Remember the time when Donald Trump’s presidency wasn’t ridden with scandals and political squabbles? Neither does anyone.
Trump has been in damage control mode since his election, and he will spend his 74th birthday putting out flares on several fronts as well.
The coronavirus pandemic and nationwide, racially-charged protests have marked the biggest crises of his administration so far, but Trump still appears dauntless despite some wavering in his usually stable public support.
The reason for his optimism is a relentless divide-and-conquer strategy. Trump may be one of the most criticised US presidents of all time, but he has managed to use that criticism to his benefit with the help of culture war messaging and appeals to the voters frustrated by the racial liberalism of the white establishment.
Pastor Mark Burns, an evangelical pastor based in South Carolina, believes the first reason so many people support Trump despite so many controversies surrounding his name is his “amazing ability to boost the economy” and his advocacy for Christian values.
Burns says that Christians and evangelicals, Trump’s largest voting bloc, also support him the most because of his “strong stance on religious freedom”.
Trump has made an unusually high number of judicial appointments, doing nearly as much to reshape courts as Obama did in two full terms. In particular, he has replaced a third of all active circuit court judges and two Supreme Court justices, a policy that is set to tip the judicial system toward stronger conservatism for decades.
“This was the number one reason why Christians and evangelicals across the country supports Donald Trump,” adds Burns, a former congressional candidate who supported Trump in 2016. “His promise to place conservative Supreme Court justices on the bench on the nation's highest court and to push and support religious freedoms in this nation.”
Bellicose but charismatic
Trump filed the paperwork for this year’s re-election campaign the day after his inauguration in January 2017 and has effectively turned his Twitter account and press conferences into campaign platforms.
“Trump’s ability to arouse and engage the public directly, supplemented by his overly charismatic character saw him win the historic 2016 US presidential elections,” says political commentator Kinuthia Pius.
The president’s biggest personality strengths are his “confident assertiveness and personal charisma,” he adds. “His major personality shortcomings are of a temperamental nature and a lack of emotional restraint and self-discipline, along with the propensity for a superficial grasp of complex issues and a predisposition to be easily bored by routine.”
The art of the deal
Routine was perhaps the biggest casualty of Trump’s presidency. And while blatant disregard for political etiquette and never-ending attacks on his critics – a true sign of the era – have scored him some points on home turf, his shake-up of international arrangements has arguably fared much worse.
Trump pulled the United States out of multiple crucial agreements and institutions “in the name of going it alone in a world increasingly defined by global challenges that can best be met through collective action,” Pius notes.
Some, but not all, of the withdrawals were those from the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, the INF Treaty and Open Skies Treaty with Russia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, UNESCO, and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The art of (quitting a supposedly bad) deal has alienated many US allies and added unreliability to Washington’s foreign policy. Says Pius: “For friends and allies, these sudden withdrawals give them the room to question their decision to place their security in America’s hands.”
But however important foreign policy may be, voters typically pay much more attention to domestic affairs. The chaos of this year has only amplified that trend, and polls show that approval of Trump has declined in the past weeks versus would-be Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“Trump is a master of comebacks,” Pius concludes. “His ability to go negative against his competitors is an added advantage. Moreover, Trump voters are more enthusiastic about their choice than Biden supporters. And this has emboldened Trump. He might be re-elected.”
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.