Who’s a better president: The first one or the current one?
A new Monmouth University poll asked that very question. And the answers – especially among Republicans – will shock you.
Overall, 7 in 10 say that George Washington was the better president while 15% picked Trump. But among GOPers it’s far closer – with 44% choosing Washington and 37% naming Trump.
Stop for a minute. Read that last sentence again. Almost 4 in 10 Republicans told a pollster that Donald Trump is a better president than George Washington. The same George Washington who led the country’s armed forces to victory over the British, helped found our country and then walked away from office after two terms even though he could have kept getting elected for as long as he wanted.
Now, I should add that Democrats showed even higher levels of retrospective appreciation for former President Barack Obama, who they chose over George Washington by 63% to 29%. Which is also a stunning number! (And one we didn’t notice in the crosstabs until later). But the fact that Trump, three years into his first term and midway through a House impeachment process, is being compared to Washington at such favorable levels definitely tells us something about how his party views him.
While the poll question is, admittedly, a little ridiculous, it does provide a useful way into understanding just how rote the fealty is to Trump within the ranks of the Republican Party at the moment.
To compare Washington, one of our greatest presidents in the eyes of, well, everyone, to a first-term president whose tenure has been defined by record low approval numbers and a redefining what it means to hold the office (and not in a good way) is laughable.
Except not to Trump’s supporters – or Trump!
In fact, while the 45th President usually compares himself – mostly favorably! – to Abraham Lincoln, he’s also been known to cite his similarities with George Washington.
“I don’t know if you knew it, but he actually ran his business simultaneously when he was president,” Trump said in October during a Cabinet meeting. “George Washington was actually considered a very rich man at the time. … George Washington, they say, had two desks. He had a presidential desk and a business desk.”
And then there was the time in April 2018 when Trump visited Washington’s home at Mount Vernon as part of his meetings with French president Emmanuel Macron. During a tour of the property, Trump reportedly remarked of Mount Vernon and Washington: “If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it. You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you.”
Make no mistake: Trump views himself as a great man of history. And that view was affirmed – hugely – when he was elected, against all odds, to the presidency. What’s amazing – at least to me – is that so many Republicans have turned into unquestioning supporters of Trump to the point where 4 in 10 go on record to say he is a better president than George Washington!
UPDATE: This story has been updated to add a reference to data in the Monmouth poll that shows that Democrats picked former President Barack Obama over George Washington by 63% to 29%.