As I wrote last week in a dispatch from Arizona, sometimes you hear a voter say something “so basic, so one-dimensional, that you’re inclined to dismiss it until you hear it for the thousandth time.” That’s the story of this election: All across America, in conversations with voters about their choices this November, I’ve been hearing the same thing over and over again: “I don’t like Trump.” (Sometimes there’s a slight variation: “I’m so tired of this guy,” “I can’t handle another four years of this,” etc. The remarkable thing? Many of these conversations never even turn to Biden; in Phoenix, several people who had just voted for the Democratic nominee did not so much as mention his name in explaining their preference for president.
Generations of pollsters and journalists have fixated on the question of which candidate voters would rather have a beer with—a window into how personality translates into political success. Here’s the thing: Americans have been having a beer with Trump for the past four years—every morning, every afternoon, every evening. He has made himself more accessible than any president in history, using the White House as a performance stage and Twitter as a real-time diary for all to read. Like the drunk at the bar, he won’t shut up.
Whatever appeal his unfiltered thoughts once held has now worn off. Americans are tired of having beers with Trump. His own supporters are tired of having beers with Trump. In hundreds of interviews this year with MAGA loyalists, I have noted only a handful in which the person did not, unsolicited, point to the president’s behavior as exhausting and inappropriate. Strip away all the policy fights, all the administrative action (or inaction), all the culture war politics, and the decision for many people comes down to a basic conclusion: They just do not approve of the president as a human being.