I’m among those dismayed by Trump’s approval ratings. The latest average of ten presidential rating polls show approval at 47%, with wide variation. The trend line over the course of his administration has been bouncing around from a low of 35% to a high of 49%, and a few individual polls rate him well above 50%. The overall trend has been slightly upward in recent months. Some commentators tout the high numbers as they laud his performance. Others note how he’s not getting the bump other presidents have received during times of national emergency, and dismiss the polls as inaccurate. I both distrust them and think they need to be taken seriously.
If Trump is to be defeated this fall, it cannot be ignored that close to a half of those queried approve of him no matter what. It can’t be analyzed away. There it is. A little less than half the adult population approves of a man who lies deliberately about things he knows to be untrue; lies ignorantly about things he knows nothing about; peppers his conversation with crude, belittling insults about anyone who challenges him; and cannot stay focussed on anything long enough to understand it. His history of business failure and corruption are public record – his personal immorality equally so. Receiving an economy in good health and growing, he slowed down its growth, got a tax bill passed that enriched the few and did not do one thing he promised it would, then claimed he’d produced the best economy ever. He single handedly destroyed our standing among the community of nations. He bungled our immigration problems, creating Dickensian conditions for would be immigrants, and unleashed Gestapo like roundups of the undocumented. Mountains of clear evidence proved his malfeasance in office, and a feckless Senate majority didn’t have the moral courage to do anything about it. Now he’s stumbled and bumbled management of the COVID-19 response, yet gives himself high marks for the great job he’s doing.
How is it possible nearly half the adult population can approve of performance like that?
The answer, I fear, is both obvious and disheartening, because I’m not convinced there is much to be done about it. It isn’t simply a steady diet of Fox News running constantly in homes across the nation. Its most popular shows are nothing more than propaganda for the Trump political operation. If Fox is the only television news source one watches, it may be impossible for one’s preexisting right wing persuasions not to be welded in place. That we know, but if we think pouring more truthful or progressive programing out to the public will change their minds, we’re badly mistaken. They’re not watching and don’t trust the mainstream or lamestream news, and they don’t read reliable newspapers.
Fox is the most obvious culprit, but probably not the most dangerous. Local a.m. talk radio stations dominate the radio landscape. Calling themselves conservative, they feature right wing provocateurs, disinterested in truth, and intent on fomenting as much right wing angst as possible. The local station in our community, for example, begins the day well enough with an interview show featuring local news, goofy humor, and interviews with community leaders. It’s worth listening to, but it’s the lead in to a day of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and the like. Their crude vitriol is the background noise of homes and shops all over town. Maybe they listen, maybe they don’t, but droning all day, every day does its damage. And some do listen: an acquaintance once told me I should listen because they say some good things. Another said he can’t understand why people don’t like Trump, an honest president who tells the truth.
Television and radio are the front and back doors to an internet community of right wingers and the gullible curious. I don’t mean traditional conservatives; I mean anti government, tax avoiding, racially prejudiced, conspiracy touting extremists who revel in scapegoating targeted ethnic groups and anything liberal as intent on destroying all that right thinking people believe in. Without saying it out loud, they shout Danger! Arm Yourselves! They’re Coming to Get You! Some call it the dark web, but it’s not so dark. It’s right there in the open, anyone can look, maybe not enter the inner sanctum, but at least look.
My Twitter, FB and news feeds favor mainstream media and commentators on the progressive side, and they can give you the impression that everyone knows and understands what’s going on from that perspective, but everyone doesn’t. The right wing internet sites are numerous and have tens of thousands of subscribers. The point is, cable t.v. news, a.m. talk radio, and extremist right wing websites form a substantial collective force that willingly gives Trump their uncritical support with unshakable belief that he’s doing a terrific job and saving their way of life in the process. What is objectively real is either disbelieved or irrelevant.
I wish I knew how to let the light of verifiable evidence and data driven fact to enter into that world, but I don’t. Maybe you do. A good many residents of that world claim to be Christian. I wish I knew how to let the light of Christ enter into their hearts and minds, but I don’t. Maybe you do. And before someone says it, yes, there’s a far left wing version of the same thing, but it’s minuscule in comparison, and has little influence over the voting public. And no, Bernie is not their flag bearer. He’s way too centrist for them.