Jonathan Chait recently made an excellent point.
It is not just a morbid joke but a legitimate problem for the opposition that all the bad news about Trump keeps getting obscured by other bad news about Trump. Perhaps the extraordinary civic unrest his presidency has provoked will be enough to give Democrats a historic win in the midterms this fall, but it is easy to be worried. Trump’s approval rating hovers in the low 40s: lower than the average of any other president, yes, but seemingly impervious to an onslaught of scandals that would have sunk any other president, and within spitting range of reelectability.
As the races pick up in earnest, some kind of narrative focus is going to be necessary to frame the case against Trump. Here, what appears to be an embarrassment of riches for Democrats may in fact be a collection of distractions. It is depressingly likely that several of Trump’s most outrageous characteristics will fail to move the needle in the states and districts where the needle needs moving.
Every time a new shoe drops on a Trump scandal, you can literally feel the expectation that this will finally be the one that convinces his supporters that he is unfit for office. But it never happens and, as Chait suggested, pretty soon the bad news story gets obscured by yet another bad news story. That’s what has so many of us feeling like we’re in a nightmare where a large portion of Americans continue to support a president who not only poses a danger to our democracy, but to the entire globe.
There will always be hardcore support for Trump—that can be expected in a country as large and diverse as the United States. But the fact that Trump’s approval rating continues to hover in the 40 percent range is appalling. Is there anything that could chip away at that? I see both good news and bad news on that front.
When it comes to good news, the one frame of reference for me is that my father, a staunch conservative Republican, continued his support for Richard Nixon through all of the revelations about his lies, corruption and obstruction of justice. In the end, dad finally abandoned him when the Oval Office tapes were published in book form because he couldn’t abide the frequency with which the president swore. That is a great example of why it is so hard to predict what, if anything, might impact Trump supporters. They don’t operate from the same set of expectations that guide Democrats when determining who is fit for office. If there ever comes a moment when the president’s approval numbers take a significant dive, the cause will probably be something that comes as a surprise to the rest of us.
On the bad news front, the one thing that Trump has that Nixon didn’t is the huge right-wing media network that acts as a propaganda mill for the president. They are prepared to ignore significant stories, attack sources and distract their audiences with conspiracy theories in order to protect the president from scandal. If Trump is able to avoid a tipping point where his supporters abandon him, that will likely be the single most significant contributor.