Trump Has Found Another Division to Exploit

Following Donald Trump’s vicious attack on Christine Blasey Ford at a campaign rally, Greg Sargent wrote this:

When President Trump attacked Ford at a rally on Tuesday night, he did more than merely showcase his typically depraved and hateful nature. What Trump really did was inform the country in no uncertain terms that he will do all he can to ensure that the country does not — and cannot — heal its searing divisions over the Kavanaugh matter, after it is resolved.

Sargent was noting something we’ve been watching build over the last few months: when it comes to the 2018 midterm elections, Trump’s political strategy has been to deepen the already polarized divide that exists in this country. But the president isn’t the one that invented that strategy. Way back in 2011, Adam Serwer was prophetic:

The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I’m not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it’s pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [New Black Panther Party] case, the GOP’s nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations,  the conservative fixations of Obama’s first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.

Serwer wrote that before the Republican National Committee did an autopsy on Romney’s loss to Obama in 2012 in which the recommendations centered around the need for the party to reach out to women, young people and Hispanics. We all witnessed how that report was thrown in the trash heap as the party continued to fan the flames of white racial resentment.

On Tuesday, Donald Trump published an op-ed in USA Today that is another blatant attempt to exploit these divisions.

Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.

Dishonestly called “Medicare for All,” the Democratic proposal would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years…

I also made a solemn promise to our great seniors to protect Medicare. That is why I am fighting so hard against the Democrats’ plan that would eviscerate Medicare. Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare. Likewise, Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care.

In just those three paragraphs, I count seven lies. The Associated Press has already fact-checked many of them that Trump has been spreading at campaign rallies. So I want to focus on the division Trump is attempting to exploit with these particular lies.

For years now, Ron Brownstein has been the go-to guy on the topic of demographics and politics. When the results of the 2010 census were released, he began writing about this:

In an age of diminished resources, the United States may be heading for an intensifying confrontation between the gray and the brown.

Two of the biggest demographic trends reshaping the nation in the 21st century increasingly appear to be on a collision course that could rattle American politics for decades. From one direction, racial diversity in the United States is growing, particularly among the young. Minorities now make up more than two-fifths of all children under 18, and they will represent a majority of all American children by as soon as 2023, demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution predicts.

At the same time, the country is also aging, as the massive Baby Boom Generation moves into retirement. But in contrast to the young, fully four-fifths of this rapidly expanding senior population is white. That proportion will decline only slowly over the coming decades, Frey says, with whites still representing nearly two-thirds of seniors by 2040.

These twin developments are creating what could be called a generational mismatch, or a “cultural generation gap” as Frey labels it. A contrast in needs, attitudes, and priorities is arising between a heavily (and soon majority) nonwhite population of young people and an overwhelmingly white cohort of older people. Like tectonic plates, these slow-moving but irreversible forces may generate enormous turbulence as they grind against each other in the years ahead.

That is what immediately came to mind when I saw Trump’s article in USA Today. He knows that his base is made up almost entirely of the gray—older white people—and he is attempting to scare them by suggesting that those young (primarily brown) people are coming for their Medicare.

The truth is that it is the Republicans who want to cut Medicare (and Medicaid) to pay for their tax cuts, and ultimately want to end the program as we know it by privatizing the whole thing. But that party has never let the truth get in the way of fear-mongering on this issue. It will now join the pantheon of the many ways they are attempting to deepen the divide.

That is precisely why the message about fusion politics being espoused by people like Rev. William Barber is the most powerful tool for Democrats at this moment in our history. Take a look at how he talked about that at Netroots Nation in 2014:

Back then 146 years ago blacks and whites came together. In the south! And they understood the fusion between lifting up the former slaves, and how it intersected with the preservation of the south and the nation…

And we’ve got to be a little concerned, if people had that much sense 146 years ago when we look at the state of our crisis today. In 1868 we see this moral…fusion…language…and it formed the framework for reconstruction. Here’s what they fought for with this fusion movement: voting rights, public education, labor, health care, equal protection, fair tax policy, good of the whole and that kind of agenda reshaped the south and it reshaped the country. It reshaped the world.

But it also brought a vicious backlash…

A group arose that called themselves the redemption movement and it was rooted in the extreme philosophy of immoral deconstruction and they fought back. They were moved by fear. Fear that their world was being taken over. Fear of a more just society. Fear of a more perfect union. They were radical racists and they began a process of immoral deconstruction. They began a campaign of fear and divide.

Does that last paragraph sound familiar? If so, Barber also noted the changing demographics that are lighting up the 2018 midterms with a whole new kind of politics, especially in the south.

NC is now 23% African American, 3-4 percent Latino. That’s 27%. That means you only need about 24 percent of whites to vote their future not their fears.

Mississippi is 33% African American that means… then you add Latinos that means you only need about 15 to 16% of whites in the south, in Mississippi, to vote their future not their fears. Similarly in Georgia.

Barber wrote that before Democrat Doug Jones won a senate seat in Alabama, followed by what Bob Moser called the “fearless rise of the Black southern progressive.”

When it comes to the division Trump is trying to exploit between the gray and the brown, I happen to know a lot of baby boomers who care about their kids and grandkids. It’s true that they want Medicare to be protected, but they know that on issues as broad as education, wages, health care and climate change, their children’s future depends on electing politicians who take those issues seriously. On the other hand, there are millennials who, regardless of their race and gender, not only want Medicare protected for their generation, but also know how important entitlement programs are to their parents and grandparents. Those are the people who can be mobilized with fusion politics, which recognizes the worth of all of us and seeks to heal rather than deepen the divide.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .