If you’ve had the misfortune of following me on Facebook in recent months, my social media spam makes it quite clear than I’m not fan of Donald J. Trump. But I think I may just be turning a new leaf. After all, even I must admit that it’s quite impressive for a president-elect to reverse his position so dramatically on so many issues, before even officially occupying the Oval.
Indeed, in the fifteen days since Trump’s surprise victory, he has reversed his position on exactly fifteen campaign promises which, taken together, comprise the platform from which he launched his presidential bid. He has walked back such foundational promises as constructing a border wall and reversing the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage. More impressively, he has managed to do so without provoking a peep of criticism from his base.
If anything, he’s become even more popular since the election, with a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll indicating that 46 percent of registered voters report “a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the president-elect.”
That’s no small feat, especially when you consider that the same poll shows President Obama’s approval rating is even higher, at 54 percent. But approval ratings aside, the President can’t hold a candle to his successor when it comes to evading criticism.
Just consider some of Obama’s most steadfast supporters-turned-critics as soon as he broke a campaign promise (or at least, what they thought was a campaign promise):
- Champion of liberal intellectualism Noam Chompsky blasted Obama for his Middle East strategy, calling the administration’s drone strikes “the most extensive global terrorism campaign the world has yet seen.”
- Far-Left-Idiot-in-Chief Michael Moore went so far as to write in a New York Times op-ed that “Obamacare is awful ... [a result of] clueless planning, a lousy website, insurance companies raising rates, and the president’s telling people they could keep their coverage when, in fact, not all could...”
- Progressive darling Elizabeth Warren slammed Obama on the floor of the Senate for failing to prosecute Wall Street in the wake of the Great Recession.
Now, that's just a handful of critics and broken promises. For more, take a look at fact-checking site Politifact’s 2012 analysis of Obama’s 500+ promises made during his 2008 presidential campaign. You know what it found?
“It found,” according to a Washington Post summary of the analysis, “[that Obama] has kept 161, passed a compromised version of another 50, and has either been rebuffed by Congress or is making progress toward another 239. In only 56 cases — about 10 percent — has Obama actually broken a promise.”
Now I’m no math wiz, but it’s safe to say that 56 broken promises over the course of Obama’s first four years breaks down to an average of 14 promises broken per year. Or, roughly 0.6 promises broken per every 15 days.
By contrast, Trump has broken the aforementioned fifteen promises in his fifteen short day as president-elect.
Where are Trump's critics?
Perhaps no politician in American history has so successfully tapped into and manipulated the collective psyche of his supporters as Donald Trump. In his embodiment of what Orwell would call “double-think,” he has succeeded in forcing his supporters to accept two mutually contradictory forces: his words vs. his actions.
It’s horrifyingly impressive.
For those horrified by Trump, however, this Orwellian manipulation may be a blessing in disguise. Personally, I take solace in the fact that Trump clearly cares more about being liked than he does about being loyal—let alone honest.
The past fifteen days have proved nothing if not that Trump will say anything to curry favor, both with his supporters and his opponents.
The Trump who visited The Times was purged of any zeal to investigate Clinton’s emails or the Clinton Foundation, willing to hear out the scientists on global warming, skeptical of waterboarding and unhesitant to disavow white nationalists. He never mentioned the border wall [...] And though one of his splenetic tweets just seven hours before our meeting had again branded The Times a “failing” news organization, he said to our faces that we weren’t just a “great, great American jewel” but a “world jewel.” There was a lesson here about his desire to be approved of and his hunger to be loved. There was another about the shockingly unformed, pliable nature of the clay that is our 70-year-old president-elect.
Trump really is quite the astute performer. A puppet master with a strong grasp on his puppets and their demonstrated tendency to sway to the rythm of his empty words. As he continues to move them with his sensational rhetoric, he will also continue to appease his resolute opposition, supporting policies that contradict just about everything he says (of course, he'll aim to do so behind closed doors and far away from a mic).
This desperate approval-seeking could be a win-win for a man with so fragile an ego as Trump. It also just might be a win-win for the country, assuming those of us who bother with the policy details remain diligent in our criticism of a raging narcissist who will stop at nothing in the pursuit of praise.