Paul Krugman made a short but not insignificant point a few days ago on his Twitter:
Points 1 and 2 are fairly uncontroversial and are more or less reasonable enough to go along with. One reason I’m not 100% convinced that Bernie Sanders would have won against Trump (at least not in the large numbers many progressive pushers claimed he would have) is precisely what Krugman says: they saw Trump transfer the alpha male persona he played on The Apprentice to Republican debates and campaign rallies and thought it was the real deal. That the scripted reality show portrayed him as a tough-talking, wildly successful, no-nonsense businessman lent credibility to the idea in his supporters’ minds that his supposed negotiation skills could translate to dealing with Washington politicians and bureaucrats—or, more likely, that his bravado would help him steamroll over them in order to get shit done.
(It should also be mentioned that several of Sanders’ proposals were also seemingly impossible—single payer, free higher education, and tough regulation of Wall Street. How much Sanders supporters actually believed he could achieve those goals is another matter entirely. And not that I take Trump supporters seriously, but they enjoyed passing around the saying “Trump detractors take him literally but not seriously; supporters take him seriously but not literally.” Beyond not knowing what taking someone “seriously but not literally” means, the chants of “lock her up” and “build the wall” often heard at Trump rallies suggests that, no, his supporters do take him literally.)
But the “death spiral” graphic is less convincing. Yes, at a little more than two months in we’re already seeing Trump hit historic lows in approval ratings for a new administration:
Unlike Krugman, I don’t think low approval ratings are what will keep Trump from getting stuff done; his incompetence and the incompetence of the people surrounding him so far have largely been the reason why he’s failed at everything so far. And even an inability to get anything done hasn’t proved to be evidence that his supporters will abandon him. Even through two failed immigration bans, a failed repeal of Obamacare, a failure to replace it, an ongoing investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, and zero major legislation moved, he’s somehow duped his base into believing he’s “getting stuff done.” The most he’s accomplished is getting congress to open an investigation as to whether Obama wiretapped Trump Towers after he went off on one of his Twitter tirades.
The Trump death spiral depends on the results of the Russia investigation, which may go on for who knows how long, and whether his clout with “independent” voters (ie, closet Republicans). Without that, he remains an unpopular president whose rabid base give him a floor tough to fall through. Only if he abandons their idea of “true conservatism” (white nationalism, militarism), of if his media cheerleaders can no longer defend him, might he start to lose that core.