Americans eventually tire of the presidents they elect. The political skills that fuel the rise of Roosevelts, Reagans and Obamas always seem to lose their allure over time as the promise of “Morning in America” and “Hope and Change” devolves into the cynicism of “Been There, Done That.”
Lyndon Johnson won in a landslide in 1964 but was pushed out of office four years later. Ronald Reagan breezed to reelection by winning 49 states in 1984, but two years later his power of persuasion was gone. In 1986, the Great Communicator couldn’t persuade voters living through the last days of the Cold War to support anti-communist allies in Central America. Even in the afterglow of Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection, the biggest political star in the world couldn’t pass gun reforms that 90 percent of Americans supported following the Sandy Hook massacre.
President Donald Trump is, of course, the most radical example of this negative political phenomenon. Seven months into his maniacal presidency, Trump is driving his approval ratings to record lows and causing friends and foes alike to experience premature presidential fatigue.
Former allies on the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and Washington Examiner now criticize Trump for leadership failures and his abuse of power. Republicans on Capitol Hill more frequently call out the president’s aberrant behavior. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., questions the president’s ability to survive. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questions Trump’s stability.
By now, the president’s low poll numbers rarely raise an eyebrow. Newspapers have repeated ad nauseam that Trump is saddled with the worst approval ratings in U.S. history at this stage of his presidency. But this week, those lame approval ratings collapsed to a new low of 34 percent. A Fox News poll released Wednesday found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans believe Trump’s presidency is “tearing America apart.” And only 20 percent of younger voters now support the 71-year-old former reality television star.
And even Trump’s famously forgiving base is growing tired of the commander in chief’s reckless routine. Trump supporters in a Pittsburgh focus group talked about how their patience with the petulant president was reaching an exhausting end. “Everybody knew he was a nut, but there comes a point in time where you need to become professional. He’s not even professional let alone presidential. Chill out, man,” was a woman’s advice. Another Trump supporter said that Trump’s manic need to dominate news cycles was driving him crazy. “He’s on the television all the time.” Another weary supporter said, “He’s such an incredibly flawed individual who has articulated many of the values that I hold dear and the messenger is overwhelming the message.”
That focus group sounded a lot like recent phone calls I had with friends in Pensacola, Florida, and Birmingham, Alabama, who have been Trump supporters from the start. Not long ago, most were telling me that I needed to back off the president and give him a chance to succeed. But after Charlottesville, Virginia, that began to change. One friend after another tells me they have had enough of Trump’s self-destructive behavior and are tired of the president being his own worst enemy. Like the focus group, my Republican friends are growing impatient with the man they once believed could change Washington and make America great again.
The president keeps bleeding support, Democrats remain rudderless, Washington is still gridlocked, and the problems that propelled Trump to the presidency are getting worse. From Pittsburgh to Pensacola, many Trump voters would prefer a leader who stops attacking allies, stays off Twitter and lets Congress get something done before Democrats retake control.
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, hosts the MSNBC show “Morning Joe.”