The headlines I saw said that only 29 percent of Americans approve of President Trump’s decision to fire James Comey. That includes the headline written by NBC News about its own poll, which produced that result.
That sounds quite terrible, implying supermajority opposition. But what would you think if the same poll said that only 38 percent disapprove, with the remainder (32 percent) not sure what to think at this point? That doesn’t sound nearly as terrible, does it? The ambivalence is not really split along partisan lines, either, with a third of Republicans, a quarter of Democrats, and not quite half of independents unsure what to think about the whole mess.
Yes, there is a remote chance that Comey’s firing will send Trump into a tailspin. Tapes could be released (if they exist, and who even knows) that show Trump demanding Comey stop investigating, or a letter could surface showing he asked Russian president Vladimir Putin for help in the election (I suppose this is what some people expect), and it could all turn into Armageddon for Trump’s presidency.
But in the real world, where none of that will probably happen, life will go on, depending on whom Trump picks to replace Comey. People will continue to view Trump with the same admiration, disgust, and/or puzzlement as they did before.
In political terms, we’ll get a quick test of how big this issue is on May 25, when the votes are counted in Montana’s special House election, and again on June 20, when voters in Georgia’s Sixth District go to the polls for their runoff election. Until then, be wary of the assumption that this has fundamentally changed the political environment.