“It’s the economy, stupid.” – James Carville
“Anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever is either a madman or an economist.” – Kenneth E. Boulding
We accept some statements as truisms … until they aren’t.
Carville’s proclamation has been the mantra of every presidential campaign since Clinton’s first win. The assumption has been that if Americans are seeing more money in their pockets, an improving economy and a soaring stock market – that these markers would serve as indicators of a successful presidency. Campaigns are based around these ‘kitchen table’ issues. Whether these measures are a continuation of the Obama administration or purely the result of the self-declared ‘genius’ Dealmaker in Chief, it’s clear they are being achieved.
Unemployment is the lowest in 17 years. The stock market is reaching toward heavenly heights. Corporate profits are at record highs. It has yet to be determined whether voters will see the pittance added to their paychecks from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act as a life-changer, but it’s clear the economy generally is booming…well, minus the increase in homelessness and poverty – but those things don’t count.
It’s simplistic to think that the causes of these changes won’t have long term effects. Gutting regulations impacts consumers, the environment, health, safety, education and much more. But it seems many voters are willing to trade possible negative consequences in the future for a strong economy now.
So Trump should be one of the most popular Presidents in the history of the Republic. Instead he is the most disliked and reviled.
Trump’s approval numbers are continuing to stagnate at the lowest approval rating of any first term modern presidency. Depending on the poll, between 35 to 39% approve of his job performance while 57% disapprove. His numbers have remained static since he was elected. ABC News has been tracking public attitudes towards Trump since he rode down the escalator and they’ve observed what we already know– that he’s a polarizing figure – he’s loved or hated with little in between. When a random nationwide sample was asked to describe him using one word, the most common response was “incompetent” followed by “arrogant,” “idiot,” “unqualified,” “racist,” “liar” and “narcissistic.” Some responses were unprintable. Only two of the top ten were positive and these were “great,” and “strong.” A recent poll of registered voters conducted by Suffolk University-USA Today showed 64% of those polled viewed Trump as setting the country on the wrong track.
Guess a booming economy isn’t everything. But here’s a truism to consider: “What goes up, must come down.” And that brings us to the second quotation at the beginning of the article. Does anyone believe that a 1000 point rise in the Dow in less than 2 weeks is sustainable? What happens when the consequences of rollbacks in consumer protection, the environment, financial services, health and safety, and education hit home? What happens to the stock market when disaster strikes because a regulation was eliminated? What happens when children are denied the special education services needed to be successful? What happens when a pipeline bursts and water becomes toxic? Trump is taking full credit for the record markets; will he take responsibility for the inevitable consequences, not to mention the ‘correction’ or crash?
It’s clear that when it comes to this president, the status of the economy is not a factor increasing his approval ratings. Why? What’s missing? What means more to voters than a booming economy?
The answer is that it all has to do with character. Lincoln Park Strategies and Group Solver Inc. conducted a study about what voters want in a president; included were Republicans, Democrats and Independents. Regardless of party affiliation, all three groups valued the same top characteristics: honesty, leadership, intelligence, trustworthiness and integrity. They valued them in somewhat different order but they were seen by all three groups as critical. And it’s these character traits that this president lacks, as shown in the ABC News Poll discussed earlier. Thomas Carlyle said that “the greatest of faults is to be conscious of none.” Here, at last, Trump finally excels.
So it appears that a rising economy isn’t as important to voters as being a mensch…a good and decent person of intelligence and character whose word you trust and who demonstrates the values you hope to see in your kids and grandkids. While one can disagree on issues, there has never been a president in recent history who lacked so much in terms of character. It’s as if, for Trump, none of these things matter or even exist. But what is so incongruous is that they also don’t seem to matter to his supporters. The same actions that would never be tolerated in anyone else, Trump supporters either ignore or excuse. And that’s a conundrum.
Here’s a truism: there are still some things money cannot buy. Turns out they’re the most important things. It’s striking that as much money as Trump has, he cannot buy what is really, ultimately, the most important: respect.
Villager Marsha Shearer is a frequent contributor to Villages-News.com
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