Even some Trump supporters worry that his character is undermining his presidency

President Donald Trump addresses a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

A little over a year into Donald J. Trump’s presidency, on the eve of his first State of the Union address, here is what we know. To the extent that his presidency is failing—and Mr. Trump’s historically low approval ratings in the 30s suggest many people believe it is failing—it is not his policies that are to blame but rather his character.

Mr. Trump is impulsive, superficial, crass, cruel, unpredictable and undisciplined. In the 2016 election, many voters overlooked these flaws in the belief that he would study up, grow up and become more presidential once in office. But that has not happened, and his behavior is unnerving even some of his supporters.

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I have spent the last year speaking with voters in counties that were pivotal to Mr. Trump’s election victory. The most common refrain I have heard from Trump supporters and critics alike is that they wish he would cut out his personal attacks on political opponents.

Trump supporters and critics alike wish he would cut out his personal attacks on political opponents.

“Mr. President, please stop the negative tweets,” Mark Locklear of Robeson County, N.C., wrote me last July when I asked him what advice he would give at the six-month mark of the new presidency. Mr. Locklear voted for Mr. Trump after twice voting for Barack Obama. He gave the president an “A” on policy but lowered his overall grade to a “C” because of Mr. Trump’s injudicious use of Twitter.

I received similar responses when I surveyed people on the anniversary of Mr. Trump’s inauguration. Pramit Patel, an Indian-American hotel owner also in Robeson County, said he voted for Mr. Trump out of an appreciation for his business acumen. While pleased with the new tax reform law, Mr. Patel labeled the president’s first year “erratic” and is afraid his bellicosity will provoke an international disaster.

Lois Morales of Orange County, Calif., said she thinks Mr. Trump is performing well “except for not shutting up. His actions need to speak louder than his words.”

“His actions need to speak louder than his words.”

Mr. Trump’s character flaws obscure the popularity of many of his administration’s policies. A recent Harvard-Harris poll found that most voters support a more restrictive, merit-based immigration system, and numerous polls show that a majority of Americans approve of Mr. Trump’s handling of the economy. And Mr. Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court was praised even by some political opponents.

But Mr. Trump’s poor character is not just costing him style points. It is hindering his ability to govern.

To many on Capitol Hill, the president is simply too unpredictable to trust. Ahead of the government shutdown in January, Mr. Trump made wildly contradictory statements about where he stood on the funding impasse, leaving many lawmakers bewildered and annoyed. “The president’s role [in negotiations to keep the government open] has been extraordinarily confusing,” said Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine.

Mr. Trump was even more unpredictable in the related debate over the fate of DACA recipients, immigrants brought illegally to the United States as children. One day Mr. Trump would signal support for a compromise that granted them legal status. The next day he would take a much harder line, use racially charged language or mock a Democratic senator involved in the meetings, calling Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck.” Mr. Trump’s capriciousness led Mr. Schumer to say that dealing with him is “like negotiating with Jell-O.”

While the government shutdown should not be pinned on Mr. Trump, the self-styled master negotiator did not help matters. The government reopened after two days not because he negotiated some master deal but because he largely stayed out of the debate and off Twitter, while Congress worked out a temporary deal to turn the lights back on.

Mr. Trump’s erratic behavior and habit of publicly attacking members of his own cabinet are also draining morale in the executive branch and have led to a record number of White House departures in his first year. As one State Department official told a reporter: “One can never be sure whether the policies we’re working on will be supported by the president or not. It creates a great deal of uncertainty and obviously further harms morale in an environment in which morale is already very low.”

The confusion, distrust and ill will caused by Mr. Trump’s poor character are undermining his presidency. Whether they also make him a one-term president remains to be seen.

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James MacGregor
2 months 2 weeks ago

RE: Even some Trump supporters worry that his character is undermining his presidency"
I must have missed their identities in the article. Who are they?

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

The author rounded up some individuals as examples. It's amazing there are not more given the incredibly negative press since his election.

It would be just as easy to find someone.who disagreed with Trump initially and is now quite pleased. The article is just another hit job on Trump by America.

Has the author been critical of Trump's foreign policy efforts given that he was a complete neophyte to start. Maybe he'll answer.

The first year has been quite a ride but right now the economy is doing well and the tax cut should help continue this, a lot of new strong judicial appointments, the Russia collusion has been debunked, Isis has been severely limited,

Mitch McConnell just said

2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that he’s been in Washington, and the Trump administration has been a “very solid, conservative, right of center, pro-business administration.”

