What are the implications, nationally and internationally?
Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org
U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest job-approval rating in Gallup’s latest poll (which was taken during “Sep 18-24, 2017”), is 38%.
Gallup also posts there the relevant comparisons with the 9 other U.S. Presidents, since the time of Eisenhower:
Other elected presidents in September of first year:
Barack Obama 52% Sep 2009
George W. Bush 76% Sep 2001
Bill Clinton 50% Sep 1993
George H.W. Bush 70% Sep 1989
Ronald Reagan 52% Sep 1981
Jimmy Carter 57% Sep 1977
Richard Nixon 59% Sep 1969
John Kennedy 79% Sep 1961
Dwight Eisenhower 61% Sep 1953
That’s an average of 62%, for those nine Presidents. Coincidentally, Trump’s 38% job-approval is exactly equal to the 38% average of non-approval which was scored by Trump’s predecessors, ever since the time of Eisenhower.
The political-party breakdown of Trump’s 38% job-Approval is 82% approval from Republicans, 8% approval from Democrats, and 35% approval from Independents.
During 20-29 January 2017, which was Trump’s first week, that was 89% from Republicans, 13% from Democrats, and 42% from Independents.
So, the changes since that time have been Republicans 82%/89% = down 8%, Democrats 8%/13% = down 38%, and Independents 35%/42% = down 17%.
Trump has thus lost from each of the three political categories, but especially from Democrats, secondarily from Independents, and least of all from his fellow-Republicans.
Whatever Trump is doing, is only decreasing, instead of increasing, his likelihood of winning in 2020 against whomever will be the candidate from the Democratic Party; and, so, the likelihood of his having a second term is very low, and not only because Trump’s job-approval-rating is by far the lowest of any President in at least modern times, but also because the trend has been downward instead of upward. That combination, of record-low job-approval, plus the trend being for him to go even lower, suggests that, even if the Democrats nominate an extremely bad candidate again for the Presidency, the next President will be extremely likely to be a Democrat. (It has become, in America, a choice between two bads.)
However, if the Democratic candidate were to be Hillary Clinton, then Trump might actually win, yet again. On 18 July 2017, Bloomberg bannered “Finally, a Poll Trump Will Like: Clinton Is Even More Unpopular” and reported that their latest poll, conducted during July 8-12 by the highly reliable Selzer & Co., showed a Trump job-approval of 41%, versus an approval of Ms. Clinton of only 39%, which remained remarkably close between them. Although during the campaign, Ms. Clinton was extremely popular with America’s billionaires and centi-millionaires (and received far higher donations from them than Trump did), she was almost as unpopular amongst the public as Trump was, on Election Day, 8 November 2016. In fact, although she won the popular vote nationwide on Election Day by a margin of 2,868,691 votes, that was only because her win of California was by a stupendous margin of 4,269,978 votes, so that, except for California, Trump beat her by the margin of 1,401,287 votes in the other 49 states. In other words, if the U.S. Presidency had been determined by the popular vote, then Clinton would have become President solely because she had won California by a stupendous margin, a margin that was more than three times as large as was Trump’s margin of victory in all of the other 49 states collectively. The voters in California would have chosen the President for all of America if the popular vote had determined the outcome, though she lost the rest of the country.
But both of the two political Parties had selected, as their candidate, individuals who were widely loathed by the American public. The only two candidates who were in the political primaries and who polled net-positive approval-ratings amongst the total American electorate, were Bernie Sanders, who scored extremely positively, and John Kasich, who scored slightly positively (and this had even been true during the primaries) — but all other candidates were more despised than respected by the American people, and each of the two Parties selected a nominee from the most-despised category of contenders, to end up running against each other in the final contest. And, yet, America calls itself a ‘democracy’. This makes no sense — it’s no democracy when the candidates who are the most-preferred by the public don’t even get to contest against each other in the final election, despite any claim that might be put forth to constituting a ‘democracy’. It’s instead a rigged system. If the public’s will had determined the U.S. President, then the contest would have been between Sanders and Kasich, and Sanders would almost certainly have won. Furthermore, Morning Consult published in September 2016 the findings from their massive scientific sampling of 72,000 registered voters throughout the country, and headlined “How Voters Feel About Their Senators Ahead of Election Day” and presented there the approval-ratings of each one of the 100 U.S. Senators, by the registered voters in their state. The top rating, an astounding 87%, went to Sanders of Vermont; the second-ranked Senator, at 69%, was Susan Collins of Maine — an 18% drop (and the drops, below that, averaged less than 1%, on down to the very bottom, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, at 35%). Sanders also had, even more overwhelmingly, the highest net approval-rating (approval minus disapproval), at 75%; the second-highest there was Senator John Thune of South Dakota, at 51%.
