Trump’s Problem

Let’s not imagine that Trump can alone pick up his popularity ratings.

Several days ago I picked up the Inquirer while in Philadelphia and saw on the front cover, next to a puff piece for Michelle Obama, a headline that Trump’s popularity is now down to 40%. Although I’ve no implicit faith in polls, given the likely politics of the pollsters and given their obvious downplaying of Trump’s support throughout the presidential campaign, from what I’ve seen and heard, it seems that Trump’s approval rating is in fact well below 50%. Despite Obama’s longtime associations with onetime terrorists and raving black nationalists, Mr. “Hope and Change” had an 80% approval rating when he took office; and it remained at about 60% when he flew off on Inauguration Day for a California vacation. And that often tongue-tied establishment Republican George W. Bush enjoyed a 60% approval rating when he entered the Oval Office. Although Trump continues to benefit from an intensely loyal following, it seems hard for him to raise his general support level above 50%.

One reason for this problem that may be overstated is that Trump is too impulsive to win the confidence of most Americans. He tweets too much and divulges indiscreet thoughts, and, as I never cease hearing from Trump’s critics, he is far too rude in the way he goes after his critics. And finally he gives the impression of being prejudiced against all sorts of minorities, which makes him sound, according to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, downright “Hitlerian.” Contrary to this last attack, Trump demonstrably reached out to racial minorities in order to win their approval. Even his controversial inaugural address spoke sympathetically to inner city blacks, who voted overwhelmingly against him—and predictably in favor of his Democratic opponent.

As for the charge of being racially or socially divisive so often leveled against Trump, one might respond “In comparison to whom?” Former president Obama never missed a chance to play up white racism or Christian intolerance whenever he went into his moralizing mode. When Muslim terrorists slit the throats of Christians, he warned American Christians about “getting on a high horse.” Americans were told to use the occasion to ponder the evils of the Christian Crusades and the white Christian stigma of slavery. What was left unspoken were the Muslim conquests of formerly Christian regions that led to the Crusades and the widespread practice among Muslims of taking Africans as slaves. Equally missing from Obama’s blather was any mention of the fact that unlike Christians and Jews, Muslim zealots are now carrying out terrorist acts worldwide.

I won’t even get into all the things that Obama did to thumb his nose at middle class whites. Out of a very long list, we might note in passing his demonstrations of support for Black Lives Matter, thereby undermining the authority of the police, and his apparent epiphany that the teenage thug Trayvon Martin “could have been my son.” Undoubtedly if the media and educational establishment (both of which have been vocal in their denunciations of Trump’s insensitivity) had looked a bit harder, they would have found in Obama at least the same degree of offensiveness that they discovered in Trump. Of course this never happened, because the insensitivities revealed by Obama were music to the ears of his followers. And this brings me to my core argument: Trump is hampered in his efforts to become more popular by the enmity of culturally leftist institutions that now are dominant throughout the West. Like other politicians who are seen by the media and cultural elites as being against “diversity,” or whatever the weasel word of the moment, Trump will have to labor mightily to overcome media-created low approval ratings. And the obstacles he faces are not likely to go away in the foreseeable future.

Unlike other heads of government who try to buck the PC tide, Trump now holds the highest office in the richest and most influential country on Earth. What he says or does to affect the political culture is far more important than what a conservative nationalist in a small country, say the outspoken Victor Orban in Hungary, could hope to achieve worldwide. We might also note that the American cultural, communication and educational industries have far more impact worldwide than they do in other countries with less of a global presence. And, not insignificantly, these forces are allied against the spoiler Donald Trump. There’s also no use kidding ourselves about the danger posed by these enemies to anyone they’ve targeted. Such a target is lucky to survive as a public figure or someone with a more or less intact reputation.

Trump did survive; and because of his public relations genius and his ability to express the grievances of the grunge class, went on to become president, by winning an electoral majority. I take off my hat to this daring new president; and like my wife and friends among Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables,” I stayed up on Election Night rejoicing at the Donald’s unexpected victory. And I genuinely like the man and his attractive family and find myself cheering every time he says something to insult our arrogant leftist elites. But I won’t fool myself by believing that he can make himself popular in the same manner as the person he’s replacing. Educators, mediacrats, and the “Hollywood community” are almost solidly committed to discrediting him, and at the very least, they should be able to depress his popularity index, by attacking him as a racist, homophobe, misogynist and anti-Semite. It makes no difference that these charges, which are repeated daily through thousands of fake news sources, had to be invented. If you hear these fabrications often enough, you may start to believe them.

Postscript: I just spoke to one of my daughters, who was asked to join the enraged women who were going from Boston to Washington to protest Trump’s attack on “women’s rights.” My daughter responded that she was unaware of what right Trump was now assailing. In any case, she wouldn’t join this multitude of yentas because it was clear that what they were really about was discrediting the Trump administration even before it began.

Paul Gottfried is an American political philosopher and intellectual historian, and former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

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