So, How’s That Gaslighting Thingy Workin’ Out for Ya, Orange Man?

Titanic

This follows up on my previous post on the Trump/Hitler comparison, wherein I asked, among other things, how much the American public in 2020 resembles the German public in the 1930s.

To gain some partial insight into the question of public attitudes, let us roll the tape back to the week of March 10, the Week of the Great Pivot.

Monday, March 10-Thursday, March 13: As the need to shelter in place becomes apparent, the reality-based part of the citizenry, the Aardvarks included, begin to buy out the grocery stores.

Tuesday, March 11, 9 P.M.: Trump speaks from the White House, sounding like a person in a hostage video.

Thursday, March 13: Trump makes his first appearance at what becomes the Trump Daily Gaslighting Show.

Friday, March 14-Saturday, March 15: Trump cultists strip bare the shelves down at the local Piggly Wiggly.

Friday, March 14: signs go up at Happy Acres giving dire warnings about the dangers of venturing outside the grounds; I make a multi-week liquor run.

Now, let’s look at some polling numbers. I’m using fivethirtyeight.com’s weighted running average of all recent polls of Trump’s approval/disapproval. Disapprovers exceeded approvers throughout this period, as they have from early 2017. But the numbers do move. In the tables below, the left column shows the day and the right column shows the extent to which Trump was underwater on that day, i.e., the percentage of disapprovers minus the percentage of approvers.

Of course, each day’s weighted running average reflects the results of polls taken in previous days. So, to form some idea of the effect of the Daily Gaslighting, I begin with the rolling average as of March 15.

Date Trump Approval “Underwater” by How Many Percentage Points, in Moving Average of Recent Polls?
March 15 10.5
March 17 9.7
March 19 8.4
March 22 8.3
March 24 5.8
March 26 5.2
March 28 4.0

Thus, by March 28, the Daily Gaslighting Show was looking pretty good for the Orange Man. Over two weeks, more than six percent of the American population had changed from disapprovers to approvers. And the disapprovers now outnumbered the approvers by a mere four points. Hip Hip Hurray! The lies seemed to be working.

After March 28, however, things started moving in the other direction. And the trend became clearer as of, say, April 8, ten days ago.

Date Trump Approval “Underwater” by How Many Percentage Points, in Moving Average of Recent Polls?
March 31 4.8
April 2 4.3
April 4 4.1
April 6 4.3
April 8 5.4
April 10 6.4
April 12 6.1
April 14 7.1
April 16 7.9
April 18 8.0

It’s too early to tell, of course, but I believe history will record that, sometime between March 28 and April 8, the great social science experiment in Government by Bullshit had reached its end. Trump had fooled a lot of the people, a lot of the time, but he had lost the ability to fool enough of the people enough of the time in order to maintain any semblance of leadership.

The people tuned in, night after night after night. They wanted reliable information, they wanted to see a national plan of action, they wanted reassurance they could believe in. They got, instead, transparent, childish lies, personal grievances, and clinical narcissism delivered in incoherent stream of consciousness.

They got a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The Small Difference Between Two Large Numbers

small change

A common business-related adage holds that profit (or loss) is the small difference between two large numbers: costs and gross revenues Likewise, in American politics these days, victory or loss likewise tends to turn on the small difference between two large numbers: Republican partisans and Democratic partisans.

Two days ago, Reuters informed us that

The number of Americans who approve of President Donald Trump dropped by 3 percentage points to the lowest level of the year following the release of a special counsel report detailing Russian interference in the last U.S. presidential election, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos public opinion poll.

The poll, conducted Thursday afternoon to Friday morning, is the first national survey to measure the response from the American public after the U.S. Justice Department released Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report that recounted numerous occasions in which Trump may have interfered with the investigation.

According to the poll, 37 percent of adults in the United States approved of Trump’s performance in office, down from 40 percent in a similar poll conducted on April 15 and matching the lowest level of the year. That is also down from 43 percent in a poll conducted shortly after U.S. Attorney General William Barr circulated a summary of the report in March.

I hope that is true that Trump’s support has dropped to 37 percent; we’ll have to wait for further polling to see whether this is borne out. Maybe it will drop even a little more. Or maybe it won’t. We will just have to see.

37 percent is still an astonishingly high number, under all the circumstances.

But astonishingly high as it is, it isn’t enough to win many states in 2020.