Maybe the author might like to respond on this and FBI/DOJ memo just released.

We will have to see what the investigation of the FBI leads to and if an infrastructure program can be implemented. And maybe a sensible immigration program will be passed. The answer from the Democrats is a possible new shutdown and more talk of impeachment if they get control of the house.

ALFRED CHAVEZ
2 months 2 weeks ago

That so many Catholics can in good conscience support many of Trump's policies and excuse his behavior is disheartening.

Michael Seredick
2 months 2 weeks ago

Please know you are not alone on your post. I feel the same way.

Ellen B
2 months 2 weeks ago

I totally agree.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

Says someone who voted for Hillary Clinton? The Democrat Party is openly anti-God and anti-Jesus. It's a circular firing squad of Identify Politics racists and anti-white bigots. If you're a follower of Jesus you have to deny him to rise in that party, and support death (abortion). I feel sorry for people under the spell of the Left. It reeks.

Ellen B
2 months 1 week ago

I feel sorry for trolls.

Lisa Weber
2 months 2 weeks ago

It defies imagination how Trump has any supporters, given his history and the flood of evidence that he is unfit to be anywhere near the Oval Office. Even his supporters worry that his character is undermining his presidency? What will it take for them to reject Trump entirely?

James MacGregor
2 months 2 weeks ago

I remember what a role model Bill Clinton provided for our children.

Lisa Weber
2 months 2 weeks ago

Does Bill Clinton have anything to do with Donald Trump? Or is that just "whataboutism"?

MaryRuth Stegman
2 months 2 weeks ago

Anyone who didn't see this coming is an idiot. Anyone who supports tRUMP is a fascist. Democracies don't last forever. This is the beginning of the end if America democracy .

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 2 weeks ago

Mary Ruth
As one who agrees with the author's comments I still must ask : Just exactly how does acting like a total boor make one a fascist?
It is exactly your type of totally over the top comment that reinflates the support for Trump by casting him as the common man champion vs the coastal elites. As to the question of voting for/supporting Trump, you simply do not seem to understand (or cannot accept)that a great percentage of the voting public found the selected candidates of the two parties to be deeply personally flawed and so made their choice based based solely on their proposed policies. That dilemma continues to be reflected in the author's voter sampling and analysis: love the policies/results but still think the President is a crass boor.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 2 weeks ago

Trump doesn't have the powers of abstraction or commitment to form an ism in his mind and adhere to it. This is obvious looking at his history. There's no interiority there. But he is effectively a fascist if he thinks he should have absolute power which is exactly what he thinks. He is a democracy dissolving acid and is as effectively fascist as he needs to be. As for the snowflakes who are personally offended by deserved attacks on Trump, they can be fruitful and go multiply themselves. Is that elitist enough for y'all?

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 2 weeks ago

Stanley
Yes ....you demonstrate that elitist streak almost perfectly.....I am sure you are proud of it as only an elitist can be. Especially liked the dripping condescension of of your final "y'all".

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 2 weeks ago

I'm an angry american citizen, friendo, disgusted at what's been done to his country. Anyone who wants to say otherwise to my face better have his dental insurance paid up. I don't condescend. I right cross.

Stuart Meisenzahl
2 months 2 weeks ago

Stanley
Funny, ....based .on your comments I thought you would specialize in "a left uppercut"!

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 2 weeks ago

American Democracy is not written into Trump's brain. The furtherance of wealth concentration, oligarchy and plutocracy, anti-environmental deregulation, has made great strides under his rule. The economy is supposedly doing well (better working conditions, job security, benefits, I think not) although positive economic responses are like the response of an oil tanker. This means we are seeing a continuance of the progress under Obama in recovering from the Great Republican Recession. But things are not well. Not for people who work for a living. Democracy began its decline with the Reagan years and has proceeded monotonically downward ever since. Trump is merely the boil that appears on the plague-infested body signalling the approach of death.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

the Great Republican Recession.

It was policies of the Democratic Party that led to the Great Recession. The Republicans especially Bush deserve a little blame because they failed to see the dangers of these Democratic party policies but the Republicans did not implement the policies. There were some attempts to dial back these policies by Republicans but the 60 vote rule in the Senate prevented them from getting considered.

