Editor’s Note: Staff writer Deborah Quinn Hensel says she’s been bottling it up for too long, and now there’s such an accumulation that it’s spilling out in chapters. This is the first, but the pressure keeps building, so watch out for more.
Looking down the barrel of the midterm elections in November, perhaps the Republican Party is running a little scared of the possibility of a blue wave.
According to a Sept. 12 article in The Hill, many strategists are laying the blame squarely in the lap of Donald J. Trump, whose approval ratings have dropped over the past three weeks in about half a dozen nonpartisan polls. Last week, CNN’s poll pegged his rating at 36 percent, having dropped six points in the last month.
The Hill article quotes GOP strategists as predicting the House will most certainly flip, and if Trump’s approval ratings don’t rise past 40 percent soon, it’s a deep hole for Republicans to climb out of. Some are beginning to voice concerns about big changes in the Senate –– notably, the possibility that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz might lose his seat to a charismatic Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke.
So, how does a turnaround in approval ratings happen? Well, for starters, the man in charge has to show the American people some positive action in an atmosphere recently fraught with negative headlines –– almost all of his own making.
The hits just keep on coming:
- In August, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax and bank fraud. Not good. Now Manafort is talking about cooperating with special investigator Robert Mueller in a plea deal that would include information related to the president and the 2016 campaign. Good dirt and solid evidence, we hope.
- Trump’s own personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges, including campaign finance violations and payoffs to two women to silence their tales of alleged affairs prior to the election. The best meme on that theme is the red cap where MAGA stands for “My attorney got arrested.”
- Despite a summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un back in June, that country appears to be flaunting its arsenal, upgrading nuclear facilities, and working on its ballistic missile program again. We can call that a failure of diplomacy by a man whose negotiating skills are not quite as effective as he claimed.
- Revered Republican senator and Vietnam War hero John McCain succumbed to brain cancer in late August and was eulogized by many on both sides of the aisle during a memorial that lasted four days, with services in Arizona, D.C., and Maryland. Trump, a long-time critic of the senator, was reportedly incensed at the media attention McCain was siphoning away from him and claimed it was “over the top.” Not invited to the services, Trump went golfing instead and tweeted veiled threats at Canada over NAFTA. He also created havoc over the status of the flag flying over the White House. It went up; it came down; it went up again. His approval ratings stayed down.
- Starved for affirmation, Trump whipped up the crowds with more braggadocio and untruths at “Make America Great Again” rally stops in Florida, West Virginia, and Ohio in recent weeks, but had to cancel a Sept. 13 stop in Missouri due to Hurricane Florence. Thank goodness, because one big blowhard at a time is as much as any country can stomach.
- Speaking of Florence, before the storm ever made landfall, Trump was already patting himself on the back for the government’s disaster preparedness, and reminding anyone who would listen what a great job was done in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated that island in September 2017 –– a claim hotly and publicly disputed by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. On Thursday, Trump publicly disputed the official death toll of nearly 3,000 as a result of Maria, claiming Democrats were inflating the numbers just to make him look bad. Meanwhile, with Florence bearing down on the East Coast, the Trump administration quietly funneled $9.8 million from FEMA’s budget to that of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to support immigration enforcement and incarceration camps.
- On that note, let us not forget that between 350 and 600 children (reported numbers vary, making it obvious that record-keeping and internal communications are sloppy and flawed) detained at the U.S.-Mexico border are still not reunited with their parents two months after a court-ordered deadline. Meanwhile, ICE is now finding ways to deny passports to people born on this side of the border, but whose birth certificates they find suspicious. And White House adviser Stephen Miller, the boy wonder of white supremacy, wants to take aim at Vietnamese refugees and their families next.
- An anonymous White House staffer penned a scathing op-ed for The New York Times, painting an alarming picture of a president who has gone off the rails and has to be treated like a child. Documents are surreptitiously removed from his desk before he can see or sign them, and a soft coup is under way as a shadow government tries to circumvent and repair chaos created by Trump. While no criminal offense has been committed, Trump called for an all-out investigation by the Justice Department, complete with lie-detector tests to find the culprit.
- The same week the op-ed appeared, Washington Post editor and esteemed journalist Bob Woodward went on the TV circuit to promote his new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” which chronicles more of that same chaos. Trump, who has previously claimed Woodward has always been fair, suddenly has a change of tune and called the book “fiction.”
All of this serves to undermine an administration already sitting under the sword of Damocles as the Mueller investigation continues to explore ties to Russia and possible collusion during the campaign, obstruction of justice charges, and perhaps some shady financial dealings. No wonder he can’t get his approval ratings up.
But, if you ask Trump himself, it’s all been a bed of roses and cotton candy. No president has ever accomplished more in such a short time, he claimed.
“We’re doing a great job, the polls numbers are through the roof, our poll numbers are great and guess what? Nobody is going to come close to beating me in 2020 because of what we’ve done,” Trump said in a Sept. 5 meeting with sheriffs from across the country.
In that same meeting, he read from a list of headlines praising what he’s done for the national economy and the unemployment rate. Because Trump has no understanding of diplomacy, civility, leadership, history, the law, and the basics of how our government works, only dollar signs seem to register with him. And even when talking economics, he inflates and bends the truth.
Trump claimed the GDP rate of 4.2 percent had eclipsed the unemployment rate of 3.9 percent for the first time in more than a century, but economic experts were quick to debunk that brag. Justin Wolfers, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, told Fox Business News that claim was “not just wrong . . . it’s very, very wrong.” Wolfers then tweeted a list of 50 times the GDP was higher than unemployment just since 1948.
Bearing in mind that it takes more than the economy to define the well-being of a nation, just what has the Trump administration done for us lately?
If you want to see how his “accomplishments” stack up against those of other presidents, you can read this letter to the editor printed in the Tribune-Review in Western Pennsylvania. This guy nails it: TRIBLIVE LINK.
What else has he done for us? This is a topic we’ll revisit as time and major developments dictate, but for now, ponder this.
- Perhaps, as a culture, we’re more productive, thanks to Trump. If you can’t sleep at night worrying about children in cages and North Korean missiles, you can get up and get things done.
- He’s making sure you stick to your budget. Why spend your valuable tourism dollars in countries that used to be our allies, but now view Americans as the biggest bunch of losers in the world, with a miscreant fool at the helm?
- Maybe, in a perverse and twisted way, he’s united us as a people. Well, most of us. No one can fathom the blind and irrational loyalty of the 36 percent who still approve. For them, the economy and the bolstering of isolationist views abroad and white supremacy at home are probably enough to keep cheering him on. But the rest of us can still find solidarity in our shared complaints against a narcissistic tyrant, and a fervent, common hope.
Whether it’s triggered by the revelations of his criminal cronies or by a soft coup within the White House itself, or by flipping the House back to a Democratic majority, the possibility of an impeachment and/or forced resignation is still on the table. Some say it can’t possibly happen, but look at everything unbelievable and unlikely that’s happened in the last two years.
Just cross your fingers and hang onto your party hats.