From This Perch column: Grading Donald Trump
I have recently been wondering how Donald Trump's supporters would grade him for his first year in office. So I approached a number of friends and family members — folks who had voted for Mr. Trump. Each of them knew that I had not voted for their candidate.
Eight people — each someone I respect and care about — kindly allowed this intrusion.
Here are the questions I posed and what I learned in response:
1. On the day you voted for him, what was the level of your enthusiasm for Mr. Trump — as a percentage number? (ranging from 1 percent at the lowest and 100 percent at the highest)
The highest percentage of enthusiasm was "1,000 percent compared to Hillary" and the lowest was 1 percent. The average (converting the very enthusiastic "1000 percent" to 100 percent) was a little over 54 percent.
Just about everyone added the bit about Hillary Clinton, as in "anyone but Hillary."
2. What grade do you give the president for his first year in office?
The highest grade given was a B+, and the lowest was a D—.
The "grade point average" among the eight (1= D, 2=C, etc): 2.1, or a C.
3. Basic reasons for the grade given:
For those who issued a relatively high grade, the reasons given were quite similar: Appointments, especially Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch; healthy economy; tough immigration stance; and as one person put it, "He hasn't done anything to hurt me."
Those who gave relatively low grades all centered on the same basic concerns: Lack of presidential character and demeanor; divisiveness; and the nature and frequency of his tweets.
4. What do you consider to be "fake news?" I defined this as a news source that intentionally puts out false reports in order to serve a political ideology, and I listed a spectrum of news sources, basically representing every political perspective I could think of.
One person thought all of the listed sources were "fake."
Another thought none of them were but did believe they were all biased to one degree or another.
More typically, "fake news" was seen as coming from MSNBC and CNN, but not from Fox News.
One person considered National Public Radio to be a source of "fake news."
And one responder considered the far-right network Breitbart News to be "fake news."
5. What is the number 1 news source you rely on?
A majority listed Fox News. One identified Breitbart News.
6. What changes, if any, would you like to see Mr. Trump bring to the presidency in the coming year?
Most of the responders said something along the lines of "less tweeting." And there was a wish by most that Mr. Trump would be less divisive and more presidential.
I appreciate the willingness of each of these people to participate. I surveyed them because I was curious, but I also found that it was fun.
And another benefit was that these dear people were spared from having to listen to me talking — for a change.
Recognizing that there will always be differing points of view on a given issue, I like to picture an issue as being located within a circle. From this standpoint, the issue can be seen as having 365 degrees of possible entry points.
My particular view on the president's first year in office, for instance, would only represent one entry point into the circle of possible viewpoints, and my view represents the effects of a lifetime of my particular experiences and influences.
If I apply this "entry point" theory to each of the people involved in my very unscientific survey, it's easier for me to understand what caused each of them to vote for Mr. Trump, just as I can more easily understand their quite varied responses to the president's first year in office.
The late scientist Carl Sagan once showed an image taken by Voyager 1. How far away? 3.7 billion miles from Earth. From the perspective of this image, Sagan pointed to a tiny dot which he identified as our planet. He called it a "pale blue dot" and added this:
"There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another."
The folly of human conceits, indeed.
Cross your fingers that President Trump can channel his inner Carl Sagan in his second year in office.