And the last factor that he can promote before voters, if he wants to, is that we have not yet entered into any major, unnecessary protracted military conflict. At this point in his presidency, there is no Vietnam or Iraq. Obviously, it is very early in his term, and the fact that the nation has not been drawn into a war is extraordinarily fortunate given how the president has worsened tensions through his haphazard and aggressive approach to dealing with the nation’s adversaries.
By most other measures, President Trump is currently receiving failing marks. The most important measure that we have of presidential success is legislation. Great presidents are able to persuade Congress to pass major bills that fundamentally change the policy landscape. This has always been one of the best marks of success. Franklin Roosevelt had the New Deal, Lyndon Johnson had the Great Society, Ronald Reagan had his unnamed mix of tax cuts, military spending, and deregulation.
Right now, President Trump has nothing to show after nine months of united Republican government. Legislating is always hard, but these are the best circumstances that a party can ask for, with little disagreement on most major issues. President Trump has repeatedly fumbled the opportunity to create a record on Capitol Hill. The way that he has handled the legislative process on issues like health care has been a fiasco. Congress might pass the tax cut, and this would be an important achievement, though it remains a problem for the administration that this low-hanging fruit in a moment of unified Republican control would be his only major bill.
Trump assured voters on the campaign trail that he would “drain the swamp” of Washington influence. He has done just the opposite. The conflict-of-interest problem that stems directly out of the intersection between his business empire and the nation’s political interests epitomizes why so many Americans don’t trust the government. Then there are the stories about cabinet officials such as former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s lavish spending on private planes, which led to his resignation. As Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles argued in a trenchant piece for The New York Times, “the Beltway wetlands are now wilder and murkier than ever.”
Trump has failed when it comes to winning broad public support. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll identifies his 59 percent disapproval rating as the worst for any president at the nine month mark since they began tracking it. A stunning 65 precent of people who responded do not think he can be trusted while only 44 percent said he is doing a good job with the economy. In Tuesday’s elections, Republican losses in Virginia and New Jersey indicated that there is a price to pay for Trump’s low public approval.