The era of low expectations

We’re just a few weeks away from inaugurating a president whom most Americans believe won’t be very good at the job, according to a Gallup poll released today.

Even President Obama, who couldn’t work with Congress, is rated higher in the ability to get things through Congress than Trump, even though the House and Senate are both in the control of the party that annointed Trump.


How to explain the logic in the gap between Trump’s electoral popularity and expectations for his presidency? Simple. Those who opposed him hold much lower expectations for him than the opponents of previous presidents, partly a reflection, perhaps, of Trump’s inability and unwillingness to heal the wounds of an election.

That New Year’s Eve tweet even drew a rebuke from Kid President. Kid President, who is all about having hope and being nice.


But back to the poll: Gallup says the results would probably be the same no matter who won November’s election.

Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, also has high unfavorable ratings, and the public most likely would have had similarly low expectations of her ability to handle these situations had she won.

In addition to their personal feelings about Trump, Americans’ lower confidence in him may also stem from the public’s generally low level of trust in government. Americans’ trust in the federal government to handle international and domestic problems is worse now than it was when Bush and Obama took office. Also, their confidence in the institution of the presidency remains below the historical average, though it is higher now than the record lows it registered at the end of the Bush administration.

Related: Under 3 weeks left: Obama in closing stretch of presidency (Associated Press)

  • Gary F

    The Gallop Poll had Hillary winning too.

  • Rob

    Paul Krugman has an excellent piece in today’s NYT, entitled “America Becomes a Stan.” Era of low expectations, indeed, as the Twitter Twit-Elect brings his crony capitalism and cult of personality to bear on America. Welcome to Trumpistan.

  • MikeB

    I think that people are losing their sense of efficacy when it comes to major institutions. That it’s all beyond our control, and more and more problems are not really solvable with the systems we have. The degradation of expertise, people are withdrawing from each other. It’s infected our politics.

    • tboom

      I hope the system we turn to in order to solve our problems isn’t a dictatorship.

    • Anna

      I think you have summed it up very well, MikeB.

      The average electorate has no control over what Congress does even though they elected them.

      Now they have elected an immature, narcissistic pseudo adult who can’t even maintain his train of thought for more than 30 seconds or the length of a tweet.

      I don’t have any confidence in a man who throws a guest of legitimate members off his golf course because he wanted his significant other to meet him regardless of whether his biography was unflattering or not. It’s called maturity and this man does not have it.

      Trump has a very thin skin that will be severely burned by the end of his first three months.

      The working class wanted “different” and now they’ve got it. If they are happy with whatever crumbs Trump wants to throw their way (Carrier) that’s their business.

      The rest of us will have to sit back and wait for the punishment that will come eventually in whatever form that might take from eliminating healthcare access to destroying what’s left of Medicare and Social Security through privatization.

      Trump has put the wolves in charge of the hen house (Goldman Sachs) and the well (EPA) and worse (Secretary of State).

      We can only hope that the Republican sheeples in control of Congress will see the edge of the cliff before it is too late if it isn’t already.

      2017, here we come!

    • tboom

      I think back 8 years to how the mood of the country has changed. Obama had won on “hope and change”, of course as we know the Democrats were unable to push through any meaningful liberal version of hope and change. In the same way Bush Jr. was elected 16 years ago but was unable to make any meaningful progress on the conservative agenda. In the same way the other Clinton was elected 24 years ago on “don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”, yep. In the same way Bush Sr. was elected 28 years ago, and we know how “compassionate conservatism” worked out.

      So the Democrats win and the Republicans lose. Then the Republicans win and the Democrats lose. Then the Democrats win and the Republicans lose. Then the Republicans win and the Democrats lose. … but “We The People” never seem to see positive meaningful change … then we end turn to a guy with no real allegiance to anything but his bank account and his personal insecurities, and we believe he’ll make a positive meaningful change. God help us.

  • theoacme

    I have no faith in the entire political establishment, the entire economic establishment, the entire religious establishment, and the entire mass media establishment of the United States to be good, to do good, and to be for anyone except the very rich and powerful.

    I have complete faith that the entire political establishment, the entire economic establishment, the entire religious establishment, and the entire mass media establishment of the United States, would happily torture and execute anyone who opposed them.

    I would be happy to be lynched on the Mall in Washington, rather than support the United States as it is now, as it will be when Trump gets inaugurated, and as it would have been if Clinton will have been inaugurated…

    …that is my prayer for 2017, that I die in such a horrific manner, that even Bull Connor would have condemned my death, because I would be better off dead than living in the United States as it is now, and as it will be in the future.

    • Rob

      Yes, God bless our corpocracy-cum-kakistocracy.

    • Khatti

      Well…at least you’re not emotional about it.

  • Gary F

    I guess this is the new narrative for the left this week?

