A coup's in the works, the far Right is saying, with the ‘deep state,' the press, and of course the establishment trying to silence the voice of the people. Trump won, as they say, and all should accept it, and stop trying to get him to act like a rational person. They should realize the people have spoken and treat him with reverence.
But somehow it feels there's a flaw in this story. Before they go on, let us ask them a question: Does an approval rating of 38 percent and still falling sound like the ‘voice of the people' to you?
That's where Trump stands in the recent polls taken, which show a slow, steady slide from his highs when elected. (Those highs were, by most standards, low.) Most new presidents manage to hit above fifty, finish a few points above, not below, their opponent, and manage to realize that public approval is not a fixed, but a mutable thing.
Let us remember that Richard M. Nixon enjoyed an approval rating of 68 percent in the Gallup poll the January after he won re-election after a truly historic electoral blowout. He fell to 48 percent that same April, to 44 percent in May and in June, to 39 percent in July, 36 percent in August, 33 percent in September, and 27 percent in October that year. A year after his landslide win, the country couldn't wait to get rid of him. Should the verdict of November 1972 been frozen in time as new revelations ate into his credibility? The question should answer itself.
In the recent election, there were signs from the start that whoever won would emerge as an unpopular figure, elected at best as the least of two evils, whose cushion of public support would be thin. In an obituary that spring, a man wrote that his late wife, faced with a choice between Trump and Clinton, had opted for heaven instead.
Those who lived on would cast their votes grudgingly and choose by their lights the least of two evils, many Trump voters calling their choice rude, crude, and temperamentally unfit to hold office but finding Hillary's mixture of arrogance, greed, and sanctimonious preaching a little too toxic to take. In the very last week voters who didn't want either broke for Trump by more than a two-to-one margin, which means he was elected by people who don't really like him, which means their connection to him always was dubious. In the three hundred swing counties where his lead over Hillary was in single digits, his approval ratings are in the mid-30's. If the election were yesterday, would he win again?
Nixon's removal wasn't a ‘coup' that begins at the pinnacle, but an unrest that starts at a much lower level, and by gradual methods works its way upwards. Nixon's collapse in the polls predated the start of impeachment proceedings, and in a sense caused them: had there not been such a public response to the Archibald Cox termination, there might not have been an impeachment proceeding at all. What also helped were the three or four special elections in the 1973-74 time span that mysteriously happened to fall to the Democrats in places where Democrats were not used to winning.
It's a similar story today. Trump's problem is less that the will of the people is being ignored but that the will of the people is changing. How much more it changes is his problem now.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."