Despite the common belief of millennials, Obama’s popularity actually decreased after the midterm elections in 2014. Following the elections, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 40 percent, which does not put him much above Donald Trump’s current rating of 36 percent, according to Harry Enton at CNN. With the decline of Obama’s popularity rating, the public’s preference for the Democratic Party, the party Obama represented, also decreased.
The history of bipartisan American politics has shown that when a party in office declines in popularity, the other one has a high chance of being represented in the Oval Office in the next elections. For instance, the popularity decline of George W. Bush guided Obama’s huge win over Romney in 2012. The political context that favored the Republican party in 2016 can also be seen through the difference in the number of candidates from each party that entered the presidential race. Since the goal of every politician is to seem heroic and intelligent to the public, candidates only enter the race for president when they believe they have a good chance of winning or a good chance the party they are running for will win. Therefore, with five Democratic candidates and 17 Republican candidates, it is clear that more Republicans saw 2016 as a potentially successful year to run for office due to the political landscape playing in their favor at the time. While this is not a direct reason for Trump’s successful campaign, influenced for the political landscape that resulted in his victory in the 2016 elections.
The election of Donald Trump was not due to the flaws of the Obama administration and the Democratic party, contrary to what his campaign advertised. Trump was able to use the recent popularity decline of Obama and his party to practice what is known as politics of blame, which was a major element of his victory over Clinton in 2016. This political tactic consisted of using declining statistics and portraying the decline as an effect of the Obama administration. This challenged the Democrats’ ability to defend the Obama administration, which was important for the popularity of the Democratic party at the time.
Trump blamed the increasing cost of healthcare on the implementation of ObamaCare, even though costs have been increasing since 2001, well before Obama was elected for his first term. He also blamed the increasing deficit with China on the Obama administration’s foreign policy, but it is actually a result of China’s recent industrial and economic boom. Trump’s most famous campaign argument was regarding the rising level of illegal immigration, which he blamed on Obama’s presidency. This argument was built through manipulation of illegal immigration statistics. While it is true that there has been an increase in illegal immigration in the United States, it is not as recent as Trumps makes it out to be; illegal immigration has actually been on the rise since the 1970s, not since Obama was voted into office .
Trump was able to use Obama’s decreasing popularity to place the blame on him and the entire Democratic party, putting Hillary in a very difficult position. As former Secretary of State, she had to defend the administration when Trump’s campaign put it in bad light and strive to shift public party preferences towards the Democrats. She had to back up the Obama administration and promote its success against Trump’s aggressive blame-politics campaign tactics.
It is important to state that Hillary did not lose the 2016 because she lacked merit or political experience, or because Trump was an exceptional candidate; neither of these reasons are true. Hillary lost simply because the political climate before and during the elections gave the Republican party a considerable advantage.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.