Is the story Donald Trump? Or is the story the great many Americans who are supporting him and what that tells us about today's United States?
A word of caution for Canadians putting a question like that here. There's a living-in-glass-houses riposte available. "What about Rob Ford?" an African-American cab driver, referencing the late Toronto mayor, calmly fired back at me. "How many of you all voted for him?"
But Canadians surely weren't alone in thinking that after so many gruesome embarassments, His Recklessness Donald Trump would be in a freefall by now, his public approval rating tumbling.
But amazingly, it isn't happening. Given all the rage over Mr. Trump's take on Charlottesville, his Anthony Scaramucci fiasco, the North Korea nuclear war threat, the health-care reform flop, the Russian election meddling debacle, the daily crucifixion by the media, his support has hardly dropped a peg.
Recent polls released found him between 37 and 40 per cent. That's about where he was before most of these afflictions struck. It's not far from where he was when elected last November. In terms of his job approval rating, the RealClearPolitics average of all polls was 44 per cent during Mr. Trump's first week in office. It is 38 per cent now.
On the question of whether Mr. Trump is viewed favourably, he is doing even better than when first elected. He is viewed unfavourably by 55 per cent now, compared to 58 per cent on Nov. 8.
Compared to other presidents at this stage, he is doing badly. But given his volume of conflagrations, the numbers – you would think he'd be down around 20 per cent – are stubbornly good and not about to change.
Stubborn support? In a Monmouth University poll released this week 60 per cent of those who approve of Mr. Trump said they are on his train – no matter what he does – for good.
Americans, as pollsters tell us, didn't want a traditional president. They wanted a disruptor-in-chief and they've got one, damn the torpedoes. The more Trump voters sense their President is under attack from liberal elites – which is how they've branded Democrats – the more they dig in. Mr. Trump will keep on disrupting, the media will keep on screaming, and the country will keep on fraying.
How rabid is Mr. Trump's anti-establishment base? A recent poll showed that about half of Republicans would support Mr. Trump postponing the 2020 election if widespread voter fraud was likely. Mr. Trump has appointed a commission investigating voter fraud, the claimed existence of which is a fraud in itself.
Despite all the hell being raised by Democrats, Republican fundraising in the first half of this year is double that of the Democrats. The Democrats are hoping to score big in next year's midterm elections, but given the seats that are up for grabs in the Senate, the odds strongly favour the Republicans. In the House, the GOP has a 24-seat edge that will be hard to overtake.
In Congress, there are many Republicans disgusted with the President, especially since his comments on the violence in Charlottesville. But, as he usually does, Mr. Trump deployed his insult gun to fire back harder. Given that the public's job approval rating for Congress is closing in on single digits, he can get away with it.
Unless there's a complete collapse in Mr. Trump's numbers, the party won't move against him. Impeachment isn't talked about. Formal acts of censure aren't being taken up.
Big players in business are abandoning the President. Two White House advisory councils were disbanded in the wake of Charlottesville. For the America-Firster in the Oval Office, as noted by Yale professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, this constituted an ugly first. "We've never had business leaders decline national service when requested by the President."
Critics speak of Mr. Trump's undermining democracy and the Constitution, and of a crisis of legitimacy he is bringing to the highest office in the land. In so many respects they are right. But the disorder and the upheavals are what his supporters wanted. It is why they are sticking with him, and it is why more convulsions are on the way.