America’s recent history, at least in the past few decades (and getting successively worse during that time) is as a country which has remarkably low job-approval for its national leaders, and this includes its President.
The Washington Post reported, on 5 July 2016, based on “Media reports,” the following figures for the job-approval-ratings of heads-of-state in a number of countries:
On 6 March 2016, the Washington Post bannered, “How to understand Putin’s jaw-droppingly high approval ratings”, and opened, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has an 83 percent approval rating.” It found a way to blame Russian culture for this: In conversation with a Russian official who advises Putin, the WP reporter managed to quote (with no follow-up as to what he actually meant), “How can you understand what to do if you can’t understand the people?” This wasn’t taken by that reporter as a favorable reflection upon the Russian people. Yet, the article did not blame pollsters for Putin’s high rating: “The Kremlin is so ratings-conscious that it frequently commissions polls on the same topics from several firms simultaneously, pollsters said.” And, besides: “It is a development that has flummoxed Western nations and frustrated Russia’s motley band of oppositionists. Some of them say that Russians are too scared to speak their minds to pollsters. Others claim that the poll numbers are manipulated, although most Western polling firms arrive at similar figures.” It linked there to the Pew figures, which concerned only Russians’ satisfaction-level with Putin’s international policies, and which showed “Nearly nine-in-ten (88%) also express confidence in his ability to handle international affairs.” While the Pew survey asked questions about Russians’ satisfaction with the nation’s domestic affairs, no approval-rating for Putin was published by Pew on those matters — only the Kremlin itself, apparently, did that. But why would a ‘dictatorship’ be so concerned to satisfy the public? Isn’t that supposed to be the way a democracy is?
U.S. President Trump’s recent job-approval ratings range around 40%, with around 53% disapproval. At this time in his predecessor’s, Barack Obama’s, Presidency, it was closer to around 60% approval, 30% disapproval. No American President in modern times has had above 80% job-approval, except for George W. Bush, immediately after the 9/11 attacks (which resulted from his failure, or worse), and his father, immediately after the 1991 “Gulf War” forced Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait (which U.S. involvement was based not only on Saddam’s invasion but on U.S. lies, including the “Nurse Nayirah” hoax). Each of those two peaks above 80% was fleeting; Putin’s scoring above 80% is routine for him, because it’s based on his long-term performance, not on lies.
Furthermore, in terms of the performance of Russia’s economy under Putin, the results have been surprisingly higher than the forecasts, not only recently, but even before the economic sanctions were placed against Russia.
If a nation’s leader’s doing what that nation’s public wants that leader to do is a reflection of the degree to which that nation is a democracy, then a person would be hard-pressed to say that the U.S. is a ‘democracy’, and to say that Russia isn’t — unless that person is a propagandist for the U.S. government, of course (since no dictatorship calls itself a dictatorship; they’re all ‘democratic’).
