Believe It Or Not, Donald Trump Is The “Most Admired Man” Of 2020
“That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I’ve spent a large part of the past twelve months repeating that phrase to myself. In fact, if we define “strength” as a level of emotional numbness so profound that it feels as if nothing will disappoint, surprise, or spark a glimmer of joy within me ever again, I may now be the strongest man alive.
My capacity for despair has been so blunted by COVID-19, months of racial unrest, catastrophic economic collapse, and a literal plague of locusts, that when I heard that Donald Trump had won this year’s Gallup poll for “Most Admired Man”, honestly, I didn’t even flinch.
That’s right, the final dribble of lunacy from the firehose of horror that has been 2020, is the news that Americans are more likely to name Donald Trump as the man they most admire than any other man anywhere in the entire world. The result marks the end of Barack Obama’s record-equalling twelve-year reign in the top spot and ends an almost three-week run of personal faith in human nature.
When Gallup tallied up the votes, Trump got 18%, Obama got 15%, and nobody cares what anybody else got, because the takeaway here is that at least one-in-five Americans think more favourably of Donald Trump than they do the Dalai Lama or record-breaking philanthropist, Bill Gates, or that guy at work who doesn’t understand the concept of personal space.
Bear in mind that the poll is designed to avoid any prompting. There’s no pressure to choose a celebrity or a CEO or man whose wilfully incompetent handling of a pandemic has killed over 300,000 people. The question is simply the following:
“What man that you have heard or read about, living today in any part of the world, do you admire most?”
Seriously, how is Donald Trump the first man that springs to mind when you hear that question? Wait, don’t answer that. The answer is sure to be unbearably depressing.
Believe it or not, the most remarkable thing about Trump’s win is that it didn’t happen earlier. On the seventy-four occasions since 1946 that Gallup has run the poll, the sitting president has won sixty times. Only Trump’s dismal approval ratings (36% in 2017, 40% in 2018 and 41% in 2019) explain his failure to win in those years. But even though Trump’s approval rating stands at just 39% in 2020, it seems that the overall terribleness of this year finally overcame the tide of sanity that was keeping Trump away from the top spot.
Gallup explained Trump’s win by pointing out that Republicans voted almost exclusively for Trump (48% chose him with nobody else getting more than 2% of the votes), whereas Democrats spread their votes around a little (32% voted for Obama, but 13% voted for Biden and 5% voted for Fauci).
However, I’m inclined to explain the result in the same way I explain the fact that a groundbreaking environmental research vessel almost ended up with the name “Boaty McBoatface”; the internet is a baffling, self-contradictory hellscape in which there’s no telling which choices will make any sense. And while there’s no guarantee that those choices will be any less confusing in 2021, there is one small crumb of comfort we can take. Donald Trump may be America’s most admired man, but we only have to wait a few more days until he’s no longer America’s president.