The 100-day mark of the Trump presidency is approaching, and his aides are worried that the media narrative will depict his historically awful lack of accomplishments with highly unflattering levels of accuracy. But don’t tell that to President Donald Trump. He knows the real problem is that the news media won’t acknowledge how terrific the start to his presidency has actually been in comparison with his loser predecessors.
“The Fake Media (not Real Media) has gotten even worse since the election. Every story is badly slanted. We have to hold them to the truth!” Trump tweeted Monday.
A new Gallup poll out Monday, however, strongly suggests that an increasing number of Americans just don’t believe Trump’s spin about his presidency anymore. It finds that only 45 percent of Americans think Trump keeps his promises, down from 62 percent in February, an astonishing slide of 17 points.
The drop has been 11 points among Republicans and 9 points among conservatives. Meanwhile, among Americans overall, there has been a 7-point drop in those who think Trump can bring about the change this country needs, from 53 percent to 46 percent, and a 6-point drop in those who think that Trump is honest and trustworthy, from 42 percent to 36 percent.
Trump’s failure to fulfill his promises is worrying to Republicans, too. The Post reports that Republicans, eyeing the 2018 elections, are fretting that Trump has achieved “no major legislative victory,” which cuts against his promise to execute “beautiful” deals in Washington. As GOP pollster Frank Luntz puts it, Trump and Republicans must post “a record of accomplishment,” because “if you don’t, no rhetoric will fix it.” Meanwhile, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., commits full-blown heresy, warning: “We can’t blame this on Barack Obama. We have to look in the mirror.” (Can we have that in writing, Tom?)
It’s important, however, to drill down with more precision on what it really means that Trump is failing to “keep his promises.” There are several ways this is occurring, and they are distinct from one another. First, Trump is explicitly adopting policy goals that contradict black-letter promises (the GOP health-care plan that he championed would roll back coverage for 24 million people and deeply cut Medicaid, after he vowed “insurance for everybody” and promised not to cut Medicaid). Second, he is failing to unite the party to accomplish generally promised goals (Republicans have yet to pass anything that can satisfy the baseline need to be described as “repeal and replace”).
Third, other general promises may be in the process of running aground, or just disintegrating, now that the difficulties of translating them into detailed policy are proving that the original promises were unrealistic, rooted in bad faith or outright fantasies.
The travel ban is blocked in part because the true motives behind the measure — combined with the lack of any serious rationale for it — put it in legal jeopardy. Ambitious tax reform may founder due to GOP divisions over specifics. The promise of massive infrastructure spending may shrivel into an unambitious, cronyist tax-break-and-privatization scheme. The bluster about China and trade and NATO and the Export-Import Bank is all getting retracted in the face of factual reality. The vow not to touch entitlements cannot be squared with the ideological imperatives of congressional Republicans, so it has quietly been put in a drawer.
More broadly, Trump is generally moving away from the “economic populism” that was supposed to make him different from other Republicans and increasingly embracing a more-orthodox GOP governing approach (while doubling down on Trumpism’s nativism and xenophobia). Meanwhile, that approach is itself proving to have been based on unrealistic promises. (Many congressional Republicans are not actually willing to roll back coverage for millions while deeply cutting taxes for the rich, it turns out; GOP fiscal priorities are deeply unpopular, and — as I believe we will discover during the coming budgetary and tax reform debates — mathematically unworkable.)
Many pundits are ascribing a number of Trump’s recent reversals to a learning process, in which Trump is discovering that our challenges are much more complicated than he originally thought and is evolving accordingly. But as Brian Beutler points out in The New Republic, what all this really demonstrates is that the original slate of false promises and assumptions is failing him.
As my attempted taxonomy of Trump’s broken vows suggests, different groups of voters may be basing their conclusion that Trump isn’t keeping his promises on different things. But at bottom, this all originates with the increasingly undeniable reality that much of what he campaigned on was based on one sort of lie or another.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant, for The Washington Post.