Donald Trump
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As I was writing earlier about the lies OMB Director Mick Mulvaney is telling about Trump’s budget, I was wondering how all of this would fly with his white working class supporters. We are sure to see the requisite number of articles about how they would be hurt by it. But that is not necessarily representative of how his supporters see things.

Then I ran across this from an article about the budget by Damian Paletta and Robert Costa:

The budget, in its deeply conservative framework, risks alarming some of the president’s supporters…

But a White House official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said Trump saw the shrinking of the “welfare state” as a necessary component of his nationalist, working-class appeal and part of his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

I’d be willing to bet some money that the White House official is Steve Bannon (or someone on his team). He is the one who sees himself as the champion of the “forgotten man,” which is his way of talking about people in the white working class. So it’s worth looking at how the shrinking of the “welfare state” would appeal to nationalist working class voters and how it fulfills Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp.”

First of all, I am reminded that Bannon once told Kimberly Strassel that the Trump administration would “bring capitalism to the inner cities.” Before watching the documentary Bannon made with David Bossie titled “Generation Zero,” I wasn’t sure what that meant. Here’s what I figured out afterwards:

The problem Bannon and Bossie zero in on is the idea that government should intervene in capitalism to level the playing field for those who would otherwise be subjected to exclusion and marginalization. What they are suggesting is that true capitalism that leads to the survival of the fittest is best. In their view, our form of self-government has no obligation to the commonwealth.

It is important to note that for Bannon, this applies primarily to inner cities, which is code for people of color.

That kind of argument works once you have identified the recipients of government programs as the undeserving “them” who are separate from the deserving “us.” That is the divisive lie that Paul Waldman zeroed in on today.

The whole point here is to set “taxpayers” against the supposedly undeserving whose scams and schemes can be stopped with only indiscriminate cuts to social programs. Watching Mulvaney answer questions from the press this morning, that idea came through again and again. Every time he’d get a question about a specific cut the administration proposes — to Social Security disability, to food stamps, to Medicaid — Mulvaney would say that the only people who would suffer would be those who don’t deserve to get the benefit in the first place. “We are not kicking anybody off of any program who really needs it,” he said.

By now, most sentient beings should recognize that as the kind of code Lee Atwater explained when talking about the Southern Strategy.

You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it…You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “N****r, n****r.”

In that context, “draining the swamp” takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it?

Then, of course, there is the more blatantly nationalist part of this budget, as explained by Gabe Ortiz.

Sure, the new 2018 budget slashes billions from food assistance, cancer research, and disability benefits, but the Trump regime has still miraculously found plenty of taxpayer money for two of his favorite, racist pet projects. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney unveiled a budget proposal asking for billions to terrorize immigrant families, expand Trump’s mass deportation force that has been targeting moms and dads with no criminal record, and to build some of that f*cking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

Finally, I’d simply note that with all of Mulvaney’s lies about protecting tax payers from programs that supposedly don’t work, we are hearing nothing about the most ineffective government intervention of the last 30 years: the failed war on drugs and it’s contribution to the problem of mass incarceration. As I have noted previously, AG Sessions is reinvigorating all of that. But it won’t be Bannon’s “forgotten man” who will be targeted—you can count on that.

By now perhaps you will have noticed that none of this is new. It is all Republican rhetoric from the past that is being warmed up and repackaged for the present. These are the tactics they have been using for decades now to win over the support of white working class voters and, for the most part, they’ve worked. Why change course now?

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.