I still have this observation about the ~24% of the electorate who tell pollsters “they cannot see Trump doing anything that would make them disapprove of him.”
It’s the sort of phenomenon that sparks this kind of conversation on Twitter:
But don't call them stupid or a cult https://t.co/1675qRq9py
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) August 19, 2017
Convince them, or admit you don't want to.
— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) August 20, 2017
I respect both Tom and Ben a lot, but perhaps we should consider a more historical perspective.
If you look at Gallup’s presidential job approval statistics, you’ll find the following low points: Harry S Truman (22%); Richard Nixon (24%); Jimmy Carter (28%); George H.W. Bush (29%); and George W. Bush (25%).
You get where I’m going with this.
It’s not unheard of for a President to have a floor somewhere around 24%. It’s certainly fair to argue that level of attachment to a President might be unhealthy. Yet we tend not to think of the “Nixon cult,” the “Carter cult,” or the “Dubya cult.”
OTOH, if Watergate wasn’t convincing to the core of Nixon’s support, perhaps we should take Trump supporters seriously — perhaps literally — when they suggest there really is nothing that would convince them to abandon The Donald.
Is this sort of apparent floor for Trump somehow different? Possibly, insofar as Trump has always had a fraught relationship with the party he now nominally leads, and occasionally seems to be in a grudge match with the GOP’s Congressional leaders. Slavish support for Trump may have little to do with party loyalty, which is often what creates that bedrock support.
But is this truly a difference in kind, rather than degree? Nixon was forced to resign precisely because GOP Congressional leaders (albeit in the minority) turned against him as the evidence in Watergate mounted. Carter failed in part because he was estranged from Congressional Democratic leadership, and sufficiently heterodox that Sen. Ted Kennedy would challenge him in the 1980s primary.
Should we presume that 24% is the Trumpiest of Trump supporters? I don’t think we can, necessarily. Disaffected Obama voters, for example, could become disaffected from a West Wing staffed by Goldman Sachs.
If I was writing this as a column, the pressure would be on me to argue for a particular conclusion. So today I’m happy to have this as a little sideblog post instead.
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