If anyone hasn’t noticed, Republicans continue to support the most dangerous president this country has ever seen. And this weekend’s letter by William Barr, appointed by President Trump as Attorney General, essentially absolving Mr. Trump of any crimes of Russian collusion and obstruction of justice, is no exception to his ongoing support. This horrific nightmare of historic proportions continues as the President will most assuredly attempt to punish people who question his power. It seems astonishing, at first glance, that anyone who is so ignorant, impetuous, narcissistic, dishonest, flawed, and racist could continue to command the support of so many Americans. He does and it is not an insignificant number, either. In the most recent Gallup polls, Republicans still support this madman with 90% of the vote, even though his job approval rating has been around 39% for the general population.
My initial instinct in viewing these numbers is to assume this 90% base of support was changing. I assumed that while 90% of Republicans support President Trump, they must be shrinking in overall numbers, given his incompetence and the recent investigations of his Russian ties. In the Gallup Poll from last month, however, the number of people identifying as Republicans has stayed the same at around 30% in February 2019. This is roughly the same percentage of people self-reporting as Republicans in 2004 at the beginning of this Gallup survey.
I then thought that perhaps more independents were leaning toward Democratic candidates. That is wrong too, as that number is not radically different either. And then finally, the coup de grace came when I looked at previous numbers for presidential approval ratings after two years in office. Nearly all presidents have had about the same approval rating at some point in their presidency as this pathetic individual. However, it is fascinating to note that Trump has never polled above 43% in a Gallup Poll, which is unique for any president since polling was starting during the Truman years. Even Nixon polled as high as 65% at one point in his presidency. Conversely, President George W Bush polled as low as 25% and Richard Nixon was as low 24% in his final years as president. President Trump has never been that low.
Many believe that this President is supported by a flawed, racist base. Hillary Clinton called them “a basket of deplorables.” I think the numbers speak volumes as to where public perception is of President Trump. One could definitely argue he is divisive and he is making his own supporters less tolerant of Democratic and liberal views and alternatively he is making Democrats and liberals less tolerant of Republican and conservative views. Even a congressman from Iowa, Representative Steve King, came out with a peremptory tweet arguing for a civil war between Republicans and Democrats. This polarization is not just happening in the United States, but it is happening worldwide. There is a polarization and a new, crude discourse that has overtaken our public offices. Why and why now?
As I have pointed out in my book The Supercivilization: Survival in the Era of Human Versus Human, we are at a unique point in human history. We have a declining resource base, transparent disparities in wealth and an exponentially increasing interconnectedness as a species. Nature-induced problems are declining and human-induced problems are taking over our world, our psyche, and hence our political agendas. We are mad at others who conflict with our preconceived notions of our ideal world, even if they are our next door neighbors. Before the 21st century, we viewed our biggest threats as coming from nature, not other humans. Today, we are less bound and huddled in togetherness by similar bogeyman universally affecting all of us Americans such as disease, weather, Soviet domination, and various unknown unknowns. These unknown unknowns of the past bound us together to propel us into fighting them successfully, as we sought comfort in unity. They were the social glue that forced us to work together. And indeed we were so successful we created one mass of an interconnected humanity that is fighting itself and rarely the problems coming from nature any longer.
Today, our biggest threat is ourselves. The polarization is an obvious result. We identify less as Americans and more with ideologies, given our increased interconnectedness. Our “beloved” nation-state, yes even the once powerful United States, is in decline because our borders that separate us from others (sorry Donald) is evaporating. The isolated nation-state’s functioning is becoming radically outdated as we try to deal with international problems (e.g. terrorists, drug cartels, immigration, climate change) using isolated, national solutions. Or in some cases, such as climate change, we ignore the problems and pretend they don’t exist to remain in our pretentious cocoon “safe from the outside world of other crazy people.” We don’t know what to do about these problems and a demagogue named Donald Trump stepped in to support our fairy-tale notion that the United States needs to remain isolated by building border walls to stay “safe.” Many of us like him because he tells us what we want to hear, based upon preconceived notions and not sound science. The optimal functioning of an isolated government based on geography (as crafted by the Treaty of Westphalia several centuries ago) is in decline, because, today, ideas separate people, not geography. People who support Donald Trump want an America of the 20th century and that is why he is here to stay—at least for the next few years. The problem is that everything could come tumbling down quickly in what I call a synergistic catastrophe, due to one major issue: climate change. If Donald Trump continues to live as President ingratiating himself with his own reality, humans will not be able to resolve 21st century problems. We need a leader who will face reality, not one who will attempt to conveniently create it.