Donald Trump remains haunted by the fact that more people opposed him in November, about 54 percent, than voted for him. The “mandate” he cites repeatedly while making executive orders and rash pronouncements doesn’t exist.
But Trump has a bigger problem, one that has provoked early chaos in his administration and could lead to widespread difficulties down the road. It’s that even among the 46 percent who did vote for him, most are divided on key issues.
Trump finds himself on a limb, without consensus among the public, elected officials and big business. Almost every piece of his jury rigged agenda has more opponents than supporters.
Immediately following his inauguration, as millions of protesters took to the streets, Trump issued a telling tweet: “Watched the protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?”
Of course, many of the protesters did vote - for Hillary Clinton. Others, who marched in cities across the nation, actually voted for Trump, yet oppose him on matters relating to women’s rights.
Indeed, abortion is a perfect example of Trump’s dilemma. He’s against it, but 59 percent of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, believe abortion should be legal. In fact, support for legalized abortion in the U.S. has grown steadily over the last two decades.
Trump might have a mandate among his own supporters to “change the system,” but there’s little agreement on what form that change should take. More jobs? Sure. Lower taxes? Always a crowd pleaser. Greater border security? Fine.
But even within those linchpin issues there is widespread disagreement. In the latest Gallup poll, 60 percent of Americans said they opposed Trump’s plan to build a wall on the border with Mexico. On Trump’s temporary immigration ban, Gallup finds the nation split at about 50-50.
Even repealing Obamacare - perhaps the most sharply focused issue in Trump’s agenda - is losing favor. According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, more people now approve of Obamacare than dislike it.
Faced with a shriveling mandate on a host of issues, it’s not surprising that the administration is lashing out. Trump’s far-right adviser Stephen Bannon told The New York Times that media “still don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”
Trump himself issued an even more direct shot at journalists and independent polls that underscore disagreement on his pet issues. He tweeted, “Any negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election.”
Of course, all during the campaign Trump eagerly cited those polls that showed him leading.
As he continues on-the-job training in the Oval Office, President Trump is finding that Americans are prone to disagreement on a wide variety of issues. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. That’s why most presidents go slowly while carefully vetting proposals, articulating positions for media and the public, and seeking compromise where possible in Congress.
Trump’s only mandate at this point is to conduct himself with the understanding that he doesn’t really have one.
Peter Funt can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com.