Donald Trump assumed the office of the president of the United States with a record low approval rating. His transition approval rating of less than 50% was unprecedented among the recent US presidents, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. While another politician would attempt to take a more rational course of action, Trump does not seem to have any intention of resolving the popularity crisis. At least not at this time. While this attitude can help further disillusion Trump’s supporters, in the long run, it might engender a disaster.
Trump won the election while losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by about 3 million votes. However, this is not the sole reason for his current unpopularity. During past two weeks, he and a small circle of his confidants made extremely controversial, if not totally wrong, decisions. They supplemented the decisions with an excessively aggressive attitude, especially towards the press. This evil combination has exacerbated Trump’s crisis of popularity.
Probably the most consequential decision so far has been the #MuslimBan. As expected, he began his presidency by targeting migrants and refugees. He issued an executive order to ban and restrain the travel of the citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The crudeness of the decision and the conspicuous lack of attention to details and consequences poured more fuel on the fire that was already ignited by the Women’s March. Huge demonstrations emerged in the US and all around the world in response to the ban. The absurdity of the decision was to the extent that many world leaders openly criticised the decision in particular and Trump’s attitude in general.
According to Benjamin Wallace-Wells, he made his decisions without seeking or receiving any advice or consultation from experts. His political isolation has two major causes. First, his excessive narcissism, obstinacy, and self-righteousness prevent him from accepting and appreciating advice from others. Second, few experts and politicians are willing to work with him, probably due to his self-centredness.
This level of isolation, accompanied by the huge protests that are going on all around the globe, can have one of these outcomes:
- The built up pressures can force him to revise his policies, decisions, and behaviour and to try to be the president of all Americans.
- He may refuse to acknowledge the opposition and continue with the path he has already set foot in and by doing so, alienate more people.
While I wish the first alternative to be the case, there is a realistic chance that the events shift towards the second path. In this case, there is a risk that his administration seeks other methods to acquire the popularity necessary to secure the position and its accompanying power. And, history has shown that the most certain way for an American president to gain popularity, at least in short terms, is to lead the country to war[i].
A look at the Gallup’s popularity ratings of US presidents of the US, particularly the most recent ones, supports this hypothesis. Both George W. Bush and Bush Senior witnessed a surge in their approval ratings when they led the US to war. The rise in popularity ratings was more pronounced for Bush junior, a jump from 50% to 90%, after the 9/11 attacks and in the beginning of the subsequent war on terror and the invasion of Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, due to US’ power and the size of its economy, punishing measures, such as economic sanctions, are not viable options to contain Trump. While these measures have proven effective in containing smaller countries like Iran, their recent implementation against Russia was not quite successful. And they are less likely to be effective if imposed on the US, presuming, very idealistically, they can even be ratified by the international community.
I think to prevent Trump from taking this course of action the current protests must be accompanied by attempts and initiatives from the people he trusts to soften the attitude of Trump’s administration. Traditionally this is the duty of the political party that the president belongs to. However, Trump’s rhetoric and his actions, e.g. his picks for different portfolios in his administration, clearly demonstrate that he has more trust in businessmen than politicians. And that is why the responsibility of controlling him falls on the lap of the business rather than political parties.
Source of Trump’s photo: Women Free Time