The quick answer: It depends on whom you ask.
The New Yorker editor David Remnick authored a blistering takedown of Trump’s first 100 in his magazine. Laden with enough denunciations to make James Buchanan look like an effective executive, the piece captures the essence of elitist ire with the amateur commander in chief.
Remnick spares no expense in tallying up Trump’s failures, including sins from his pre-political life. Trump has always been, he bewails, an “unserious, unfocussed” buffoon with “low character” and a taste for “louche glamour.” In migrating his persona as an “unprincipled, cocky, value-free con” to the Oval Office, Trump has forever tarnished the reputation of the presidency.
To Remnick and his pretentious ilk, the Trump days are dark days, and the opaque cloud over America keeps accumulating. “For most people, the luxury of living in a relatively stable democracy is the luxury of not following politics with a nerve-racked constancy,” he writes. “Trump does not afford this.”
Remnick’s low opinion is hardly a surprise. As a member of the prestigious elite who exercise control over cultural hallmarks, the rarefied editor is horrified by Trump’s loutish talk and brash, combative demeanor. The president has long been the scourge of the moneyed, well-to-do class. That he now holds the reins of power is an unacceptable fact that, in turn, demands relentless caviling by privileged opinion-makers.
On the other side, with the benighted cranks who put a boorish billionaire behind the Resolute desk, things are still sunny. Trump maintains a commanding approval rating among his supporters. After eight years of enduring slurs of racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and downright hatred, the voters who rejected Hillary Clinton seem determined to put a positive spin on whatever action comes out of the White House.
For Remnick, this kind of thinking is untenable. Here is a president who has consistently sold out his base on the very issues he campaigned on. Trump has punted on building the wall along the Mexican border, endorsed a health-care plan that will leave the working class with less insurance coverage, welcomed an expansion of NATO, and heightened the potential for war with a handful of countries.
Why are his supporters so eager to pour favor on the man who has so far welshed on his promise to reverse course and steer America away from the “false song of globalism“?
Partisan loyalty may be part of it. But then, Trump didn”t run as an orthodox Republican. He ran on a nonideological platform emphasizing national sovereignty and solidarity; not Wall Street relief and open-borderism.
So, there’s something else behind Trump’s unwavering support.
The unctuous media coverage of his predecessor, Barack Obama, plays a big role. Throughout the previous administration’s mishaps, Obama was given ample cover. The Obamacare lie of “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” was brushed over. The deliberate withholding of tax exemption status for conservative nonprofits prior to the 2012 election elicited nary a peep. The revealing of Obama’s “kill list,” an extrajudicial process by which the president unilaterally decides to send militants to their Maker, was accepted as routine executive business.
All this and more left an indelible mark on voters who spurned Obama’s logical successor in Hillary. The free pass given was not going to be free.
But of all factors, the feeling of desperation, I think, continues to be the biggest factor behind Trump’s backing. Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan has discerned what the Trump Effect truly means more than any other major pundit. A former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and a regular on the Sunday talk circuit, Noonan is as elitist as they come. But she’s far more “woke,” as the kids say, than her insular colleagues.