Wartime, Depression, Or Chaos: What Is The Donald Trump Administration
The phrase “wartime President” has been thrown around quite a bit recently. After President Trump got a surge in his approval ratings a few weeks into the COVID-19 outbreak, many said he was becoming this, which could win him re-election in 2020.
However, this idea of a “wartime president” being one who can easily win re-election is not based in any kind of fact. George W. Bush was a wartime President when he ran for re-election in 2004, yet, his victory against Senator John Kerry was one of the closest in American history. The closest President Roosevelt ever got to losing re-election was when he ran against Governor Thomas Dewey, as a wartime President. President Wilson was so scared of being labeled one that he even used the slogan “he kept us out of war” to defeat Justice Charles Hughes in 1916. When President Lyndon Johnson was labeled such, he could not even win the nomination of his party against anti-Vietnam candidates Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert Kennedy — the nomination later went to Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
It seems more that Americans prefer military commanders, not the President who started the war. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Dwight Eisenhower became famous as military leaders in the War Of 1812 and World War Two respectively. Meanwhile, President Truman nearly tore himself apart trying to remain in office in the election of 1948, just after he helped win World War Two.
There are two other ways you can look at this administration, although neither of them give the President all that high of a chance of re-election.
The first is a depression President, as unemployment is set to hit 37% many Americans — especially the ones who voted for Donald in hopes of working again — might feel that this administration is not worth a 2nd term.
This is what we saw with President Hoover in 1932, when the American people chose overwhelmingly to elect President Roosevelt. This was one of two factors that led to President Carter losing in a landslide to President Reagan in 1980, I’ll talk about the other one in a minute. While he wasn’t running for re-election, it’s also impossible not to notice how the Great Recession that started in the last days of the George W. Bush Presidency led to Senator McCain losing to President Obama in 2008.
Mind you, being a President in a depression is not always a guaranteed lose, as long as you can blame the depression on someone else. The Great Depression did not end at any point of Roosevelt’s Presidency, yet he managed to win four terms first by saying “at least I did something” and later because of the war. President Truman faced a major recession after the war ended, yet he managed to pin it on Congress winning him re-election in 1948. The Great Recession did not end in Obama’s first term, yet by first pinning it on President Bush and later on the Tea Party and House Speaker John Boehner, he manged to win re-election against Governor (now Senator) Romney.
Will Trump be able to pin this depression on his political opponents? Considering his opponent is a longstanding big-wig in the Democratic Party, I would not call that impossible. Bush actually did this trick during his first term, calling the recession that started after he took office the “Clinton Recession.” However, considering how far removed Obama’s terms in office are at this point, I highly doubt doing this would be successful.
The third thing Trump could be is “chaos President.” In this case, Trump’s 2016 campaign as “anti-establishment” could be his undoing, as the people would much rather have a return to normal as oppose to someone who will “shake things up.”
A promise to return things to normal is what caused President Eisenhower to win against Governor Stevenson in 1952. A platform of returning to normal, through law and order and social conservatism, caused President Nixon — who was previously Eisenhower’s Vice President — to win against Vice President Humphrey in 1968. Between stagflation, the Iran Hostage Crisis, and the social liberalism of the time, this was the 2nd nail in the coffin of President Carter, causing him to lose re-election to President Reagan in 1980. In 1920, President Harding defeated Governor Cox in one of the largest landslides in US history without campaigning just because people were so sick of the progressive era.
Either way, in 2020 the President will not have much besides his record to run on. If these three labels are any indication, it is unlikely that will be a good thing for this administration.