They say that no one likes a loser. I don’t think that’s true in sports, where winning teams seem less liked than losing ones. When I coached youth basketball, I was more popular the year my team went 8-8 than the year we were 16-0.
In politics, though, the saying generally holds true. One reason is probably that so many people have so much riding on a politician’s success. Unlike a winning politician, the coach of a championship sports team usually can do no favors for the coaches and players on other teams.
According to the Wall Street Journal, John McCain and Mitt Romney both saw their popularity decrease somewhat after losing to Barack Obama. The same thing happened to Al Gore after his defeat in 2000.
However, the downticks of these losing candidates are nothing compared to Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss of popularity. According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, only 27 percent of those polled have a very or somewhat positive view of Hillary.
At the time of the 2016 election, Clinton was viewed favorably by 40 percent of the electorate. Thus, she has lost one-third of her “favorability.”
Clinton’s unfavorable rating has remained steady (at slightly over 50 percent) since the election. It’s about the same as President Trump’s. However, Trump doesn’t suffer from as low a favorable rating as his ex-rival.
There’s little mystery as to why Clinton’s popularity has plummeted. She has been a terrible loser. Not only does she continue to blame everyone and everything under the sun for her defeat, she attacks people who didn’t vote for her, saying they come from “backward looking areas,” etc.
McCain and Romney never did this sort of thing after they lost. It’s true that their defeats were far less galling. Neither came close to winning.
But Al Gore came considerably closer to winning than Hillary did. He stayed in the limelight after losing, but did so by focusing on a set of issues, not on himself.
John Sexton reminds us that Hillary herself says she’s more popular when she’s in office, performing a job, than when she’s on the campaign trail. But Hillary was significantly more popular when she was on the campaign trail as a candidate than she is today.
I think her current lack of popularity has more to do with what she’s saying in public than the fact that’s appearing publicly. Americans are ambivalent, ultimately, about losers in politics, but we can’t stand sore losers.