The ABCs of Election 2016

Clinton haters are legion in cyberspace. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Clinton haters are legion in cyberspace. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Posted February 9, 2016 at 7:02am

New Hampshire residents Tuesday are voting for the presidential candidates squaring off in the first official primary of the 2016 campaign — a race some political observers are framing in a most negative fashion.  

Though plenty of colorful characters continue canvassing the country in search of true believers, at least part of the electorate appears determined to write off certain White House hopefuls entirely. This purely reductive strategy, which can be summed up as the “ABCs” of any given election cycle (think “Anybody But INSERT YOUR IDEOLOGICAL NEMESIS HERE ), has ensnared contenders from both parties, though certain constituencies seem to be more firmly entrenched than others.  

The most fervent oppositionists have had entire lifetimes to meditate on the object of their unwavering contempt: Hillary Clinton.

Her rise through the ranks of the Democratic Party has kept the former first lady/New York senator/secretary of State Hillary in the public eye since the Reagan administration, providing decades for the ill will generated by her basic existence to fester into rabid disdain. The unbridled anger has manifested itself commercially — Anti-Hillary collectibles make it possible to broadcast dissatisfaction with her via in-your-face apparel or from the comfort of one’s car — as well as philosophically.  

Clinton haters are legion in cyberspace, congregating on Facebook and Reddit to pick apart the would-be POTUS. (“Don’t take it literally. There are obviously people who would make worse presidents. It’s just to be catchy,” the Reddit crew, clearly hoping to drive Web traffic, explains away the cynical title of its running conversation.)  

Never ones to be shut out of a rhetorical sparring match, the Twitterati continue to weigh in on all things Clinton via two invective-packed discussion threads: the leading #AnybodyButClinton rant and subordinate #AnyoneButClinton thread.  

The bickering on the “AnybodyButClinton” channel predates the “AnyoneBut” venting by eight months, kicking off in August 2013 with a report about Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. mulling entry into the 2016 fray.

The backlash against Iowa Caucus winner Sen. Ted Cruz ensued just a few months later, though back then the online bashing was prompted by the Texas Republican’s perceived coordination of the 2013 government shutdown rather than any designs on higher office.

Since then, the movement has continued to build, invading Twitter (#AnybodyButCruz , #AnyoneButCruz ) and Facebook. The virtual antagonism, however, pales in comparison to the revulsion Cruz inspires in real life.  

New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Bruni railed against the freshman lawmaker in December 2015.  

“The religious right already adores him, but to go the distance, he needs more support from other, less conservative Republicans, and he knows it. Expect orchestrated glimpses of a high-minded Cruz, less skunk than statesman, his sneer ceding territory to a smile,” Bruni warned.  

A painfully awkward video that recently surfaced of Cruz planting what appears to be an unwanted kiss on his daughter, Caroline, during a campaign stop in the Hawkeye State hasn’t helped soften any of his purported rough edges.  


Back in Washington, workmate and former presidential challenger Sen. Lindsey Graham doesn’t believe Cruz can go the distance.  

“Ted Cruz will not be able to bring this party together and get both parties to do hard things because he can’t work with his own party, much less the other party,” he said Jan. 21.  

By his calculation, Republicans would be better off putting up a complete random come November. “Just pick somebody normal. Pick somebody out of the phone book and we win,” the South Carolina Republican counseled.  

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been dogged by his obvious presidential aspirations for at least a couple of years. Twitter first took notice of his prospective challenges back in November 2013 via a post positing how he might fare against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker, of course, has since bowed out of the race. Christie remains in the hunt but is not inspiring the discourse on Twitter (the #AnybodyButChristie and #AnyoneButChristie threads combined boast less than 30 comments) sparked by the top tier contenders.  

Dr. Ben Carson appears to be in a similar slump.  

The tea party favorite is, if anything, viewed mostly as a source of amusement rather than a viable leader.

Last fall, “Saturday Night Live” Weekend Update co-anchor Michael Che went so far as to advise voters to forget about the neurosurgeon entirely.  

“I never thought I’d say this out loud or on TV, but please, America, pick anybody but the black guy,” Che urged the sketch show faithful.  

Former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina, who is trailing so far back in the polls that ABC News bumped her from the most recent GOP debate, attempted to turn the tables on the network by launching a counter campaign playing up her outsider status.

Her fans embraced the #AnybodyButCarly ploy, but it doesn’t appear to have swayed media gatekeepers. She reportedly even had trouble buying airtime on debate night.  

If anything, all the negative campaigning appears to be pushing some voters to the breaking point.

“Who’s left?” someone who had been backing Kentucky Republican Rand Paul’s since-aborted White House run wondered on Twitter after laundry listing those he’d rather not see inherit the Oval Office.  

A valid concern in an environment where less seems to dominate the conversation more and more.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas.

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