In times of crisis, Americans tend to put partisanship aside temporarily and rally around the president.
After the 9-11 attacks, George W. Bush's approval rating skyrocketed from 51% to 86%. Jimmy Carter saw a 26% bump following the initial seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979.
George H.W. Bush's approval rating leaped from 59% to 89% during Operation Desert Storm.
Donald Trump has had the lowest approval rating, on average, than any other president since Gallup started the poll during the Truman Administration. In late March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the president got a moderate rally-around-the-flag bump. Gallup found more Americans approved (49%) than disapproved (45%) of Trump's job performance.
This was only the second time that Trump has had a larger approval than disapproval number during his presidency.
However, the "Trump Bump" would prove to be short-lived due to his shambolic reaction to the pandemic.
The president of the United States had the opportunity to pivot from his usual contentiousness, look presidential and show leadership during the crisis, but he refused the historical opportunity. Instead, he minimized the potential harm of the virus saying it would just "go away." He supported anti-masker protests and even suggested that Americans could get over the disease by injecting bleach.
Watch Donald Trump Downplay Coronavirus for Four Minutes | NowThis www.youtube.com
All the while, the number of deaths surged throughout the country and the United States eclipsed China's reported deaths on March 31.
Polling from a month later found that 65% of Americans said that either Trump did not take COVID-19 "seriously enough at the beginning" or that he was "too slow to take major steps" to address the situation.
Throughout March, April, and May, Trump's approval numbers fluctuated as he bumbled his way through the crisis and missed an opportunity to unite the country after the murder of George Floyd. Polls show that Trump's "law and order" approach to the protesters was out of step with the views of the average American.
The numbers appear to show that as the turbulent spring of 2020 rolled into summer, America finally turned their backs on the president during the week of May 10 to 16.
If American opinion holds through the election — which appears to be fully ingrained at this point — this week will be seen as the moment when America's reality TV president got cancelled.
Gallup polls show that after May 13, the president began a dramatic slide in popularity, going from a 49% approval rating to 38% on June 30. Gallup has yet to release a poll in July, but the majority of polls show little improvement for the month. During that time, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden significantly widened his lead over Trump.
Here's the week that Trump lost America in review.
May 10, 2020
It all began on Mother's Day. During a 126-tweet storm, Trump dropped a new hashtag on the world, #OBAMAGATE. He would go on to call it the "biggest political crime in American history," while providing little factual information to back it up.
OBAMAGATE!— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1589417858.0
During a time of pandemic and civic unrest, he went back into his bag of tricks for what was clearly a huge distraction at a time when America couldn't breathe. Cooking up a conspiracy theory during one of America's greatest challenges showed a complete lack of seriousness by the president.
"President Trump gets to live in an alternate reality of his own choosing," a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, Tim Miller, wrote in The Bulwark. "One that allows him to level unfounded allegations against his foes without even attempting to interact with anything approaching a fact or a piece of evidence, while never facing any consequences."
May 11, 2020
During a contentious press conference at the White House, Trump couldn't even explain the broad strokes of the supposed crime committed by Obama. "What is the crime you're accusing him of, exactly?" Phillip Rucker from The Washington Post asked.
"You know what the crime is, the crime is very obvious to everybody," he angrily retorted.
He then walked out of the news conference after clashing with CBS News White House correspondent Weijia Jiang. The reporter asked Trump, "You have said many times that the U.S. is doing far better than any other country when it comes to testing," to which Trump said, "Yes."
"Why does that matter?" Jiang retorted. "Why is it global competition to you, if every day Americans are still losing their lives, and we are still seeing more cases every day?"
"They're losing their lives everywhere in the world," Trump replied, "And maybe that's a question you should ask China. Don't ask me. Ask China that question, okay? If you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer."
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a senate committee that Americans would experience "needless suffering and death" if the country opens up too quickly.
His words would appear prophetic.
May 12, 2020
The largest study on the use of Hydroxychloroquine to help COVID-19 is released. The research confirms earlier research that suggests it would cause serious heart problems and is not an effective treatment for the virus. Trump frequently touted the drug as an effective treatment for COVID-19.