    • X.A. Smith

      “Sometimes nothing is good too.”—Kid President

    • Will

      Yep, remember:

      “We’re still here”
      “Don’t Normalize”
      “I’m with her”

      I like the idea that we shouldn’t look to the president or government to solve all our problems, maybe we need more people to realize they have the power to help themselves and fix injustices they see instead of looking for someone else to do it all the time.

      • Curious. Have you watched “The Big Short”?

        • Will

          Yes, I believe the main driving force was the government and rating agencies suggesting that subprime mortgages are more valuable than they actually were. When the government backs something and buys it there is an implicit guarantee that will hold value and if it doesn’t the government will be there to bail you (and themselves) out.

          • Rob

            Corporate greed is to blame for the subprime mortgage clusterf&!k, not government assurances of how swell they were.

          • Will

            In the end, what happened? Government bailed out everyone…so the implicit guarantee was a correct assumption, wasn’t it?

            We need higher capital requirements, even today the banks are “banking” on a bailout:


          • Rob

            I agree that the banks are allowed to sit on too much money, and at the same time, the restrictions on risky lending are laughable. So another sub-prime type of debacle is highly likely.

      • Rob

        People generally don’t have the power to fix the injustices they see.

  • tboom

    I rarely watch the Sunday morning gasbags (gasbags copyright Calvin Trillian). My daughter called and insisted I take a look at the political discussion on CBS’s program, either Meet the Press or Face the Nation I get the two confused. So off I went to youtube, watched 22 minutes of “Full Political Panel: January 1”.

    It was unanimously depressing and scary, enough to make you believe our 45th president could be our last. I think I’ll take a week off in mid-January, leave all the electronics behind and do some winter camping in the BWCA, I’m not sure if I’ll come back.

  • Jack

    Thank you Kid President for keeping it real.

  • Mike Worcester

    Should it even be a surprise that any incoming president is greeted with such pessimism when you look at what they go through in the two years(!) spent running for the office and how each and every candidate is so thoroughly torn apart?

    • They aren’t innocent bystanders.

      • Mike Worcester

        I won’t argue that. When I say “torn apart” that can be expanded to say ‘by each other’ also.

    • Rob

      Here’s the world’s tiniest violin, playing for the egocentric gazillionaires who run for Prez. We do indeed feel their pain.

    • jon

      And yet when compared to other presidents at this same point in their pre-presidency this president elect still manages historic low numbers…

      So yes I think it should* be a bit of a surprise when the past 3 presidents have had similar campaigns, and been similarly “torn apart” to the best of their opponent’s abilities, and didn’t suffer from the same level of pessimism.

      *SHOULD though I don’t think it really is given what we know about this president elect, and his historically unpresidented election and transition performance so far…

  • Will

    Perhaps this is a good thing, we should lower our expectations when it comes to government accomplishing things…as we can see with Obamacare and MnSure there always seems to be some unanticipated consequences that arise when government gets involved.

    • One of the problems is we can’t agree on the goal. Some people think a percentage of people with access to health care is a goal. Others think not having government insuring that people have access to health care is a goal.

      History has shown that those two goals cannot possibly be reconciled.

      • Will

        True, many on the left advocate mass transit using trains while those on the right advocate for more roads/bridges. I wouldn’t mind seeing more experiments at the state level…we have so many left leaning states and yet only Vermont went as far as creating full state insurance coverage…why aren’t more heavily left leaning states trying new things and offering full state coverage? States like California and New York would have high enough populations to hold real power but yet they don’t dare do it. I think that’s where we’re failing…those on the left seem to want everything done at the federal level instead of proving a system works well first at the state level.

        • KTN

          All those left leaning states, are those the ones that elected the sociopath, and a Congress filled with his sycophants. Some people had premiums increases, of course they do nothing but whine about it, but going back to using the emergency room for health care seems a step backwards.
          The real power actually comes from the insurance industry, well that and the Commerce clause, which dictates whether or not health insurance can be bought and sold across state lines. So many on the right forget that we have a free market economy, except when it challenges their ideology. If all those left leaning states did what Vermont did, would you approve, or would you continue to complain about how unfair the ACA is. I’m not holding my breath, it was more of a rhetorical question.

          • Will

            I’m fine with states trying things out, if full Democrats are elected in the state of Minnesota I’m perfectly fine with those in power trying to create a socialized system within this state. It’s when that system is forced top down on the entire nation (leaving Americans no choice on where to live) where I have the problem.

          • Politicians who think they have a mandate are always going to force their philosophy — occasionally their religion — top down

          • Will

            I’m not completely sure you understand how libertarians or libertarian leaning Republicans think…they certainly would not do that.

          • Heh

          • Rob

            Hell they wouldn’t

          • tboom

            I’m not completely sure you understand human nature.

