Tuesday, June 2, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He made an interesting historical reference.

Today, Trump tweeted this:

Trump was 23 years old in November 1969 when then-President Richard Nixon asked for the support of the "silent majority" of Americans for his Vietnam War policy. Nixon's political strategy was to contrast active antiwar protestors and other elements of the counterculture with voters who were at least potentially receptive to his plan to exit the war by turning responsibility for it back to South Vietnamese forces.

Assuming he understood (or wrote) his own reference, Trump was presumably trying to suggest that a similar "silent majority" could be found in the United States today.

The problem is that Nixon was actually correct about the national mood supporting his policies, and Trump is not

A Gallup poll taken after Nixon's speech showed 77% of Americans surveyed were willing to back Nixon's Vietnam strategy. Trump is nowhere near as popular as Nixon was at the time. Nixon's approval rating was 56% before the speech, and after Americans heard him outline a detailed plan to end the war, it rose to 67%. 

More to the point, Trump's policies are even less popular, especially on the subject of the recent protests. A CBS poll released today showed that far more Americans disapproved of Trump's response to the protests. (Only 32% approved.) And that poll was taken before the incredible spectacle that unfolded yesterday, when Trump attempted to project toughness by ordering military police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at peaceful protestors across the street from the White House. 

Even some of Trump's strongest supporters were bothered by the sight of a military response to a lawful protest, and his subsequent posing for pictures. Trump's decision to inject himself into the debate about police violence against black Americans is driving voters to Joe Biden, who leads by an average of 6% in recent national head-to-head polls. 

Ironically, Trump himself does not appear to have been in Nixon's "silent majority." While he never actively protested the war, he did go to extraordinary lengths to make sure he wouldn't have to fight in it.

Why does this matter?

  • Just yelling that you or your ideas are popular doesn't make it true.
  • Tweeting about something isn't the same as doing something about it.