Saturday, August 12, 2017

Off-Base About The Base

Please stop this. Stop this right now. I'm speaking both of President Trump and of the press understandably skeptical of his claims that he's becoming increasingly popular. In the latter category is Steven Shepard of Politico, who has reported

President Donald Trump says his base of support is “bigger and stronger than ever before.” But his claim is contradicted by a steady stream of recent polling showing that the share of Americans who approve of Trump’s job performance is shrinking, along with the share of Americans most enthusiastic about his presidency.

However you measure the president’s base, it has diminished, not increased, in the seven months he’s been in office.

No, it has not increased nor has it diminished.  From the Collins English Dictionary, we learn of the many uses of the term "base," including

-The base of something is its lowest edge or part.

-The base of an object that has several sections and that rests on a surface is the lower section of it.

-A base is a layer of something which will have another layer added to it.

-A company's client base or customer base is the group of regular clients or customers that the company gets most of its income from.

-The base of a substance such as paint or food is the main ingredient of it, to which other substances can be added.

The concept underlying these applications is that from which everything else arises. It is the strongest, and most enduring part, of the structure.

Donald Trump's base is the group of individuals which will stay with him no matter what.  It's the group which will defend him if Robert Mueller demonstrates that Trump knowingly colluded with the Kremlin and has committed serious financial crimes. They're the people who will still favor the President if he initiates a limited nuclear war in northeast Asia.

Estimates would vary greatly but it's assumed that while Trump has a low ceiling, he has a high base, which I'd estimate in the low 20s as a percentage of registered voters. But I may be well off-base.

Failing to understand a politician's "base" is not mere semantics. It allows pundits and others to use the word freely without fear that they will be proven wrong. It offends clear thinking and prevents us from debating this bottom line: the percentage of people who are unpersuadable no matter the circumstances.

So of course Trump's base- which would vote for him if he were to shoot someone on 5th Avenue in NYC-  is neither shrinking nor expanding. And once we acknowledge that, we can consider whether that base is hardening or softening or has remained static.

As the President's words and actions increasingly make clear his unsuitabiity for the office he holds, the number of individuals who support him logically declines slightly. However, his base probably has hardened somewhat as his supporters perceive that he is enraging their enemies ever more.

We need to understand this distinction. As we move gradually toward the point at which impeachment must be considered, the difference between Trump's base and others sympathetic (but less so) to him may become critical.

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