President Trump Confounds the Press

To hear the press tell it, President Trump is an unprecedented menace to the republic. Every day’s news is devoted to undermining him and his administration. Not just the New York Times and the Washington Post, but news outlets that once were regarded as relatively neutral, like the Associated Press, have made war on Donald Trump ever since his nomination for the presidency, if not before. Time after time, they have delivered blows they thought would be fatal. NBC’s leak of the Access Hollywood tape is one notorious instance among many. The Russia Hoax is another.

And our readers do not need to be reminded of Democratic politicians’ non-stop hysteria over the last 18 months.

Still, despite everything–despite his own occasional blunders as well as the unremitting hostility of all right-thinking people–Trump’s standing with the voters has barely been dented. His approval ratings move within a rather narrow range. At the moment, he is at 49% approval in the Rasmussen survey, the only rolling daily poll now being published, with 50% disapproving. Moreover, his “Approval Index”–the difference between strong approval and strong disapproval–stands at -7. That doesn’t sound great, but at the same point in his first term, Barack Obama’s Approval Index was -19.

The Democrats have yet to come to grips with the fact that so far, President Trump is more popular with voters than their idol Barack Obama. If they were more reflective, Democrats might wonder why this is so. I suppose it has to do with a booming economy, record low unemployment, especially among minorities and women, solid advances in foreign policy, and in general, a sense that we now have a president who is at least trying to advance American interests. To put America first, in other words.

If there is a Democratic politician who understands the appeal of economic success, strong foreign policy and a focus on the interests of American citizens, he is assiduously keeping his mouth shut. I am not aware of any dissenters in the Democratic ranks. Democrats are too focused on President Trump’s supposed illegitimacy to ponder why he has been successful.

In 2010, Republicans gained 63 seats in the House and took control of that chamber, and picked up six Senate seats. That was largely due to President Obama’s unpopularity, especially as reflected in the widely disliked “stimulus” package and Obamacare.

No one imagines that the Democrats will do anywhere near as well this year. But then, they don’t need to. I believe they only need 23 seats to take control of the House, and the GOP Senate majority is razor-thin. By historical standards, 23 seats is a very low bar for a president’s first midterm election.

When Republicans made massive gains in 2010, the press did not hail those midterm results as a repudiation of President Obama, such that he might be evicted from office or effectively neutered for the remainder of his term. Rather, they stuck steadfastly to their support for the president, heedless of his policy failures.

That won’t happen this year. If Democrats make modest gains, the press will hail them as a definitive repudiation of President Trump and his policies, and will redouble its efforts to incapacitate the administration.

None of this is fair, or makes any sense, objectively. But it is the skewed world we live in. The good news is that most voters are on to the Democrats’ game, and don’t care what the press says about the president or, frankly, much else. That is a very healthy development. Which suggests that if the Democrats manage to eke out control over one or both chambers of Congress in November, Trump’s supporters will be unfazed and the political battle will continue to rage.