With red meat conspiracy theories, Trump endangers his own voters — and everyone else
If you’re a white supremacist, racist, or just feeling insecure about your status as a white man in America, the president of the United States sure wants you to know he’s got your back.
Over the past few weeks, President Trump has stoked racial divisions by making steady, clumsy and unsubtle overtures to his white nationalist supporters.
Most recently, he retweeted a video that showed a Trump supporter twice shouting “white power” at anti-racism protesters in Florida. His advisers eventually compelled him to take down the impolitic retweet.
But he’s also tweeted videos of Black-on-white crime to discredit charges of systemic white racism; vigorously defended Confederate generals; opposed efforts to rename military bases after people who weren’t racist supporters of slavery; tear-gassed anti-racism peaceful protesters, and used racialized language harkening back to the 1960s to threaten protesters.
Just a cursory perusal of Trump’s obvious outreach to defenders of white culture and power would lead anyone to believe without a shadow of a doubt: He must really, really like these guys.
But just how much Trump cares about anyone besides himself is a question that’s truly being put to the test right now.
It started with COVID-19. Trump’s utter incompetence as a leader during a global pandemic quickly turned a health crisis into a mouth-breathing culture war, one he seemed all too pleased to indulge.
He turned his base against medical experts, pushed their unfounded conspiracy theories, underplayed the severity of the virus and leaned into economic insecurities over remaining vigilant.
This has put his own voters in danger. The bizarre and tragically stupid anti-mask movement he champions by defiantly and childishly refusing to wear one threatens the very lives of his own supporters and their communities.
His campaign was reportedly seen removing thousands of socialdistancing signs from his Tulsa rally to prevent the optics of empty seats — unsuccessfully, it turned out, as only 6,200 people showed up at the 19,200-seat venue. Eight of his own campaign staffers who attended have since tested positive for the coronavirus.
He’s moved most of the GOP convention to a venue that would allow larger crowds, though, who knows how long it will stay in Jacksonville, Fla., after that city mandated mask-wearing at indoor and outdoor events.
And he’s tried to block mail-in voting — which would allow more people to vote without risking their lives at public polling places — to suppress Democratic turnout and help discredit the results if loses.
His determination to give his supporters the orgy of anti-science, antiexpert, anti-left, pro-white red meat they crave is endangering them, and the rest of us. Sixteen states, from Arizona to Texas, Florida to California, are pulling back their reopening efforts as cases surge.
But even if Trump doesn’t really care about his supporters’ lives, you’d think he’d care about getting reelected for them, presumably both to remain in power and to deliver on the promises he made.
If he does, it isn’t showing. Trump is bleeding white support.
He’s ahead of Joe Biden among white voters by only 1 point, according to recent polls. White women with college degrees support Joe Biden by a whopping 39 points. Only 30% of whites under 45 support Trump, versus 52% who support
Biden. Even among white seniors, two-fifths of white voters over 65 disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus and race.
Whatever the president is doing isn’t working, except with an evershrinking white, male, uneducated base that is still buying what he’s selling.
But does Trump truly even care about them anymore? With every anti-mask, socially crowded rally he holds for them, and with every white-power air kiss he throws to them, he’s both endangering their lives and tanking his own reelection prospects.
So, ultimately, Trump’s efforts to delight his voter base may just leave them with a country still dying from COVID-19, a second wave of shutdowns, continued unemployment, and a Democrat in the White House to boot. He sure has an odd way of showing he cares.