President Trump has rid himself of most aides who might contradict him, steered clear of news conferences where he might be challenged and avoided one-on-one interviews with real reporters. Glued to a television habitually tuned to Fox News, the president, it appears, has come to believe that voters accept as fact whatever the lie or farcical conspiracy theory of the day might be. He goes to Michigan for a campaign-style rally and gets applause when he preposterously declares, “The only collusion is the Democrats colluding with the Russians, the Democrats colluding with lots of other people” or makes up out of whole cloth that “Chrysler is moving back to Michigan from Mexico.”
He repeats “no collusion” again and again, despite well-reported episodes such as the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016, outreach to Russians by campaign aides George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, and his own efforts to egg on more hacking of Hillary Clinton and to trumpet memos released by pro-Russia WikiLeaks. He claims huge improvements in the economy, which is, at best, roughly the same economy he inherited from President Barack Obama.
Certainly habitual Fox News watchers happily inhabit the fanciful universe that Trump creates — for that is what is played back to them day after day. But what about those outside the bubble?
The Politico-Morning Consult poll has good news about the reality-based electorate. “More than three in five voters, 62 percent, say Trump’s administration is running very or somewhat chaotically — nearly twice as many as the 32 percent who say it’s running very or somewhat well. … Moreover, the percentage of voters who see chaos in Trump’s White House has increased modestly, but steadily, in recent weeks.” They don’t think that he has hired the “best” people. Rather, “Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say the Trump administration has done a poor job when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified people — roughly twice as many who say the Trump administration has done an excellent or good job combined.”
Is Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt the victim of a left-wing conspiracy? Not really, say most voters. (“Only 19 percent view Pruitt favorably, compared with 32 percent who view him unfavorably. Roughly half say they have never heard of him, or have heard of him but don’t have an opinion. … After [learning he is under investigation for ethical infractions], a majority of respondents, 59 percent, say Pruitt has not conducted himself appropriately. Far fewer, 11 percent, say Pruitt has acted appropriately.”) Nor do most Americans buy that climate change is unproven or that the Paris climate agreement was a rotten deal for the United States. (“By a margin of 59 to 18 percent voters say we should be part of the climate agreement, only 18 percent do not; 50 percent think that the EPA is not doing enough to address the issue of climate change — roughly two times the 26 percent who say the EPA is doing enough to address climate change.”)
Trump will come face to face with harsh reality if and when he sits down with the special counsel, when his promised 3 (or 4!) percent economic growth does not materialize and when, in all likelihood, voters register their disapproval of the Trump-led GOP in the midterm elections. The gap between Trump’s fictional world and reality grows wider — as does his peril when the two collide.