A couple of thoughts on Donald Trump, objective reality, and the declining Dow.
Although it obviously has no effect whatsoever, I can’t quite give up on occasionally pointing out the current incumbent’s staggering lack of intellectual honesty, a quality I prize quite highly.
Intellectual honesty requires that you deal with the established facts, try to keep them in context, and try to have a serious discussion of how to interpret them. It is a universe that Trump seems never to have visited.
In Trump’s world, everything good that occurs is to his credit, everything bad is Barack Obama’s fault (or, I suppose, it will now become “Sleepy Joe’s” fault), and objective reality is scarcely a problem to be acknowledged.
A few thoughts on objective reality: “Reality” means it has to be real. “Objective” means you have to acknowledge even the inconvenient parts. Without both of those aspects, there is no hope of intellectual honesty, which Trump seems to view as a sucker play, like all other forms of honesty or candor.
Now I ask you to glance at this graph, showing the ups and downs of the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 2007. The Dow is not the best, but a commonly cited measure of how the U.S. economy has performed.
It shows a staggering stock crash that happened in the last year of the George W. Bush presidency. The crash ended halfway through Obama’s first term. The Dow then took off on a fantastic run that mostly continued through the remaining six years of Obama’s presidency, and the first almost two years of the Trump presidency. Intellectual honesty requires me to acknowledge that the upward slope is sharper in the first year of the Trump presidency.
But then there are two rather dramatic dips, both during the Trump presidency, including one in 2018 (notwithstanding the genius in the White House) and a second one that continued dramatically yesterday, wiping out much of the Dow gains during the first half of Trump’s term.
I’m not a complete idiot (feel free to differ on that). I know that the second and most recent of those dips has a lot to do with the coronavirus. And, although I believe Trump’s management of the recent crisis has not been especially brilliant (like mockingly downplaying it as long as possible, and never acknowledging that downplaying it was a mistake), I am not so far gone as to blame Trump for the virus.
Nonetheless, he has managed the crisis poorly, it’s still spreading, for which he seemingly accepts no responsibility, and his favorite class — the investor class — has lost billions upon billions of “shareholder value.”
I hope the health crisis will end soon. I hope the stock market will bounce back, although I personally care more about the median income and poverty rate.
But the point of this little rant is about the character of the current incumbent. I have trouble believing, although the long-term chart of his bad-but-steady approval ratings tell me this is so, that his admirers are not sufficiently bothered by his self-adoring, Obama-hating, reality-denying behavior — even in the face of his obvious mismanagement and minimizing of the current virus crisis — to cause his approval rating to go down. What would it take? Evidence that he’s not a loyal or faithful husband?
This is not normal. All presidents since the advent of approval ratings have seen their numbers rise and fall, based generally on the news, but not Trump, who regularly demonstrates not only bad character but incompetence.
I know that partisan polarization, related to media polarization, are at all-time modern highs. I know that not everybody is a news junkie like me, and certainly not a lifelong liberal like me. But what will it take for a significant chunk of the 40 percent who approve of how he’s handling his job to develop some qualms about whether he’s really up to it, really the guy they want in charge of even non-partisan, non-ideological things like leveling with us and managing competently something like the spread of a life-threatening virus?