It sounds odd to be speculating about how long Donald Trump's presidency could last when he's only just completing his first month in office.

Yet he has already lost a Cabinet member, his Gallup approval ratings continue to slide, news reports say key departments are dysfunctional, he continues to make incendiary comments such as major news organisations are the "enemy of the people," he is battling parts of the media and the intelligence agencies, and his inescapable Russian scandal keeps snowballing.

How many more months of this can he, they, we, take?

With Trump's daily impression of teetering on a cliff, it is tempting to think that his populist Administration will crumble within a year with the threat of impeachment and resignation. It is more likely that Trump will at least struggle through to beyond the 2018 midterm elections.


The US President is at the stormy centre but his party controls Congress, he has a core group of loyal support, and the economy is currently in good shape.

There's still a lot of unknowns ahead: What's out there yet to be uncovered that's detrimental to Trump? Could a badly handled crisis or disaster be a tipping point? Will Trump be able to introduce changes to make his government less chaotic?

The worst-case scenario for Trump suggests any unravelling would take time. Watergate, the nearest yardstick to this situation, began with break-ins in 1971 and 1972 and resulted in President Richard Nixon's resignation in August 1974. It involved lengthy media reporting, FBI and Senate investigations, legal battles and congressional opposition.

Yale politics professor Stathis Kalyvas, in a Twitter thread on lessons learned from Greece's crisis, wrote: "Abysmal incompetence of populist government leads many to mistaken belief it will be over quickly. For a long time you think you've seen the worst, but you haven't seen anything yet".

Having both houses of Congress controlled by Republicans should theoretically make it easier for the President and his party to get things done and push through legislation, until the elections in November next year. There is no guarantee the Democrats will be able to take back the House of Representatives or Senate or both in 2018 although there are signs " the mass protests, Trump's unpopularity outside his core support " that it could happen. Republican George W. Bush started with a Democratic Senate and Republican House, saw Republicans gain control and then lose it. Democrat Barack Obama started with a Democratic Congress, then lost the House to the Republicans and then the Senate as well.

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the "Make America Great Again Rally" at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport. Photo / AP

Trump and Congressional Republicans have a tricky relationship. But so far, while individual leading Republicans and some conservative commentators have criticised Trump, GOP leaders have avoided taking him on with action. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight pointed out yesterday: "How often GOP 'mavericks' have voted with Trump so far: Graham: 100%, Rubio: 100%, McCain: 94%, Paul: 90%"

Republican leaders have preferred questions about Russia's role in the 2016 election and Trump aides' possible ties to Moscow to be handled by Senate committee rather than setting up a major bipartisan commission.

That could still be difficult for Trump. On Saturday, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a closed briefing with FBI Director James Comey. Afterwards, Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: "I am now very confident Senate intel comm I serve on will conduct thorough bipartisan investigation of #Putin interference and influence".


In terms of party self-interest, the Republicans in Congress want the Trump term to be a success so they can get their programmes and tax reforms through, and confirm a Supreme Court judge, while they have control.

What could make that difficult is if Trump becomes so toxic politically that defending him becomes too damaging. Should the opposition against Trump become persistent, large and well-organised, he could threaten the prospects of Republicans up for re-election.

President Donald Trump pumps his fist to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally. Photo / AP
President Donald Trump pumps his fist to supporters at the conclusion of a campaign rally. Photo / AP

Washington Post

writer Christopher Ingraham tweeted that "at some point, the fact that Republicans are enabling this behaviour has to become a bigger story than the behaviour itself".

Gallup had Trump's approval rating at just 38 per cent on Saturday, the first poll taken after General Mike Flynn resigned as National Security Adviser.

But Pew Research Centre figures show that Trump is popular with Republican voters " slightly more so than the two President Bushes and Ronald Reagan were at the same time. Trump's crossover appeal is far less, though. Only 8 per cent of Democrats approve of him compared to 39 per cent for Reagan, 46 per cent for Bush snr, and 30 per cent for Bush jnr.

A lot of commentary has focused on what the Democrats need to do to appeal to Trump's core support but for the opposition, the real voter targets are those 'soft' Trump backers who decided to give him a go and their own people who decided not to vote for Hillary Clinton. Josh Barro wrote in Business Insider: "Trump's presidency lies in the hands of the Trump-curious: The approximately 15 per cent of Americans who dislike him but tell pollsters they think he might do a good job. A lot of these are people who voted for Trump despite having an unfavourable view of him."

Their support is conditional on Trump improving their lives.

Obama, who inherited a recession, has handed Trump an economy that added 156,000 jobs in December and a jobless rate of 4.7 per cent. CNN reports: "Wall Street is ignoring the infighting in the White House ... and is focusing on the potential for tax reform and a massive infrastructure stimulus plan from Trump and Republicans in Congress".

People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump at his
People wait for the arrival of President Donald Trump at his "Make America Great Again Rally" at Orlando-Melbourne International Airport. Photo / AP

Foreign policy could suffer from White House instability. As many critics have noted, the Trump Administration has actually yet to manage a real crisis, attack or disaster. Analyst Ilan Goldenberg put it starkly: "We are all gawking at the madness but eventually something serious will happen, our govt will be unprepared & people will lose their lives".

Politico reported that Trump sidelined his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over dropping the US commitment to a two-state solution for Mideast peace. It says the President is operating without seeking much input from his more experienced Cabinet secretaries and that Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, is a "shadow secretary of state". A group in the West Wing led by Kushner and adviser Steve Bannon has been set up to serve as a shadow National Security Council.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote that while he has trouble seeing how the Trump Administration survives a full term, he also has trouble seeing how it ends. "Trump's White House staff is at war with itself [but] many of the institutions that would normally ease out or remove a failing president no longer exist."

He wrote: "There are no longer moral arbiters in Congress ... to lead a resignation or impeachment process. There is no longer a single media establishment that shapes how the country sees the president. This is no longer a country in which everybody experiences the same reality".

Brooks added: "The likelihood is this: We're going to have an administration that has morally and politically collapsed, without actually going away."