Liberals who want to punish Trump voters need to get in line behind President Trump and the GOP.
The American Health Care Act introduced by House Republicans last week and swiftly endorsed by the White House appears to have been designed to hurt Trump voters — at least the vast majority of them who are older, live in rural areas and take in less than $250,000 a year in investment income.
Those who have the most to lose in tax credits to help buy insurance are most likely to have been Trump supporters, according to TheNew York Times. And the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that 11 of the 11 states with residents who will see their credits shrunk on average by half or more went for Trump in November.
The health bill’s $883 billion in tax breaks, meanwhile, are targeted at the rich and corporations — which just happen to be disproportionately concentrated in blue states like California and New York that went massively against Trump. “It’s a very sad transfer of wealth,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, from red states to blue ones.
Many on the left can’t help cheering for this supersized serving of just desserts to Trump’s chumps.
Liberals knew that once you got past Trump’s promises to smite all enemies with deportations, bombings and a stern government-mandated “Merry Christmas,” his agenda was basically House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Billionaires Fan Club plan for dealing with the worst crises of our time — income inequality and climate change — by making them worse, stat.
From robbing low-wage workers of new overtime pay protections to “devastating” cuts to Great Lakes restoration to deporting the one immigrant your town really likes, the outcomes of Trump’s “monumental fraud” were so predictable that to act otherwise offends liberals through their kale-enriched bones.
To liberals, Trump’s obvious racism, misogyny and general contempt for everyone but Fox & Friends viewers made him unacceptable. “Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all of them decided that racism isn’t a deal-breaker,” Charles Gaba tweeted. “End of story.”
The self-alleged billionaire’s approach to racial instigation had much in common with the right’s tradition of scapegoating “welfare queens” and the “47%.” But an important difference made it even more infuriating to the left.
“Donald Trump gave up on hiding the racial message from his critics and his opponents,” Ian Haney-López, author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, told Duke University’s Policy 360. “Nevertheless, I’d say, he continued to use racial messages — or coded formats for his racial messages — in ways that hid the racism of the underlying narrative from the base he was trying to mobilize.”
If you’re a liberal, the idea that there’s anything “coded” about implying millions of Mexicans are “rapists and drug dealers” probably makes you want to beat up your James Comey doll. But Trump never proclaimed that his campaign was about advancing the rights of “European-Americans,” as former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke did in his failed 2016 Senate race in Louisiana. Nor did Trump ever tweet, as Iowa Rep. Steve King did this week, that “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”
Trump’s appeal is much broader. Cognitive scientist George Lakoff has spent decades studying how conservatives have won by nurturing a worldview of a powerful authority enforcing discipline through strength. Last summer, he tried to warn Democrats that Trump — despite a near total ignorance of conservative policy — was appealing to Republicans across the spectrum as well as to union workers who believe in “traditional family values” in their private lives.
“It’s about Strict Father Morality, which entails the racism, and not just the racism, but the Islamophobia and the idea that in 21 states teachers and coaches can beat students with sticks if they don’t show total respect,” Lakoff told me.
Trump is a minority president. Democrats can probably win the presidency again without winning Trump voters by swaying third-party backers and turning out Democrats who stayed home last November. But they’ll never be able to govern effectively without winning over red areas.
The broken promises of Trumpism offer a way forward. “A Strict Father cannot be a betrayer of trust,” Lakoff writes. By empathizing with the plight of poor Trump voters and emphasizing Trump’s growing list of betrayals, the left can begin to whittle away at Trump’s stubborn support. And that would be the best revenge.