On Thursday, Eric Levitz of New York Magazine outlined how President Donald Trump's open contempt for the people of Puerto Rico, calling the island corrupt and whining about how much they need in disaster relief, is just a symptom of a larger problem: Trump doesn't view anyone but his base supporters as truly American.
This is exemplified in particular, Levitz noted, by a recent fundraising email telling his supporters, "The President is calling on you at this critical time to remind AOC and Democrats that this is our country, not theirs."
"In high-profile speeches throughout his first years in office, Trump insisted that his brand of nationalism was color-blind and all-inclusive," wrote Levitz. "The commander-in-chief has now dispensed with such pretenses. In his campaign’s view, this country belongs exclusively to his supporters; Democrats have no interests that the Trump administration is bound to respect. It would be scandalous enough for a president’s campaign to promote this sentiment disingenuously, as a cynical means of firing up its base. But Trump’s contempt for his majoritarian opposition is entirely earnest. His campaign’s email does not articulate a demagogic reelection strategy so much as an authoritarian governing philosophy. We are not looking at a presidential scandal, but a the makings of democratic crisis."
The proof, Levitz said, lies in Trump's recent suggestion to his own officials that he would pardon them if they break any laws trying to construct his border wall — something he has since tried to claim was just a joke. But it has been going on even longer than that.
"When Trump was, in his own words, 'really ready and psyched to terminate NAFTA' in 2017, macroeconomic projections suggesting the policy would hurt the median American did not persuade the president to change course," wrote Levitz. "Rather, pro-trade White House advisers changed Trump’s mind by showing him a map that indicated the regions most vulnerable to NAFTA's cancellation were also strongly Republican."
This sentiment shows up in everything from how Trump's tax cuts cut deductions used by blue states, to his pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio for defying court orders to stop racial profiling, to how Trump's government shutdown shut off services to Democratic constituencies.
"When applied to a disagreement over how many feet of fencing to build in a desert, the president’s (now explicit) governing philosophy may seem mostly innocuous," warned Levitz. "If it is ever applied to the results of a closely contested 2020 election, however, it won’t seem that way at all."