Trump’s Divided States of America

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Donald Trump would find himself drawn to a Republican governor whose stint in the private sector included running a company that had a record of criminally defrauding programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Since getting elected, Florida Gov. Rick Scott also demonstrated his willingness to hurt the people of his state in order to defy the accomplishments of the Obama administration. He not only refused to support the expansion of Medicaid made possible via Obamacare, he attempted to refuse federal transportation dollars from the Recovery Act in 2009, angering even Republicans in his state.

When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) inexplicably rejected federal transportation funding for his state, apparently because he doesn’t like the president, some of the loudest criticism came from Florida Republicans, whose constituents will suffer as a result of the governor’s recklessness.

The heart of the problem was that Scott was deliberately turning down thousands of jobs in a state with high unemployment, and turning his back on millions of dollars of economic development. But part of the political problem is that the governor acted unilaterally — he hadn’t told other GOP officials what he planned to do, didn’t seek their input, and didn’t care what anyone else at any level of government thought.

Scott says he’s just acting like a CEO. Florida Republicans know this, and want him to stop.

At some point, perhaps we’ll learn that being a businessman isn’t necessarily an asset for political office, and may even be a liability. But for now you can see why Donald Trump and Rick Scott would be simpatico. So yesterday the Trump administration delivered a goodie to their friend in Florida. After announcing their plan to open up federal waters to oil and gas drilling, Interior Secretary Zinke flew to Tallahassee to stand beside Scott and exempt Floria from further drilling.

During his remarks in Tallahassee, Zinke didn’t even attempt to make a policy case for this decision.

Zinke made sure that the term-limited governor got all the credit. In response to a question about what was the final determining factor in his decision, Zinke said: “The governor.”

The clear message is that “local voice matters” as long as the president of the United States considers you an ally and you are planning to run for senator as a Republican. There are countless other coastal states whose economies depend on tourism, but they happen to have Democratic governors (i.e., California) and the message to them from this administration is “tough luck.”

Combined with the passage of a tax bill full of punishments for blue states, this is further evidence that for both Trump and congressional Republicans, we are the divided states of America, with patronage for allies and punishments for enemies. Unless I missed something, that is a new political development that we haven’t seen in this country since the lead-up to the Civil War. For reasons that should be obvious, it is yet another way that Trump and Republicans pose a real threat to our union.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.