          • KTN

            There is no socialism in this country, even here in Minnesota, or are you talking about an eastern European style government. More likely you mean a western style socialism, like Norway or Sweden perhaps. Seems to work for them however.
            The problem with states rights is that they then get to decide things like gun laws, and local law enforcement not acting as federal agents – sort of contrary to a libertarian point of view that the 10thA has meaning. The ACA is not perfect, but this cannot be a zero sum game.

        • You left out Massachusetts where the Republican governor shepherded full coverage. Romney care. That was the first state.

          Minnesota had — and has — Minnesota care for the working poor.

          Mass and MN are usually the top states for health (and also education)

          That was and is a priority for those states.

          Other states could give a damn and have other priorities.

          • Will

            How did prices/coverage fare in Massachusetts after the ACA passed?

      • Will

        I mean really, the federal rules crushed the good system we had here in Minnesota…why did that need to happen? Why is the Buck family paying $40,000/year in premiums? That sort of thing shouldn’t be forced downward from the federal level.

        Here’s the reference to the Buck family’s premium costs:

        • Yes, you’ve posted this in the past. I wonder how many families share this amount? Probably not many since they point out the problem is where they live.

          Everybody knows there’ll be no replacement when they rollback Obaamacare next month.

          Good thing only Democrats get sick.

          Maybe if pols had really wanted people to have affordable health care, they could have worked on the system to fix the county-to-county problems.

          But they didn’t want people to have affordable health care. That would have meant handing a victory to a political opponent

          The smartest thing GOP did was call it Obama care. They knew people would be against it without bothering to know what was in it and what it did.

          • Rob

            Keep the government’s hands off of my Social Security!

        • Veronica

          OK, Let me repeat: ObamaCare did NOT CREATE HIGH PREMIUMS. Health Care companies are allowed to charge whatever the hell they want and their profits have been HUGE. Didn’t the awful UnitedHealth make $3 BILLION last year? You only make that kind of profit by screwing over a lot of people. I hate to burst your bubble, but the only way to help people with the cost of insurance is to…wait for it…regulate the heck out of premiums.

          • The health care debate is most significant because so much of it depends on people not knowing much about the subject.

          • Veronica

            Tell me about it. It IS something that people can understand, they just need to put a little bit of effort into trying to learn the hows and the whys.

  • Khatti

    I’m going to wander off the reservation here for a moment, and advise MPR to have a political psychologist on as a guest for one of the morning shows so they can explain this all to us. I think a lot of the Left/Right divide in this country is largely a psychological issue, and should be approached as such.

    • Good idea. You should contact the shows directly. Doubtful they,’ll see this.

    • Rob

      Gotta disagree. There are tons of substantive issues on which there is a progressive perspective and a conservative perspective. Living wage, paid parental leave, climate change and equal pay are just a few examples that show how the left/right divide isn’t merely or primarily psychological in nature.

      • Khatti

        But a couple of them, climate change in particular, will require solutions that are steeped in either psychology or autocracy. Since most Left-of-Center types genuinely loath head-banging, they might want to give the psychological path a try first.

        Don’t believe the head-banging thing? Let me give you a scenario: I’ve just built a functioning time machine. I give you a couple of ball-and-cap pistols and set the machine for 1861 and set you south of the Mason/Dixon line. Here’s the question: how many Southerners are you personally willing to kill to end slavery?

        • Rob

          No such thing as a functioning time machine. But if there were, why not go back with a mini-gun and some grenades?

          • Khatti

            Glad to know you’re up to this!

        • Khatti

          I’ve been thinking about your reply for the last day. I really hope you’re not ex-military, you’re just a little too glib about whacking your fellow citizens. However, if you are ex-military, be sure and hit the range and keep your skills up. You may not get a chance to kill Southerners in the past but, giving how things are going, you may get a chance in the future.

    • Will

      But 70+ Republicans voted against this proposal…how exactly could it pass if it was up for a whole House vote???

      • Rob

        The vote was 119 to 74

        • Will

          Yep, that’s only the Republicans…435 is the total…that’s less than half…

          • The full house votes today. Only Republicans participate in the House Republican Conference.

            Everything was behind closed doors. There is no record of who voted for the proposal.

            Power corrupts absolutely.

          • MikeB

            The first of many acts to come

          • Will

            Trump drained the swamp…

          • DavidG

            That vote was for this one rule change, I believe. It would be rolled into one large rules package for a vote by the full House. When that happens, it’s like the Speaker vote: what happens in Caucus stays in Caucus. It’s almost unheard of for a member of the majority to vote against the full rule package on the floor.

            (As I write this, it looks like the GOP is withdrawing the proposed changes)

          • Will

            Trump fixed it.

          • DavidG

            And tomorrow, by sheer force of his personality, Trump will make the sun rise in the East.