This past week, Palmer Report consistently explained why we were probably not going to war with Iran, even as most other pundits and observers insisted that war was a foregone conclusion. We thought the explanation was self-evident: neither Donald Trump nor Iran wanted war, and they each had a lot to lose from war. Now we’re seeing hard numerical evidence which points to why.
There’s a prevailing narrative that says an unpopular president can use war to get himself reelected. The thing is, it just doesn’t hold water. In fact it’s overwhelmingly untrue. While war can make a popular president even more popular, war can only serve to make an unpopular president even more unpopular. Even Trump seems to understand this, which is why he occasionally tries to boost his popularity by picking off one bad guy (al-Baghdadi, Soleimani) in isolation instead. The trouble for Trump is, that doesn’t work either.
New polling from USA Today says that 55% of Americans think Trump’s assassination of Soleimani has made the United States less safe, while just 24% of Americans think it’s made the United States more safe, with the rest unsure. Of all the Americans who have an opinion on the Iran thing, more than two-thirds of them think Trump blew it.
In other words, Donald Trump’s military move against Iran is even more unpopular than he is. It clearly hasn’t gained him a single new supporter, or a single additional vote in 2020. And at the rate these numbers are going, if Trump were to seek a more substantial or prolonged military conflict, it would make him even more unpopular. Trump knows he can’t win in 2020 by going to war. We should stop letting him use that implied threat as leverage against us.