The Trump approval rating – which had been hovering in Nixon-like Watergate territory – did in the latest polls have a bit of an uptick from 34 percent to 41 percent, according to Gallup. Perhaps not surprisingly, this rise in the Donald Trump approval rating corresponded almost exactly with his decision to drop bombs in Syria and Afghanistan. To some, it seems like a perfect example of the “rally round the flag” syndrome in which we all support the president in a crisis. Can what looks like an upcoming war with North Korea get Trump above 50 percent?
Pre-Bombing Trump Approval Rating
Thanks to a multitude of scandals, but particularly because of the alleged ties between Russian intelligence and the Trump administration, the Donald Trump approval rating was scraping the bottom of the barrel. As noted by NBC News, it was virtually unprecedented for any incoming president to have such a low approval rating this early in his presidency.
Of course, Donald Trump has always been – as a candidate and president – a highly polarizing figure. His supporters – or perhaps it’s more accurate to call them followers – virtually adore everything he says and does. Trump himself acknowledged this once during the campaign when he suggested that he could walk outside the building he was in and shoot someone and his supporters would still back him.
Knee-Jerk Patriotism and Presidential Approval Ratings
There is an unfortunate tendency in the American citizenry to embrace an American president whenever there is a major international crisis or war. George W. Bush was hardly the most popular president to enter the White House himself, but following 9/11 Republicans and Democrats alike declared that he was their President and they would support him.
The consequence of this blind support for Bush was that the United States quickly became embroiled in military conflicts throughout the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan. Ironically, the group – and more particularly the individual – responsible for 9/11 wasn’t actually found and eliminated until the Obama administration. Yet, patriotic fervor at the time compelled people to support Bush regardless.
Trump and North Korea
In the same way that George Bush convinced people to rally round the flag and support him in the longest, ongoing state of war this nation has ever experienced, Donald Trump is finding that bombs and military action, in general, make for a high approval rating. Just how high will the Trump approval rating go if there is a major conflict between the United States and North Korea?
It’s hard to say. Certainly – as before with Bush – the government will be able to present reasonable arguments as to why we should attack North Korea and possibly eliminate its leader. North Korea’s determination to continue with banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs – and its frequent threats to use such weapons against the United States and others – certainly make Kim Jong-un and his totalitarian state a tempting target.
But with regard to the Trump approval rating, it’s important to remember that Bush’s approval rating eventually began to plummet once again when the public realized that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and that the endless wars were starting to seem – well – endless. While Trump might get yet another bump in his approval rating with an attack on North Korea that knocks out its nuclear weapons program or eliminates its current leader, a situation in which we get bogged down in a Second Korean War would be a different story.
If thousands of body bags start coming back from North Korea or – even worse – the Chinese decide they’re not going to stand on the sidelines after all and pour a dozen divisions of infantry across the border into North Korea, the American public might quickly turn on Trump. If that happens, the low Trump approval rating of 34 he was facing a few weeks ago might look pretty good in comparison to what he’ll have it that point.
[Featured Image by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]