Last spring, Donald Trump conceded that his trade tariffs were likely to cause “pain” for some Americans, most notably American farmers, but he was confident they were willing to take one for the team. “I tell you, our farmers are great patriots. These are great patriots,” the president said in April. “They understand that they’re doing this for the country.”
The trouble is, when Trump uses the word “patriots,” he’s often describing Americans hurt by his own policies, whom he assumes won’t mind. In 2018, it was farmers. In 2019, it’s federal workers.
Here was the president yesterday, asked about the plight of those workers who are shouldering a financial burden during the Republicans’ government shutdown.
“Those people are great Americans. They’re great patriots. They want to make sure we have a strong border. Very important.”
It’s an extraordinary perspective. It’s not just that Trump is comfortable hurting these federal workers in pursuit of a medieval vanity project, it’s also that he assumes they want the same thing, and are willing to sacrifice their own well being in pursuit of his satisfaction.
“This really does have a higher purpose than next week’s pay,” the Republican told reporters on Friday. “And the people that won’t get next week’s pay, or the following week’s pay, I think if you ever really looked at those people, I think they’d say, “Mr. President, keep going. This is far more important.”
A couple of days later, there was this exchange between a reporter and Trump:
Q: Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?
TRUMP: I can relate. And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment. They always do. And they’ll make adjustment. People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing…. Look, they have to do what they have to do. But many of those workers agree with me.
First, he can’t relate to people living paycheck to paycheck. These federal workers can’t get ahead from legally dubious handouts from their father, and they don’t have charitable foundations they can use as slush funds.
Second, for those struggling financially, making “adjustments” is vastly more difficult than the wealthy president could possibly understand.
And third, the idea that many of the affected workers are fully on board with Trump’s shutdown scheme is hopelessly bonkers.