But there’s a national head-of-state who is even more highly approved of by the national public than Russia’s Putin is. The Diplomat headlined on 20 December 2014, “The World’s Most Popular Leader: China’s President Xi” and reported that, “The Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation co-sponsored a survey on global perceptions of international leaders. The results, released this month, were based on polls of citizens in 30 countries around the world, who were asked about their familiarity with and approval of 10 world leaders. According to the survey, Chinese President Xi Jinping had the highest approval rating, both at home and abroad. Xi earned a composite 8.7 rating (out of 10), beating Russian President Vladimir Putin (8.1) for the top spot. Both Putin and Xi had astonishingly high domestic approval ratings, with Xi at 9 out of 10 and Putin at 8.7 (for comparison, U.S. President Barack Obama scored 6.2).” The survey ranking heads-of-state was carried out in 10 countries, and here were the ten leaders and their approval-score by that person’s fellow-nationals (as shown in the study’s “Figure Four”): Xi, 9.0. Putin, 8.7. Modi, 8.6. Zuma, 7.0. Merkel, 6.7. Rousseff, 6.3. Obama, 6.2. Abe, 6.0. Cameron, 5.5. Hollande, 4.8. Remarkably, Brazil’s President Rousseff had immediately preceded Temer there, and became impeached by Temer’s party, with assistance from the U.S. CIA, under Obama. According to this measure (citizens’ approval-disapproval of their national leader), Brazil transformed, from possibly a democracy, to a clear dictatorship, virtually overnight. A coup can do that (and routinely does: as happened in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Honduras, Ukraine, Brazil, etc.).
Since almost every national Government calls itself a ‘democracy’ (for example, the official name of North Korea is: ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’), the time might have arrived when numerical measures, instead of nationalistic propaganda and deceptive ’news’media, become the standard by which “democracy” and “dictatorship” are applied to national governments. One way of carrying this out would be to call Russia an extremely democratic nation because its leader has an extremely high job-approval rating, and to call Brazil an extreme dictatorship because its leader (Temer) has an extremely low one. In that measure (approval by the public), today’s America would be a dictatorship, but not as much of one as is Brazil or France.
A different measure would be to use the percentage of population in prisons, as the criterion. The nation with the world’s highest percentage of its population in prison is the United States. Only tiny Seychelles, whose total population is under 100,000 and which holds other countries’ convicts in its prisons, is technically the worst. U.S. has 693 prisoners per 100,000 population, whereas Seychelles has 799 per 100,000. The lowest is Central African Republic, at 16 per 100,000. The per-capita annual income there is $400. Others on the extremely low side include Japan at 47, Sudan at 50, and Sweden at 53. China was somewhere between 118 and 164. Saudi Arabia, which is such a dictatorship that it’s owned by the royal family, supposedly has 161. Second-highest after U.S. was St. Kitts & Nevis, at 607. Third-highest, Turkmenistan, at 583. Fourth-highest, U.S. Virgin Islands, at 542. Fifth-highest, El Salvador, at 541. Sixth-highest, Cuba, 510. Seventh-highest, Guam, 469. Eighth-highest, Russia, 450. Perhaps some of the figures at the lower end are fictitious. But maybe even at the higher end, the figures are unrealistically low. Perhaps all of the figures are low-balled.
The best way to categorize democracy-versus-dictatorship might be a mixture, and formula, combining multiple measures, and providing different weights to each, but certainly the leader’s job-approval-rating by the citizenry should count rather high, and the imprisonment-ratio should also be included, though the counting-system needs to be uniformized. (How can a country with a high imprisonment-rate even be a ‘democracy’? Isn’t that instead a police-state?) But, also, clearly, a nation can change from being a democracy to being a dictatorship, or vice-versa, very quickly. The idea that these two categories — democracy versus dictatorship — are stationary is ridiculous, even if that belief is normal. (Propaganda makes it normal; and, where propaganda itself is the most normal, dictatorship is the hidden reality, because a democracy without an honest press-institution, is a contradiction in terms. Honesty of the press is a prerequisite for any democracy. A democracy can’t even function with a dishonest press. Honesty of the press is taken for granted, but it’s rare.)
Unless and until reliable numerical measures of where a nation stands along the spectrum between democracy and dictatorship are established, no nation’s claim to be a ‘democracy’ can be accepted as constituting anything other than propaganda. Propaganda is supposed to be only an instrument to fool populations during wartime; but, perhaps in a world of permanent war for permanent peace, there is dictatorship, more or less, everywhere, and the reality is increasingly becoming dictatorships warring against one-another, in that world of lies, a world which starts with such phrases as ‘Defense Department’ having replaced a predecessor such as the far more honest “War Department.” In a world of lies, it becomes normal for publics increasingly to despise their governments, and maybe this is what is actually happening.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.