The Trump scam

I liked Brian Beutler’s succinct and spot-on take on Trump’s twitter attack on the Koch brothers today:

Here’s the Republican Party in a nutshell. President Trump and the Kochs pretend to feud, while simultaneously teaming up to loot the country, and install as many Republicans as possible in all branches of government. The Koch network will make just enough low-decibel noise about Trump’s unpopular immigration and trade policies to give Trump cover to pretend he’s bucking “globalists.” Trump plays a similar game with pharmaceutical companies, who have benefited enormously from Trump’s corporate tax cuts, and can thus brush off Trump’s disingenuous complaints about drug prices as part of the cost of doing business. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump described it as a “culture-wars-for-the-poor, tax-cuts-for-the-rich approach to politics.” Let them eat tweets, I guess.

And here’s some from Bump’s extended take:

But Trump’s pitch is twofold: I have conservative judicial picks, and I cut their taxes and made them richer. How on earth could the Kochs take issue with Trump when he made them richer? It defies understanding.

Thanks to a combination of hyperpartisanship, Trump’s willingness to say things that others wouldn’t and a stronger economy, Trump’s tenure as president has been an explicit manifestation of what once was a tricky balance. For years, many Republicans have worked to effect sweeping cuts and benefits for the wealthiest Americans while maintaining a non-wealthy voting base by engaging in robust cultural fights.

Trump has nearly perfected it.

He will argue, of course, that his economic policies have been an unalloyed good for the American worker. He did so in that tweet disparaging the Koch brothers. But his track record doesn’t quite match that rhetoric…

The president’s core policy priorities are centered on the sort of fearmongering that past Republicans often considered only more obliquely. Illegal immigration, criminal gangs, crime in general: These are the core problems Trump points to in his appeals to voters. [emphases mine] Crime is at near-historic lows nationally, a fact that Trump has sidestepped since the campaign. The racial undertones of Trump’s focal points are barely submerged and occasionally peek through into the light, as when Trump disparaged “s—hole” countries such as Haiti and African nations. Is kneeling at NFL games something worth the president’s attention? No, but Trump recognizes that combining racial tension with disingenuous arguments about patriotism — and even sprinkling some class warfare on top — can be a winner.

Why? Because Trump is willing to not only engage in cultural wars, but to embrace and embody them. Trump has made needling the left a central part of his administration, to his base’s delight. This whole theme of “owning the libs”? Might as well be Trump’s reelection slogan.

And, let’s be crystal clear here– this would not be such an effective strategy for Trump if a huge portion of the Republican electorate were not politically animated by xenophobia and racial animus.

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