“The Trump Presidency Is Over,” declares a March 13 Atlantic Monthly piece by Peter Wehner, a lifelong Republican who worked in the previous three GOP administrations. “It has taken a good deal longer than it should have, but Americans have now seen the con man behind the curtain.”
Wehner walks through the tragically rich compendium of Trump’s “grave, costly errors” during this national Covid pandemic crisis, and his “false information,” “misinformation and mendacity,” and his “massive failure in leadership that stems from a massive defect in character.”
Would that Wehner were so prescient. But predicting Trump’s defeat is like declaring we’ll beat the pandemic and reopen the economy by Memorial Day. As Eliza Doolittle said, “not bloody likely!”
I’m no political pollster or prognosticator.
But from where I sit at home for way too long, I’m betting on Trump’s reelection because:
1. The numbers favor Trump
As of Good Friday, his 44.4% approval rating and 50.7% disapproval rating, per the FiveThirtyEight polling average, weren’t his worst.
While bottom-dwelling for modern presidents, having nearly 45% of Americans still backing Trump, in spite of his historic failure as a leader, is good enough for a former reality TV character. Just like “good enough” keeps the newest batch of network TV sitcoms on the air such as ABC’s “Splitting Up Together,” about a couple “whose marriage is reignited by their divorce.”
Consider also that 25–30% of Americans are ride-or-die MAGAs, and how 80-90% of Republicans remain die-hard Trump, likely for tax cuts and deregulation (except for more government regulation of private reproductive rights.)
Then there’s the 27-point “enthusiasm gap,” where Trump supporters are far more excited to vote for him than Biden’s are, a Post/ABC survey found.
Factor in the Electoral College that, thanks to decades of GOP gerrymandering, tilts Republican against America’s popular vote — as in 2000 and 2016 — and voila! At his second inauguration, Trump gets to preen about his greatness and attack millions of Americans who failed to bow to his “stable genius.”
2. Hate for the “mainstream media”
Like in many national crises, people are hungrily consuming the news. But many hate the news they’re consuming, like quarantining people hate the entire apple pie they ate for breakfast.
Per Gallup on March 25, as journalists scramble to keep us informed to control the spread of Covid, and many risk their health and lives to do their jobs, the media was rated rock bottom in handling the pandemic, falling behind hospitals, schools, state and federal government, employers, government health agencies (CDC, NIH), and finally Trump, Vice President Pence and Congress, in that order.
(Incidentally, the media’s positive/negative ratings, at 44/55%, were not far off from Trump’s.)
Naturally, there’s a partisan split about the media, with 61% of Democrats approving versus 25% of Republicans. “The media” means different things different partisans.
But no, the media’s negative ratings have absolutely nothing to do with the constant Trump and Fox News/right-wing state media drumbeat attacks on the “mainstream fake news enemy of the people.” Fox would never smear CNN or MSNBC in competition for ratings and billions in advertising dollars.
Republicans of course aren’t hating Fox, the most-watched cable news network with 18 consecutive years at #1, or right-wing internet news sites with conservative polemicists posing as journalists, or conservative talk radio bloviators — all singing the president’s praises and White House talking points in unison and harmony.
Trump fans are hating the independent professional news media, starting with CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc., because real reporters ask the president impertinent questions. They’re doing their jobs, as our Founders hoped, of challenging our politicians. Republicans certainly didn’t hate when The New York Times broke and dogged the Hillary email story, right?
3. Hate for “the libs”
Whatever Trump does, whatever he says, however nasty, defensive, thin-skinned, self-pitying, petty, bragging, accusatory, needy, deranged, and un-presidential he acts, and however bigly he dissembles, misinforms, misleads and fails to lead day after day, his base and today’s degraded GOP say it’s ok.
That’s because they believe the Bernie/Warren/AOC/Pelosi socialist-Democrat-tax-and-spend-big-government-regulation-welfare-state-politically-correct-snowflake-anti-white/real-American-open-borders-for-criminal-immigrant hoards coastal elites, etc., are much, much worse. As were the criminal Clintons especially Hillary, and Obama who wasn’t born in America and acted like he thought the president was above the law.
“The libs” are so terrible, horrible, no good and very bad that even elite coastal Republicans have no choice but to discard their vaunted traditional values to accept, excuse, support and unconditionally love their president. As if he’s their son who was arrested at prep school for dealing pills for the third time.
4. The useless Bernie base
When Sanders pulled out of contention, Trump snarkily gas-lighted that Bernie supporters should throw their support to his reelection.
I’ve written before (“Bye-bye Bernie,” March 3) how the Bernie Base, America’s next great generation, is loud and proud yet somehow can’t find the time or Google where and how to vote, as the 10–15% Millennial and Gen Z primary turnout this year shows yet again.
And we all know how Bernie’s righteous “progressives” and antipathy toward Hillary Clinton in 2016 helped elect Trump.
Here we go again. Do I trust Bernie to get out his base to take out Trump? Fool me once….
5. “Emotional hedging”
This means betting against your interests so you can’t lose. If I bet $1,000 my beloved hometown Washington Nationals will lose, I win either way. Except for the bad karma.
See The New York Times commentary weeks before the 2016 election, “Why You Should Bet Against Your Candidate.”
I’m betting Trump will win as an emotional hedge. I’m a terrible political prognosticator and bettor. But I would be thrilled to lose because the country I love will win.
Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer