Sometimes it’s hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news—largely ignored by national print and broadcast media—that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California’s devastating wildfires. The state had requested $7.4 billion, modest under the circumstances.
The drought- and wind-driven fires—every bit as much a natural cataclysm as a hurricane or a tornado—killed 43 Californians and destroyed almost 9000 homes and commercial buildings. Vast stretches of the beautiful city of Santa Rosa looked as if it they been carpet bombed. Many thousands of your fellow Americans were rendered homeless and destitute.
Yet that evidently didn’t qualify as a disaster to Donald J. Trump, who couldn’t even be bothered to show up on the west coast to throw paper towels around—as he’d done in Puerto Rico. And why? Mother Jones’ invaluable Kevin Drum thinks he knows: California’s governor, Jerry Brown, and its two U.S. Senators are Democrats, like 39 of its 53 congressmen.
“Occam’s Razor” Drum writes “suggests that the best guess is the most obvious one: California is a Democratic state that didn’t vote for Donald Trump. You don’t mess with the family.”
Indeed, Californians voted against Trump almost two to one. Sonoma County, whose county seat is Santa Rosa, gave Trump a mere 22 percent of its vote. So let them live in tents and shovel their own ashes. They’re dead to this White House—apparently unworthy of help in Trump’s America.
Texas, Florida and even wave-tossed Puerto Rico, whose politicians basically shamed Trump into a grudging, lukewarm response to its humanitarian crisis, will share what local leaders call an inadequate relief package in the wake of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. (Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed a $146 billion aid bill for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, but absent GOP support its chances would appear slim and none.)
Either way, Californians are on their own.
Even more remarkable, Drum thinks, is that with a single exception—Rep. Ed Royce of Orange County—“California’s Republican delegation boycotted a request for disaster funding for their own state.”
They haven’t simply chosen party over country, like GOP partisans determinedly ignoring the mountain of evidence documenting the Trump campaign’s entanglement with Kremlin operatives during the 2016 election. They have chosen party over their own friends and neighbors.
Because like altogether too many Trump supporters, they don’t consider fire victims as friends, neighbors or fellow Californians.
Instead, they’re Democrats, and as such avowed enemies.
Partisanship is nothing new in American politics, of course, but GOP hostility toward their Democratic rivals took a hard turn after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. Lacking a foreign enemy to demonize, the party’s evangelical right wing selected the Clintons as Public Enemies #1 and #2.
I once got a chance to ask the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, famed for The Clinton Chronicles—a lurid video charging President Clinton with drug-smuggling and murder—if the Biblical commandment against false witness was more or less important than the one forbidding adultery. Somewhat to his credit, he said they were equally significant, although he pretended not to know why I was asking.
Silly me, I recall being flabbergasted when delegates to the 2004 Republican convention wore Band-Aids mocking Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam War wounds. Three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star for heroism in combat weren’t enough to persuade these zealots of the Democratic presidential candidate’s patriotism.
Surely, I imagined, such mockery would backfire.
It turned out that I had underestimated how far around the bend the Foxified GOP had gone. However, it’s one thing to turn partisan zeal against symbolic figures like presidential candidates, quite another to punish one’s fellow citizens. Short term, Trump will seemingly pay no price. What remains to be seen, however, is what price blue state Republicans will pay.
Less melodramatic, but perhaps more politically consequential is the way the current GOP “tax cut” bill takes direct aim at taxpayers in anti-Trump states. Just two of its provisions—sharply limiting the home mortgage interest deduction, and eliminating the federal deduction of state and local income and property taxes—would not only stick taxpayers in California and the urban northeast with sharply higher income taxes, but could destabilize real estate markets.
Up go your income taxes, down goes the value of your home. All this to shovel countless billions to corporations and tycoons like Donald J. Trump and his hardworking family of grifters, who, like really need the cash. Republican politicians in suburban swing districts will be left to fend for themselves.
Meanwhile, partisan Democrats don’t yet reciprocate GOP contempt. But they are definitely working on it.