You also should read more on just what fascism is. It is a movement of the left. I don't think Trump and Republicans qualifies on that accord. Freedom is more their "shtik" not government knows all and does all or controls all.

Movements of the left will always end up in some form of fascism because they are against human nature and eventually require oppressive means to enforce. The word itself has just become a thoughtless pejorative for things people do not like. In order for Trump to become fascist, his current supporters would have to abandon him and then for the left to take up his causes. Who knows maybe such an incredible switch could happen. But he is 71 years old and all the press says he is in bad health.

There is one commonality with leftist movements in many of Trump voters and that is resentment. That in a way makes them fellow travelers of all the liberals whose only agenda is resentment based on identity politics. All we hear is the litany, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic or now transgenderphobic.

Stanley Kopacz
2 months 2 weeks ago

Wall Street was bundling excrement and selling it as ambrosia. This nonsense should have, could have been stopped by a vigilant executive branch. But lassez faire is the Republican credo and short term prosperity the goal. Under fascism, dissent suffers. This, if course, is the goal of the Republican Party . Total control of the masses by the elite.

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Wall Street

More Democrat than Republican though a mixture of both. Get their money not from selling stocks but taking cuts off top of bonds etc. Heavily depend on government providing money or supervising how it can be spent of which they get a cut. The bigger the government and the more money they regulate the richer they get.

bundling excrement and selling it as ambrosia

This was due to Democratic policies as Democratic Party favorites such as GSE's were doing a lot of the bundling but insisting on terms that led to bad loans This is the Democratic Party policy I was referring to. Your excrement was due to Democratic Party policies.

Under fascism, dissent suffers

The main support for the suppression of dissent in the United States come from institutions that vote nearly 100% for Democratic Party

lassez faire

This is the opposite of fascism. Actually lasses faire does not really exist in the United States as there is all sorts of protection for people.

Total control of the masses by the elite.

The elites if there are any in the United States overwhelming oppose Trump and vote for Democrats. The rich overwhelming voted for Hillary,

You seem to have your political parties backwards.

James MacGregor
2 months 2 weeks ago

RE: "The main support for the suppression of dissent in the United States come from institutions that vote nearly 100% for Democratic Party"
So how do we explain Bush, DHS, TSA, and the Patriot Act?

Will Niermeyer
2 months 2 weeks ago

While I voted for Trump and will do so again I do pray he would tone down his language. I think he can get people's attention without the brassiness. Other than that he is doing a fantastic job and and so glad he is behind the Catholic Church ethic on Life from conception to natural death.

MaryfromMaryland .
2 months 2 weeks ago

Yes. You really represent the majority of Catholic supporters of Trump. No matter what evil he visits on the country, no matter if he invites Russian into the country, no matter whom he dallies with or whom he cheats or whom he hurts you will be with him as long as he is anti-abortion. Yes, indeed. He know you well and takes advantage of your one issue voting.

John Walton
2 months 2 weeks ago

Parsing the statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages (income) in the manufacturing sector increased almost 5% at an annual rate in the final quarter of 2017.

Michael Seredick
2 months 2 weeks ago

Please be in touch if you know of a priest, school principal, teacher, anyone employed by the church who behaves like Trump and remains on the staff. My grade school children have more manners than Trump.

Michael Painter
2 months 2 weeks ago

"I have spent the last year speaking with voters in counties that were pivotal to Mr. Trump’s election victory."
-------
If those are the people to whom you've been speaking, then it's no wonder you think his politics are popular. Those folks tend to ignore facts about the economy, tax policy, immigration, science, and the environment. It's hardly an unbiased sample, as the statisticians say.

In the rest of the country, the "reality-based" part, Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular on account of both his politics and his character.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

"…I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters (supporters)…"

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible”

Why bother checking/paying attention the opinion of Trump supporters????

Francis O'BEACHAIN
2 months 2 weeks ago

Whatever his flaws, better him than HRC

J Cosgrove
2 months 2 weeks ago

Trump is many, many things that are negative almost repulsive so what got him elected?

The answer is that the alternative was far far worse as we are now finding out in many ways. I find it interesting of those who bemoan how bad Trump is, are silent on what led to his election and how bad the alternatives were.

Remember the press who have been so hostile to Trump once fawned over him because they thought he would be easy to beat.

