Home » Trump nostalgia is here — and endangering Biden’s presidency

Trump nostalgia is here — and endangering Biden’s presidency

by Marko Florentino
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Donald Trump obviously left office on a sour note in January 2021, written off by many opinion-makers and political professionals.

Then President Biden happened. 

The most remarkable phenomenon of the 2024 election cycle so far is the rise of Trump nostalgia.

It’s difficult for anyone to have a new opinion about former President Trump, who is so well-known, so in-your-face and so polarizing.

Yet people have a new, more favorable attitude toward his presidency in retrospect, certainly compared to the White House’s current occupant. 

After about 36 months of President Biden, in other words, people yearn for the halcyon Trump years. 

Consider the latest CBS News poll.

It found that looking back, 46% of people consider Trump’s administration excellent or good, about five points higher than his average job approval when he left office.

Only 33% say the same about Biden’s time in office. 

Even starker, 65% think the economy was good under Trump, and only 28% think it was bad.

In almost a mirror image, just 38% think the economy is good under Biden, and 59% think it is bad. 

By the end of his term, Trump didn’t rate nearly as high.

After the disruptions of the pandemic, about 51% of people approved of Trump’s handling of the economy.

Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday
Donald Trump speaks at his Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday. AP

According to a November 2020 Economist/YouGov poll, people were split, 42-42, on whether the economy would get better or worse under a President Biden.

This was about even with Trump’s ratings — 45% thought the economy would get better if he was re-elected, 40% worse.

In today’s context, those are numbers from another universe and would materially improve Biden’s chances of re-election if they still held.

Of course, it was Trump’s conduct after the 2020 election that blighted his image such that it seemed hard to come back from.

In January 2021, per an Economist/YouGov poll, 55% of people thought Trump shouldn’t be allowed to run again, and 50% thought he should be removed from office. 

Now, according to CBS, 52% of people are supporting him for president, and the democracy issue is a wash.

Thirty-four percent think democracy will be safe only if Biden wins and 33% only if Trump wins.

What has created the after-the-fact fondness for Trump? 

Most fundamentally, Joe Biden has eased his 1967 Corvette Stingray out of his garage in Wilmington, Del., and driven it straight into a ditch.

His presidency is such a wide-ranging failure that he’d make almost any predecessor look better.

In the 2020 election, Biden benefited from the question “Compared to whom?”

Sure, he was an undistinguished, uninteresting, aged politician, but compared to Trump he seemed like reassuring normalcy.

In 2024, Trump is benefiting from the same question.

Sure, he’s a radioactive figure whose presidency was unnecessarily chaotic and controversial, but compared to Biden he seems competent and effective. 

Also, Trump has been a little less prominent.

He’s not flying under the radar, but every social-media post doesn’t create its own news cycle the way it did when he was president.

This makes it easier for people to focus on what they liked rather than the latest outrage.  

Finally, another way to look at it is Trump would have won re-election in 2020 if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.

Now that the pandemic is in the rearview mirror and looks more like an event beyond the control of any officeholder, Trump is bouncing back to where he was prior to its onset — and has improved his chances of winning election again.

None of this is to deny Trump has vulnerabilities, and Biden still has cards to play.

But it’s no small thing that Biden’s record is found wanting when matched up with that of the man who occupied the office just three years ago.

Trump nostalgia, in short, is a clear and present danger to Biden’s presidency. 

Twitter: @RichLowry

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