Why Does President Trump Seem so Invincible?
American news media is under attack from “fake news” accusations from the President, and along with it, albeit inadvertently, is an attack on popular faith in the media. And in this environment, any sort of commentary that may be perceived as anti-Trump is a loss for the media and extra support for the President. In fact, early this month at a Trump rally in Tampa Bay, Florida CNN reporter Jim Acosta was forced to step down after being heckled by an agitated crowd of Trump supporters chanting, “CNN sucks! CNN sucks!” Trump, in predictable fashion, promptly approved and retweeted a viral video of the incident. Shortly after, Politico reporter Marc Caputo called Trump’s hecklers, “garbage people,” in a tweet, of which he quickly deleted and later apologized for under intense backlash. As seen in Caputo’s rapid reversal, part of Trump’s apparent invincibility to would-be publically political fumbles is due in part to Trump’s fiercely protective support base. As Democratic pollster Fred Yang puts it, “The more Trump gets criticized by the media, the more his base seems to rally behind him.” How else can this invincibility be explained and in what way has Trump rewritten the rules of political survivability?
The 2016 presidential election symbolized the current state of American affairs; representative of a polarized society, where two otherworldly candidates used everything in their toolbox to discredit the other, rather than offer more substantial policy. President Trump slandered Secretary Clinton throughout his campaign for the sudden deletion of thousands of emails, her role in the handling of the Benghazi attack, and that for her “crookedness,” she should be imprisoned. President Trump was no stranger to slander either during the campaign trail, though unlike Hilary Clinton who suffered dreadfully in her campaign when news of her misconduct became known, Trump seemed almost unfazed and unharmed after being called out for his failure to release his tax returns, criticized for his bankruptcies, his sexual affairs, and groping allegations.
Usually, such political scandals would cost politicians their careers. We need not look any further than President Bill Clinton‘s sex scandal with Monica Lewinsky when it surfaced in 1998 and his subsequent impeachment, or President Richard Nixon’s involvement in Watergate in the early 1970s — both of which led to the overnight destruction of both men’s reputation.
Likewise, President Trump has had his fair share of reputation-shattering scandals. The difference, though, is that he seems immune. Recent revelations about his misdoings with porn actresses, or suspicious meetings with dictators or traditional enemies, and now apparently tape recordings allegedly revealing collusion with Russians, should make most of us question his credibility as the most powerful man in the world, but for some reason, it doesn’t do all that much damage. In the face of such gaffes, why, then, is he enjoying a relatively stable approval rating? Why does the media seem to empower him instead of discrediting him, despite his continuous and numerous blunders?
Answer: He is predictable in his unpredictability.
Despite his most recent misconduct, most notably his scandalous affiliations with porn actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model, Karen McDougal, his humiliation in Helsinki, and Michael Cohen’s apparent secret recordings, his approval rating is steady, if not rising. According to the Rasmussen Report which tracks presidential approval ratings daily, as of today, August 14, 2018, President Trump’s approval rating is at 50 percent compared to when it was 44 percent last month. As of July 23rd, just after he had finished his summit with Putin, polls found that his approval rating among Republicans reached an all-time high at 88 percent, with 53 percent of them approving of his more than questionable behaviour in Finland last month.
The fact of the matter is that we have come to accept Trump’s unpredictability as the norm. It is the systematic desensitization of the public to his continuous political blunders that enforces his inculpability and immunity to criticism. The more the news media critiques, the more Trump is seen as “doing his job.”
Jim Acosta, of CNN, as pictured speaking at a campaign rally for Donald Trump in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was heckled early this month, amidst chants of “CNN sucks!” Photo by Gage Skidmore.
The unfortunate truth is, Trump is already shady, and so throwing more shade onto him won’t make him any shadier than he already is. Moreover, many of his supporters are willing to look well past his list of flaws — which, in and of itself, is an ironically attractive point of differentiation from more conventional political opponents. For some, he bears the charm of an antihero; knowing that Trump isn’t all that different than a flawed every-man makes it easier for people to worship him and harder for those who try to frame him as just that. His aggressiveness is attractive to supporters, not to mention. It is why we fall so easily in love with characters who fall somewhere in between the likes of a villain and a hero; Rick Grimes, Walter White, Batman, Severus Snape, and Captain Jack Sparrow. Of course, I’m not suggesting that President Trump is a zombie-slaying-Death Eater-Pirate, but simply that his controversial character and unpredictability was known well before his rise to the presidency and very much an unquestioned norm.
Any further attempts to criticize, discredit or slander President Trump remains unfortunately futile and backfiring and as aforementioned, his supporters are right there with him. He now seems to thrive in his invincibility, having eliminated the fourth estate as a credible
check on democracy foe.
Jake G. Provencher is an Education student at McGill University.
Edited by Shirley Wang.