Obama-Trump Voters Need to Apologize to Puerto Rico

Remember Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn doctrine” with regard to the Iraq War–”You break it, you own it”? That same rule should apply to the consequences of bad voting decisions. Those who voted for Donald Trump last November–especially the folks who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, only to take leave of their senses by voting for the bigoted billionaire to succeed him as President–broke this country…and they certainly own the mess we’re in, including the humanitarian tragedy in Puerto Rico.

Just as it is impossible to imagine a President Al Gore or a President John Kerry leaving American citizens to die on the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, so too does it beggar belief to think that a President Hillary Clinton would leave American citizens to suffer and starve in Puerto Rico. As Keith Olbermann notes, Trump’s response to Puerto Rico is saturated with racial prejudice; in fact, actor and comedian John Leguizamo’s analysis of Trump’s deliberate mishandling of the Puerto Rico crisis is even more direct than Olbermann’s.

Those who voted for Trump generally, and former Obama voters who actually thought Trump was a worthy successor to Obama specifically, bear responsibility for this nightmare. With their votes, they gave Trump the power to hurt the people of Puerto Rico, to scoff at their suffering, to place the desires of supporters wearing hats of red over the needs of people desperate for water, shelter and bread.

Towards the end of her book What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton discusses the role race played in last year’s Presidential election. On pages 414-415, Clinton writes:

Other academic researchers have studied a phenomenon they call “racial priming.” Their findings show that when white voters are encouraged to view the world through a racial lens and to be more conscious of their own racial identity, they act and vote more conservatively. That’s exactly what happened in 2016. John McCain and Mitt Romney made principled decisions not to make their campaigns about race. McCain famously stood up to one of his own voters at a town hall in October 2008 and assured the crowd that rumors about Obama being foreign were false. By contrast, Donald Trump rose to prominence by spreading the racist “birther” lie that President Obama was not born in the United States. Trump launched his campaign for President by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. And he continued to make racially charged attacks right up until Election Day. All this happened against the backdrop of police shootings and Black Lives Matter protests. It makes sense that by Election Day, more white voters may have been thinking about race and identity than in 2012, when those issues were rarely talked about on either side.

Former Obama voters who fell for Trump’s “racial priming” may now have a guilty conscience as they watch the images of sorrow in San Juan. By all rights, they should have one. Their votes should haunt them for the rest of their days. They knew full well what they were voting for. As Clinton notes on pages 413-414 of What Happened:

[W]hile I’m sure a lot of Trump’s supporters had fair and legitimate reasons for their choice, it is an uncomfortable and unavoidable fact that everyone who voted for Donald Trump–all 62,984,825 of them–made the decision to elect a man who bragged about sexual assault, attacked a federal judge for being Mexican and grieving Gold Star parents who were Muslim, and has a long and well-documented history of racial discrimination in his businesses. That doesn’t mean every Trump voter approved of those things, but at a minimum they accepted or overlooked them.

Because Trump voters, especially those who formerly supported Obama, accepted or overlooked Trump’s bigotry, they contributed significantly to the pain of Puerto Rico. Their votes inflicted unimaginable suffering. Their decision cost lives. Presumably some of those voters believe that Hillary Clinton’s embrace of Black Lives Matter was misguided because “all lives matter.” If they truly believe that “all lives matter,” we must ask those voters: what about the lives of Puerto Ricans?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.