The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 1500 patients that did not take it had a similar death rate to those who did, but were more than twice as likely to suffer from cardiac arrest.
"The nail has virtually been put in the coffin of hydroxychloroquine," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert and adviser to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
The Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19,… https://t.co/I6m3U1goD3— Reuters (@Reuters) 1592262900.0
May 13, 2020
President Trump clashed with Dr. Fauci who warned against reopening schools. Trump said that it was "not an acceptable answer." it was just another example of the president clashing with medical experts.
May 14, 2020
A damning CBS poll found that public support of Trump's handling of COVID-19 was on a downward spiral. Forty-three percent said he was doing a good job, 10 points lower than in March. The study also revealed that Americans viewed Dr. Fauci favorably by a three-to-one margin.
Trump misled the country with his "common sense" explanation for the increase of COVID-19 cases. "And don't forget, we have more cases than anybody in the world," he said. "But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases."
He would later go on to say he told his administration to reduce the amount of testing so that the number of cases would stop going up. This was a brazen attempt to thwart the response to the disease just to make him look better.
"I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down please,' " the president said.
May 15, 2020
Trump claims that the virus will one day just go away.
"We think we're going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future, and if we do we're going to really be a big step ahead," Trump told a reporter at a White House.
"And if we don't, we're going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it'll go away at some point, it'll go away," Trump said. "It may flare up and it may not flare up, we'll have to see what happens, but if it does flare up we're going to put out the fire and we'll put it out quickly and efficiently. We've learned a lot."
..."it'll go away at some point, it'll go away."🙄 That drop of Dr. Fauci's head just spoke volumes😩 AMERICANS DES… https://t.co/QAd85Prqdx— Tommie 💭 (@Tommie 💭) 1589568161.0
May 16, 2020
In a show of support for people pushing back against efforts to quell the virus, Trump tweets out a message of support for anti-lockdown protesters harassing a news cameraman.
"People can't get enough of this," Trump wrote. "Great people!"
Later that evening, Barack Obama delivered a video commencement speech to the Class of 2020. Although he didn't criticize Trump, the juxtaposition of the combative, unstable Trump compared to the thoughtful, comforting Obama was hard not miss.
"You can look at any effective "time of trouble" speech, from Lincoln to FDR and onward, and see just this approach. Obama applied it in his brief address. Trump never does, since his messages always are: 1) I am doing such a great job, and 2) Everyone else is so unfair to me," James Fallows of The Atlantic Wrote.
May 17, 2020
The Washington Post printed an op-ed that chastised Trump's inability to take the lead in the war against COVID-19.
"Amid a once-in-a-century deadly pandemic, Trump has inserted his ego squarely into the U.S. response while simultaneously minimizing his own role — deferring critical decisions to others, undermining his credibility with confusion and misinformation, and shirking responsibility in what some see as a shrinking of the American presidency," the article reads.
"Unlike former president Barack Obama — who made a point of getting photographed receiving an H1N1 vaccine to encourage the public to do similarly — Trump has largely modeled poor public health behavior. He refuses to wear a mask, despite his own administration's recommendation to do so, and until recently, he did not practice social distancing," the article continues.
By May 17 only 36% of Americans believe the president is "a trusted source of information about the coronavirus outbreak."
After mid-May, Trump's approval rating would slide to nearly the lowest point of his administration.
On July 15, Quinnipiac University released a poll showing that only 36% of registered voters approve of the job he is doing. The poll found that 52% of registered voters said they'd vote for Joe Biden in the upcoming election, with 37% voting for Trump, a 15-point discrepancy.
The poll also showed that Biden has a 10-point lead with voters 65 and older. In 2016, he won a 10 point victory with the same group. This sea change in support is directly correlated with his negligent handling of a virus that puts older people in severe risk.
For Americans that saw the Trump circus as a shake up in political norms that was ultimately benign, the COVID-19 response was a wake up call. During the past few months, many saw the real danger that can happen when those in power not only fail to act, but willfully work to hamper the government's response to a crisis.
On the morning of Wednesday, November 4, if America wakes up to president-elect Joe Biden, we may look back on the week of May 10 to 16 and realize this was the time when Trump officially lost America.
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