The poll numbers for Donald Trump’s first month in office are anemic. New first year presidents in recent history have always started off with a substantial positive bump. George W. Bush had an approval rating of 57 percent in his first month in office. Barack Obama was at 68 percent, Bill Clinton at 58 percent. Richard Nixon started at 59 percent. Trump is at 45 percent approval in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Pew and Gallup have recently had him at 42 and 43 percent respectively. A president’s approval numbers usually trail down after the beginning of a new term. Trump’s numbers have already dropped during his first month in office.
There have been many contributing factors to Trump’s low ratings, including:
- Controversial cabinet appointments with resumes and personal backgrounds that in years past would have disqualified cabinet nominees.
- The failed appointment of Michael Flynn to the position of national security advisor.
- The chaotic rollout of the executive order on immigration.
- Conflict of interest issues that hang over Trump and his family’s continued ownership of facilities that can provide foreign nations with the opportunity to channel money to the Trumps.
- A continued pattern of misrepresentations by Trump on issues big and small, such as crowd sizes, votes received and events he imagines have occurred in the United States and elsewhere.
- Presentations by administration representatives that generate negative attention such as Steve Bannon (“shut up and listen”); Kellyanne Conway (“alternative facts”); Steve Miller (“the president’s authority will not be questioned”); and Sean Spicer (almost anything he says).
- Alienation of long-time international allies of the United States.
- A very cozy relationship with the Russian dictatorship.
- Failure to present any detailed proposals thus far on any important issues such as the proposed repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act, immigration legislation, a tax plan, or an infrastructure program.
Quite a first month!
Then there was the Trump press conference last week, which appeared to many observers to be an unorganized stream-of-consciousness rant about anything that came to mind for Trump. That event seemed to be a display of someone not in control of his thought process. I am trying to be diplomatic here.
The negative opinions of those who do not support Trump are unimaginable and unacceptable to the base of supporters occupying Trumpkinland. The true believers are still solidly true believers, regardless of what Trump does or does not do, or whatever he and his representatives talk about. If anything, they push back harder at any challenges to what Trump and company say and do. Trump thrives on Trumpkin enthusiastic support. The thing is, they only amount to about 40 percent of the electorate, give or take a couple points, at the moment.
I can understand the loyalty of Trumpkins. They wanted the tables turned over in Washington. No one can argue that he is not doing that. The question is, where is it all leading? Is there really going to be something productive out of all this chaos?
It is pretty clear that for strategic advisor and Trump’s brain, Steve Bannon, turning over tables is the main goal. He wants to dismantle and wreck everything. Clueless cabinet appointees fit right in with that plan.
While Trump’s obsession with playing to his base seems right for his White House and cabinet staff, it will not at the end of the day lead to any real accomplishments. You can’t rewrite Obamacare, do tax reform or create a trillion dollar infrastructure program by just keeping the base happy.
Since Trump lost the popular vote and only won the Electoral College by a small margin he is in no position to assume that he can easily round up the congressional and national support needed to implement anything. The more insults he throws at people he does not like, the more he and his staff spout lies and alternative facts, the more he drives away people who are not part of his base.
Republican members of Congress have mostly gone along, which is understandable since 80 to 90 percent of identified Republicans support what he has been saying and doing. There have been muffled disagreements from some. Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham have made some real noise. Senators have larger constituencies and longer terms, so it is somewhat easier for them to speak their minds. House Speaker Paul Ryan and his crew are weak and ineffective.
One has to wonder, what is the real purpose of what Trump and company are doing? A shrinking minority of support leads to nothing. A bunker mentality is destructive.
Watching Trump settle comfortably into his base is reminiscent of the Nixon administration. Nixon despised the press. He saw enemies everywhere. He was undercut by a leaking administration. He trusted no one. He kept enemies lists and looked for ways to take revenge on his opponents.
Those Nixonian negative traits are already evident in the Trump administration, even though it is only one month old. Nixon’s serious problems were not as evident at the beginning of his term. The serious problems, at least publicly, took four years to develop.
Unlike Trump, Nixon was an intelligent person, well versed in how government works and knowledgeable about how to navigate the politics of the world. Trump is none of those things. When it comes to knowledge of government and politics, the things that make or break a president, Donald Trump is no Richard Nixon.
Nixon knew that actions such as going to China or creating the Environmental Protection Agency served a political as well as a governmental purpose. Trump’s intent in tearing the government down demonstrates a lack of understanding about what a president does. He has shown no interest in expanding support to non-base voters.
I know that there are few readers of this post who might cringe at anything that puts Richard Nixon in a good light, but the truth is that even a president like Nixon looks good compared with Trump. SAD!
So we are left with one more question: why? Is it because Trump is taking refuge in his campaign crowds as part of his narcissism? Or is it that he simply can’t get his act together in terms of staffing and agenda setting? Until he gets past the narcissism and unless he can get his act together, he won’t be able to make any forward progress on his stated goals. These seem to very high mountains for Donald Trump to cross.