Is this the real reason Trump keeps making vapid jokes about parents hating their kids?
Tasos Katopodis/AFP

Former President Donald Trump has developed a favorite new joke on the campaign trail: that his followers hate their kids. And while it's largely tongue-in-cheek, it's coming from a real place, and an understanding Trump has about the tension in his supporters' families, wrote Philip Bump for The Washington Post on Tuesday.

One of the most recent instances of Trump dropping this joke was during a video in which he was touting his 2017 tax bill's provision doubling the exemption for the estate tax.

“Some day, it’ll become time for [farmers] to leave this beautiful earth, and they’ll be able to leave their farm, without taxes, to their children. I got rid of the ‘death tax’ on farms so that when you do pass away, on the assumption that you love your children, you can leave it to them and they won’t have to pay tax," said Trump in the clip. “But if you don’t love your children so much,” he continued, “and there are some people that don’t — and maybe deservedly so — it won’t matter, because, frankly, you don’t have to leave them anything. Thank you very much. Have fun.”

"On the surface, the explanation is simple," wrote Bump. "Trump is trying to make a joke that doesn’t land when offered emotionlessly into a camera. But there’s something deeper here, too: Trump understands, if only intuitively, how much anxiety his base feels about younger Americans, including those to whom they happen to be related."

A generation gap has been growing for years in American politics. Generation Z and Millennial voters both lean firmly Democratic, with no indication of this trend weakening, while Baby Boomer and particularly Generation X voters are just as firmly Republican. "A lot of Trump supporters really are wary of their own kids and grandchildren," wrote Bump. "The roots of Trumpism extend back to the election of Barack Obama in 2008." The gap between younger and older voters was 42 points in that election. Further, these older voters were aghast at their kids' and grandkids' support for a president whom Fox News told them was a "socialist" — an anxiety Trump seized on to get elected himself.

"Trump’s comments about unloved kids was mostly a bad joke. But it did get at something deeper, too, a sense that younger Americans might 'deservedly' be unloved by their parents. Maybe your kids are Democrats who voted for Joe Biden. Do you want to give them your farm?" concluded Bump. "The response here is simple: Those kids probably don’t want the farm anyway."

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