Donald Trump is running up to what he now calls the “ridiculous” self-imposed 100 Day Mark of Assessment. The First 100 Days is actually we’ve thrown at every president at least as far back as FDR. The fact that Trump himself set so many lofty 100 Day Goals (and a bunch of unfulfilled day 1 goals) that had he reached his benchmark we’d be in a totally transformed world.
A simple look around tells us few things are much different outside an On and Off Travel Ban and sporadic ICE Raids that first draw a first splash of publicity and then an open firehouse of flaming kerosene worth of bad backlash.
Trumps petulance, immaturity, apparent ADHD and innumerable gaffes have all been a problem but deep unpopularity is probably what stopped Trump agenda items like The Obamacare Repeal and Replace Disaster that managed only to galvanize the dazed and disparate ranks of Trump Resistance.
The biggest thing stopping The Trump Agenda is probably his lack of popularity. Let me put that another way – his STUNNING LACK of Popularity is all thats saving us from Trumps Awful Ideas.
As president-elect he was first clueless and then imperious. Breaking rules and ruffling feathers. But none of this translated to momentum. Until he managed to put all future accomplishments in deep jeopardy by altering the rules of the Senate to jam Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court the High Water Mark of the Trump Administration might just have been installing highly unpopular right wing christian ideologue Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.
CNN today reported that 53% of Americans Disapprove of President Trump. There’s few polls with any scientific validity that show him anything but underwater. This awful number is actually the result of a slow upward rally since Trump started piece meal attacking countries his daughter finds objectionable about 2 weeks ago. He was diving below later Watergate Nixon before then
SO WHO WAS THE LEAST POPULAR PRESIDENT?
According to Gallup it’s Truman.
Harry S Truman existed at an unbelievable 22% for a chunk of his presidency but was reelected in that time. He remains the president to tally the very lowest approval. Lower than Watergate Era Nixon. It seems inaccurate and likely is.
Truman’s been around over 100 Days when Gallup starts polling. The Truman number was most likely actually proof of flaws in that era’s polling. I call it “The Honeymooners Theory”.
The basic assertion is by looking the TV families of the time we can get a clue how life was in the 1950’s and there’s a couple of different classes represented. They show an economically diverse country even within the same city.
The classic show the Honeymooners is from the 50’s and shows 2 working class couples in what was then the not so well off Borough of Brooklyn in New York City. The Kramdens were just scraping by but their friends the Norton’s were doing a bit better.
If you loved the show you will recall that there’s an episode where the Kramdens get a phone. The phones gone after that episode. The Kramdens made calls (and watched what little TV they could) at the Norton’s apartment upstairs. In other episodes we have Norton climbing through the fire escape window with an occasional message for Ralph or Alice.
The Honeymooners was funny and pertinent because it was pretty realistic. Most related to their lives and many to their circumstances.
So typical Americans had a 50-50 chance of having a phone in what was a believable comedy. Its important to remember that the idea they needed to use the Norton’s phone was never seen as overly strange or cause for shame. The Kramdens were of modest means and who knows, maybe their saving for a baby one day. Well folks, the analogy goes to I Love Lucy now.
The Ricardo’s were geographically close contemporaries of the Kramdens but lived in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan. Still a desirable address. The Ricardo’s have a phone (an awesome princess phone in fact). The Mertz’s probably had one too, I just don’t remember. Fred was cheap but he also was a landlord and I can’t see how he wouldn’t have needed a phone for his business (which seemed to run itself). I’m writing the Mertz’s off for this example.
Anyway the bottom line is even my mom and dad get to the late 50’s when Eisenhower is president (also living in NYC) before both families manage to have phones and televisions.
So Ralph and Alice Kramden would NEVER have a voice in a poll of their time but the Norton’s would. Lucy and Ricky would. There were just so many people of modest of even entering middle class who couldn’t afford these “Utilities” which were then actually LUXURIES.
Bottom Line- Hey you don’t have to be a pollster to see that the polls on Truman were off. Probably WAY OFF! He was probably close to or above 50% but just never fared well in a ‘random’ sampling of Americans skewed towards the wealthy or at least those entering middle class like the Norton’s.
People with money have generally always tended to be more Conservative and in America that means more likely to be Republicans. After all you have a TV and a phone and half your neighbors didn’t. You actually probably hosted a small gathering so everyone you knew could watch ‘I Love Lucy’ and love YOU for it!
