In 2003, while 51 percent of Americans could find the state of New York on a world map, 19 percent couldn’t find their own country. Twenty-nine percent couldn’t locate the Pacific Ocean (National Geographic poll).
In 2017, while 53 percent of U.S. citizens could name at least one right to which they are entitled under the First Amendment, 75 percent percent couldn’t identify even one of their three branches of government (University of Pennsylvania survey).
Last year, YouGov reported that only 33 percent of young people in the United States “are confidant” the planet is round. The Guardian noted that several scientists blamed YouTube for inadvertently providing aid and comfort (and channels) to the growing army of flatearthlings among us.
Meanwhile, actor Rob Lowe told a Television Critics Association press tour that his pal and fellow dramaturge Charlie Sheen thinks the moon is hollow because it rings like a bell (presumably when struck by a very large clapper).
Lest we Canadians sigh relievedly for having won (or not lost) the War of 1812, here’s what an Ipsos MORI poll said about us in 2014: “Canadians surveyed think that … 15 percent of girls aged 15-19 years old give birth each year. Only one percent actually do. … We think that 39 percent of the population is over 65 years old. In reality it’s just 14 percent. … Participants said that 23 percent of the population is unemployed and looking for work. It’s actually just under seven percent.”
According to a piece in The New Yorker last month, three years ago Donald Trump “won with just 46.1 percent of the national vote. … The day before the election, 37.5 percent of American voters had a favourable opinion of him, according to the Real Clear Politics poll average. After his victory, his favourability rating rose to the low 40s during the transition, where it has largely stayed. The latest R.C.P. poll average showed him with a favourability rating of 43.8 percent, which is pretty close to his latest job-approval rating – 44.3 percent on Wednesday (June 12). It doesn’t seem to matter what he does or says: these numbers don’t change much.”
No they don’t. But why be so surprised? He is our creature.
Trump may play fast and loose with the truth. So what? At least he’s consistent, his supporters say.
He doesn’t believe in global warming. Big deal. Science is a matter of opinion.
He’s an Olympic-class swimmer in the “Washington Swamp” he vows to drain just as soon as he scores another term in the White House. No hurry. These things take time.
Irony doesn’t work against Trump because Trump is irony incarnate: A self-made billionaire who is neither a billionaire nor self-made; a hardliner on illegal immigration who hires (or who has hired) undocumented workers to clean his golf resort in Florida; a self-proclaimed integrationist who, in reference to newcomers from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, recently (though reportedly) queried aloud, “Why are we having all these people from @!#&hole countries come here?
He evinces no reason, because neither do a lot of people nowadays. And too many public office holders who might don’t seem to have the political stomach to do so in this or any other near season to come.
Donald Trump is the new normal: Leader of the Free World V2.0, specially adapted to thrive in the Age of Wilful Stupidity. And his moral orbit will expand even to nice, peaceable, still vaguely democratic nations like Canada or, say, the United Kingdom.
And if, for some unaccountable reason, it doesn’t, there’s always Boris Johnson.
What’s not to love, indeed?
Alec Bruce is a Halifax journalist who writes about business, politics and social issues, and editor of Troy Media Partner website The Bluenose Bulletin.