It’s Hillary Clinton’s moment — so why is she the most hated woman in the United States?

America looked most favourably on Hillary Clinton when she was at her lowest.

It was December 1998, and the U.S. House of Representatives had just impeached her husband on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in relation to his extramarital with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. The impeachment would be just one of many embarrassments for Clinton, who had stood beside her husband and smiled for the cameras while the reporters behind them talked about secret phone conversations and a soiled blue dress. By the time the House voted, the situation seemed about as dire as it was going to get. Hillary rating with the American public, nevertheless, was at an all-time high: 67 per cent.

In the 18 years since, Clinton has never again seen a number like that: not when she left (44 per cent), not during her best moments as a U.S. senator (55 per cent), not even as secretary of state after confirmed that U.S. intelligence had killed Osama bin Laden (66 per cent).

Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty Images
Avi Ohayon/GPO via Getty ImagesThen U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton, right, is seen at the White House on Sept. 9, 1996, with Sara , wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin .

Now, poised to become the Democratic nominee for president, favourability hovers at an embarrassing 38 per cent. More Americans than ever have “strongly unfavourable” feelings towards her.

There’s something about Clinton that elicits not just dislike from those who oppose her politics, but visceral loathing. Merchants outside the Quicken Loans Arena, for , where the Republican National was held in Cleveland this week, were unabashedly selling merchandise with slogans like “Trump that b—-” and “Hillary Sucks, but not like Monica.”

On Tuesday, a GOP delegate went on the radio and said that “Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” That’s a degree more severe than the punishment called for by the crowd inside the convention arena, which routinely broke out in chants of “lock her up” throughout the four-day affair. There is even a fringe of conspiracy theorists who believe that Clinton is one of a group of extraterrestrial shapeshifting lizards who have landed on Earth and taken human form in order to run the U.S. government.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesRepublican National Convention attendee Wes Nakagiri wears a Hillary Clinton mask and handcuffs on July 21, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio.

There are plenty of explanations for what makes Clinton such an unpalatable choice: she comes off as stiff, rehearsed, self-interested — she lies. She was instrumental in destroying the reputation of a 20-something intern who made the mistake of getting involved with her boss. Her charitable foundation has been embroiled in one after another. She’s made millions of dollars speaking to Wall Street bankers and still refuses to release the transcripts. There was “travelgate” in the early ’90s, a suicide in the White House shortly thereafter, Benghazi, her email server and countless more indignities in between. And though Clinton has, on occasion, offered apologies for her misdeeds, the perception of her inauthenticity usually eclipses any gesture of remorse.

Plenty of politicians have similar rap sheets, mind you, but few incite the same primordial hatred. Many see it as a symptom of our enduring collective discomfort with a strong woman in a position of power — and that might be part of it, but Clinton’s gender isn’t the only thing that distinguishes her from most other prominent American politicians.

What does set her apart is the fact that she has been at the front and centre of American politics nearly continuously for the past 25 years, hardly giving her critics a of reprieve: she went from the presidential to the White House to the Senate, back to the presidential (on her own behalf this time, not her husband’s), from there to the State Department and now, second-time lucky, to the national once again.

Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press
Andrew Harnik/The Associated PressDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa on Friday, July 22, 2016.

America’s scarcely had a chance to get over one of her boondoggles before being presented with the next. Our collective loathing of politicians tends to fade when we stop seeing them, for example, as the guy who orchestrated the invasion of Iraq over fabled weapons of mass destruction, and start seeing them as the retired guy who paints portraits of world leaders and their dogs. Clinton has never given people the opportunity to see her as anything other than a politician. She’s never really given America the opportunity to like her.

Most damaging to Clinton’s attempts at congeniality, however, has been her incredible knack for falling upwards. Earlier this month, when FBI Director James Comey explained his decision not to indict Clinton for her use of a private server, he noted the choice not to prosecute her was “not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences.

Were she any , she would have been handed a pink slip

“To the contrary,” he added, “those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions.”

That statement could very well apply to dozens of other blunders pockmarking Clinton’s political career: were she any other person, she would have been handed a pink slip a long time ago. Instead, Clinton has not only landed on her feet, but often another step higher.

Most politicians are disliked for having reputations for lying, or negligence, or opportunism. Clinton is hated for embodying all of those things while at the same having an endless run in the public eye while becoming extraordinarily rich and successful, and now having a shot at becoming the most powerful person in the world.

What’s not to loathe?

About Robyn Urback