SO WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT TRUMP NOW AND IN THE FUTURE?
Well the undeniable Fact is ‘There’s no way to know if he’s the most unpopular president ever until he makes it below 22%.” Since he seems Baked In at about 30% no matter what it’s probably unlikely he will be the holder of any kind of Unified Title of Infamy.
Trends in media and mass culture over about a hundred years are enlightening.
Initially the master of the print interview had the political edge. Newspapers were cheap and very available up until the 1970s.
By the time JFK takes office the phone and TV situation was a complete transformation from 10 years earlier. People watched the Twilight Zone in their own homes with just their families. By the time Star Trek debuts like 70% of America has
at least 1 TV. About 10% of America is blind and wouldn’t need a TV just for perspective. About 10% more have dementia and wouldn’t know if they had a TV or not. So basically everyone had a TV.
So by about 1960 polling and reality converge as far as Accuracy. We can sort of have more faith in the scientific aspect of these polls. The opposite of this happens around 2000 when many switch to having only a cell phone with an unlisted number and polling strives to adjust. But we have a huge chunk of time there where we can rely on the polls.
More bad news for Trump is that for the moment it appears the polling methods have again gotten to a place where they are accurate refelections of the National Zeitgeist.
Wrapping up you know now why they always add “of any modern president” to the super bad approval ratings Trump is garnering. And its probably the polling. The Truman Era Gallup poll is disproved by his re-election. Its interesting that Truman just ignored everything and Whistle Stopped and made a speech EVERYWHERE he could get his train. He obviously swayed the phoneless, TV-less people he spent lots of time talking to.
Could it work again to re-elect Trump? lets see him avoid jail for the next four years but the answer is likely “No”.
I guess we should remember that seeing the president of the United States move and
talk was almost exclusively something you had to go to the Movie Theater for when HST just talks to anyone who will listen in PERSON all over the place. I ‘m sure everyone in Duluth, Montana found their way to the train station to see “Give ‘Em Hell Harry”.
Shit’s different now.
Trump is already campaigning openly for re-election. But now everyone has a TV and a phone. Hell, they’re now almost the same damn thing! And Trump pounds that phone with non stop tweeting. Love him or hate him he’s familiar. He boasts Expert TV and social media trolling skills. In fact the election of Trump in 2016 spoke to a theory I had since college – Whoever Dominates and Best Uses the newest form of Mass Culture Media will have an exceptional Ride.
Hitler was maybe the first guy to lie to people’s faces via radio and movie newsreels and later outright State Made Propaganda, he also manages to gain ultimate power (sadly). In America the personable Franklin Roosevelt manages to charm America and win the presidency….four times. He’s noted for being a great personality on Radio, the dominant form of mass culture at the time. Fireside Chats and the Declaration of War on Japan were shining examples.
JFK was a master of television. He changes the face of his election by decimating Dick Nixon in a TV debate that on paper Nixon sort of won. Radio listeners preferred Nixon’s performance too. But he looked like shit so people tuned him out when they saw him on TV. Kennedy goes on to appear regularly on TV like no president does again until Reagan. Nixon notably NEVER gets TV at all and goes down in a scandal that might have gone away if he cultivated any media friends.
The “Best Candidate on TV” is still a real thing and lets face it Hillary NEVER established anything like the Trump Twitter Storms. We saw Trump using his Twitter to co-opt the news. As a guy who was illegally using Rolling Stones Music in the campaign and loving it he surely knew the old saying “There’s NO Such Thing as Bad Publicity”. He sort of sucks the air out of all conversation throughout the campaign and benefits from it.
Media and Social Media are changing fast these days. Can angry septuagenarian Trump continue to stay out ahead of the curve and pre-emptively destroy conversations and derail news with his Twitter? Probably not. TV is somewhat wise to him. Now he can tweet but the media walks and chews gum at the same time.
24 Hour News now can address a brash claim and then still focus on Russia in the same 15 minutes. That 15 minutes is more than HALF of ALL news Americans would get via broadcast TV in 1970.
So how’s the Future look for Trumps popularity? Probably Not Good. Don’t write off him diving to 30% and just staying there.
Donald Trump has only one plan- That he can easily take more horribleness than anyone else and that Horribleness will likely continue on Full Display.
He is, for now still not the most Unpopular President ever and polling anomalies may be the only reason why.