Donald Trump wasn’t the first American President to be elected by the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote, and more than half a dozen other Presidents won with lower percentages of voter support. Trump got 47% of the 2016 ballots, more than Richard Nixon in 1968 and Bill Clinton in 1992 – they got 43%, but both of them faced significant third party challengers and so did the 3 least-supported Presidents in our history…Woodrow Wilson elected with 42%, Abraham Lincoln – yes, Abraham Lincoln 40% and John Quincy Adams who got just 30.5% of the popular vote before he was selected by the House of Representatives.
The famously dour Adams never was a very popular President, but all the others won over more than enough of the electorate to be re-elected with popular majorities. Trump, on the other hand, started with an approval rating deficit, a tiny margin 1/10 of 1% of poll respondents, and has, since his inauguration more or less steadily lost favor. Today, virtually all of the polls show President Trump with his lowest ratings ever…39% say they approve of his work, 55% say they don’t.
Probably that’s because, more than any other Presidency in history, Donald Trump’s has been…in every possible meaning of the word, politically incorrect. By this, I mean,
President’s Trump’s actions have consistently offended against, not just the obsequious over-politeness for which political incorrectness is invoked as the cure, but some basic political values and practical political assessments of the majority of the American people.
Basic value: some 70% of Americans polled subscribe to the environmental conservationism expressed in the Paris Agreement, which Mr Trump has dumped.
Practical assessment: again, roughly 70% of people polled about Obamacare said – whether they liked it or not – and the division on that was closely to perfectly even – don’t destroy it until you have something better. This modest and sensible suggestion has also been traduced and abandoned by President Trump and Republicans in the House of Representatives.
But of course, the key concept to be inserted here, in explaining how President Trump has – in the space of four and a half short months — lost the approval of close to 1 in 6 of his Election Day supporters is that the truly incorrect political choices of the Trump Administration go far beyond the Paris Environmental Agreement or the Affordable Care Act. The approval ratings trends show there is little American support for what can only be called “minority rule.”
Remember the “blue laws,” through which what was even then a popular minority of regular church-goers dictated the Sunday times when you could buy a drink or go to a ballgame. Even though extra innings in Philadelphia didn’t prevent anyone from leaving the ballpark for a service or a sermon, the law said, at the hour of evening vespers everyone had to pack up the bats and balls and stop the game. That form of minority rule has been in retreat for decades, recently in my home state of New Mexico when bars were allowed to start selling booze at 11AM on a Sunday, because that’s when many NFL games start here in the Mountain Time Zone.
A Trump “blue law” grants what it calls “religious freedom” to bosses who don’t want to provide their employees with birth control as part of their health insurance. This empowers a minority to impose their religious values on the almost certain majority of their employees who want at least the option to regulate conception.
But this is just the beginning…in labor rights, President Trump has promulgated policies which favor the prerogatives of a minority of bosses over the majority of workers…in environmental policies, deregulation may pad the profit margins of a few extraction-industry entrepreneurs and shareholders, but the costs will be felt by the air, water and soil which are our commonwealth. When it comes to law and order, Trump Justice is tough on common criminals, and perhaps on mere suspects, but weak on protecting citizens from abusive police officers, and weaker still when it comes to laws protecting consumers from commercial or financial predators.
Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post’s senior national affairs correspondent, covering how the new administration is transforming a range of U.S. policies and the federal government itself. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998. She is the author of “Fight Club Politics: How Partisanship Is Poisoning the House of Representatives” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007) and Demon Fish, about sharks (Pantheon 2011, AnchorBooks 2012)