

Joe Scarborough: [starting at 3:03] I hope that Donald Trump becomes the Donald Trump that—and we'll say it—that we've known privately. A guy that's a hell of a lot more gracious in private than the sort of reality TV show president that he plays on TV. Because that's the thing: You talk to Hillary Clinton, you talk to Nancy Pelosi, you talk to Chuck Schumer, you talk to the biggest, like, Democrats that have known him for a long time—they will tell you, off-camera, he can be a charming guy, he can be an engaging guy, and instead of— Like, for instance, we invite him, you know, we used to invite him to our book parties. He never talked about himself. He'd come in and go [Trump voice] "Hey, Mika Brzezinski's book, Knowing Your Value, the greatest book since the Gutenberg Bible."

Mika Brzezinski: It is, by the way.

Seth Meyers: [to Mika] You know he didn't read it, right? I don't wanna break your heart. [laughter]

Brzezinski: It's okay! It's okay! It's branding.

Scarborough: Which makes it even kinda— But it is very interesting. We actually could tell a lot of stories about how this guy was genuinely kind, helped immigrants actually that Mika knew, did all of these things, but for some reason, he can't show it on TV, and—

Meyers: It's such a weird thing. Everybody else in show business are nice on television and then assholes behind the camera, and he's like, "I'm gonna let the public know—" [crosstalk] "I'm gonna switch it up!"

Scarborough: You know, I always tell people the story that actually tells you what Trump can be behind the scenes—as long as you're not doing business deals with him, or you loan him money; other than those two areas—I remember one time saying like five years ago, "You know, you got the nicest kids." And I judge people by their children, because that talks about their character. With nobody looking, behind closed doors, with nothing to gain by it—you know what? He said, "Anything that you see in my children that's good, it's because they've got a great mom. They've got a tough mom. They've got somebody that raised 'em right. I owe that all to Ivana." And I sat there and I think, you know, what a [inaudible] guy! We were telling him that story about a month ago, and he said [Trump voice] "Hey, that's a great story. I gotta remember that one."
I don't think that anecdote reveals about Trump what Joe Scarborough seems to think it does, but okay.

This is a pretty standard "Trump is actually a nice guy" defense. Riddled with caveats, featuring a story that still makes him sound like a jackass, relying heavily on saying his kids are nice so he must be nice, and conceding that he doesn't show this side of himself publicly. Ever.

There is no observable evidence that Trump is either kind or likeable, but because people with a vested interest in saying he is shockingly say that he is, it's taken as truth.

Hillary Clinton is unlikeable, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Donald Trump is likeable, despite all evidence to the contrary.


I wonder if that had anything to do with the election result. Oh well. Just another mystery lost to the sands of time, I guess.

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