WASHINGTON — As you may or may not have heard, President Donald Trump was sworn in last week with the lowest approval numbers in the history of approval polling for a president-elect.
According to a Fox News poll, 37 percent of Americans approve of Trump, while 54 percent do not.
The dip of those numbers, which were already low heading into his contest with Hillary Clinton, can be attributed to the barrage of negative media coverage dating back to his election win last November.
But let’s analyze this, because there’s a myth and a reality to Trump and his administration. Some would have you believe he’s horrible — racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, jingoistic and so on and so forth.
Let’s take Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s appointee for U.S. Attorney General. If you’ve watched his critics on cable news, you might think that he was a cross-burning grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. And every time he is in the spotlight, we relitigate his 1986 appointment to the federal bench, which was denied by the U.S. Senate.
However, if you’re an Alabamian and are somewhat aware of politics, the racist label placed on Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (as if his name was proof) is not what many of us have seen with our own eyes.
Even if you’re a Democrat and do not care for his politics, the aspersions cast on Sessions by his opponents are hardly fair. His colleagues in the U.S. Senate over the past 20 years know better.
Yet, that’s the hand that is being played. Attack Trump and his administration at all costs. Throw everything you can at him — Russian hacking, “alt-right” connections, unfairness of the Electoral College, hypocrisy because his clothing line was made in China, his Cabinet appointees are racist, etc.
You get the idea.
But with a presidential election cycle that won’t begin until Iowa caucuses in January 2020, what’s the point of all of this? Is using all of this ammunition on Trump really going to stop him from doing what he wants to do as president?
It may slow him down, as in it might take an extra week for him to get his Cabinet approved by the Senate. But you’re not going to stop him. Even if the opposition has an eye on the 2018 midterms, it’s not the best of scenarios for the Democratic opposition.
Nonetheless, this effort to marginalize Trump can backfire. The bar has been set so low for Trump that the moment he does something demonstrably good, and it won’t take much, he’ll bounce back.
Throughout the campaign, he was the comeback kid. He overcame the “grab her by the pu—y” audio to win the White House. There is a precedent for Trump to overcome low polling.
Furthermore, after a media that completely blew it in terms of polling and prognostication, the credibility of this approval polling is in question.
Certainly Trump got some breaks earlier on with the media. But once he shored up the GOP nomination, the coverage was brutal. How is it that this man and his “basket of deplorables” find themselves in the White House? This wasn’t supposed to happen.
And it wasn’t until 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, that many believed it would happen.
What many of Trump’s critics don’t get is the connection he has with his supporters. Those supporters were already wary of the media to begin with and this constant haranguing isn’t going to change as many minds as it once could in the era of Trump.
Much like former President George W. Bush, the Trump administration is going to take a lot of hits from the press. But like the Bush administration, the Trump team is going to be prepared for it.
We got a hint of that over the weekend when White House press secretary Sean Spicer made an appearance in the briefing room and gave a very combative statement about a false report claiming Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office, and then challenged those claiming the inauguration attendance was significantly down.
While those types of gestures won’t move the needle a whole lot, they will be received approvingly by his core supporters and they won’t necessarily damage his standing in the polls because he’s already pretty low.
There’s nowhere to go but up from here.
Once he starts implementing his policies and real change is underway — as in the employment rate increases and Americans start having more money in their wallets — his depressed numbers will go up, and in a significant way.
No matter what he does, he won’t likely win over the Democrats that vociferously opposed him and continue to do so. But winning those people over isn’t as important as holding onto the support he got in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
If manufacturing does indeed return, Democrats will have a hard time unseating him in 2020.
For now, the expectations are low. If we are supposed to believe he is incompetent and ill-suited for the job, it puts Trump and his team in a better position than you might think. And now it’s up to them to seize upon that opportunity.