But while Trump has many negative characteristics he does have some amazing things I never thought possible. I cannot imagine anyone else receiving the false negative press and personal attacks he has, continuing on in a productive fashion. Despite the intense opposition from the "Resistance" he makes the Eveready Bunny look feeble.

rose-ellen caminer
2 months 2 weeks ago

I don't like his character or his policies, and I can't imagine being married to him. Thank God my husband is the direct opposite of a Trump.[Though both have a sense of humor as different as their sense of humor is]. But I do get a kick out of him. Considering the unindicted war criminals we had as presidents before him, it's perversely satisfying having a trickster type as president. I betcha a lot of people feel the same too.
If he accomplishes nothing else of value as president, his use of the phrase "fake news", is a worthy legacy. Brilliant. I hope that phrase survives his presidency and enters the lexicon permanently, and is used WHEN APPLICABLE long after Trump is out of office. When the media is busy refuting his "fake news" charges, it takes away from biased indoctrination and propaganda. Wish that had been said about lets see; the start of the Viet Nam War ,the Iraq war etc.,

Baron Corvo
2 months 2 weeks ago

I guess I have been foolish in expecting that an online magazine run by the Jesuits would have a well thought-out and Christian response to the "presidency" of this godless moron that made his bones by being a racist, feckless slumlord who has a longstanding reputation as a cheat and a scam-artist who specializes in enriching his family of scumbags to the detriment of investors, workers, and everyone else trapped in his selfish, slimy embrace.

If America Magazine doesn't have a writer on staff that can accurately write about the destruction of America's reputation across the globe and the ill effects of this fool's handing of our economy over to the corporate Overlords that financed his rise to power, then you'd better HIRE one before our freedom of the press is a memory.

Douglas Fang
2 months 2 weeks ago

Very much agree! If he can, Trump will act as a dictator without any second thought. Just look at the way he treats and abuses the FBI and the Justice Department. He is an expert at firing/insulting people who don’t kiss up to him. Putin is laughing behind his back. I never saw such a moronic POTUS in the history of America.

MaryfromMaryland .
2 months 2 weeks ago

I simply find it impossible to believe that anyone who truly believes in Christ and his admonitions for our activities and the way we lead our lives could accept a man who is a consummate and inveterate liar, who demeans women, who puts in charge of our systems of government people determined to destroy those systems, who takes money from really, really bad people across the Globe, who cheats people trying to go to university to learn, who was cited for racism as a landlord, who deliberately hurts the poor and uses disinformation to scare people about immigrants, who is just totally, morally bankrupt. This is not uncharitable. This is fact. If you choose to deny it and deny me a voice, you buy into this fiasco of an administration.

Dan Acosta
2 months 2 weeks ago

You write: "In the 2016 election, many voters overlooked these flaws in the belief that he would study up, grow up and become more presidential once in office." I know you didn't talk to me. I grudgingly voted for Trump believing his upside was positive, and he would grow into the office. I knew he could exhibit boorish behavior and speech. But Hillary Clinton is an avowed supporter of murdering children who, when she had an opportunity to fight sexual abuse and harassment, took a pass, and instead attackd the woman who accused her husband of such activities. Give the choice between these two miserable candidates, I voted for the one who had the potential to change for the better.

Genevieve Burns
2 months 2 weeks ago

The title of this piece is ABSOLUTELY WRONG. Trump has changed his ways from his youth, that's obvious.

Hillary Clinton remains evil and full of atheistic hypocrisy and is pro-abortion, etc. No Christian person of good will can mount a defence of her and her policies.

We know see how depraved the Left is will all the #MeToo perverts outed, like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey and so many others. It is now obvious that Left-wing catholics who were collaborators and sympathizers with such people are "on the wrong side of history" and wrong side of Jesus.

Randal Agostini
2 months 2 weeks ago

It is always easier to be critical and Donald Trump certainly provides adequate fodder. What so many on the left do not understand is that voters inevitably vote with their feet and that is how the Trump administration is going to be measured. Yes Trump may have a lot of character flaws - I will not list mine, but he is no fool and is a successful businessman. I find he has learned more quickly than most other Presidents and he is not afraid of the inevitable consequences. As Catholics we have to be very pleased with the reversals that he has made, returning much of our freedom and providing optimism for more. I rather like the Churchillian quote: One man with conviction will overcome a hundred who only have opinions. The list of pessimist achievers is very short.

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