Is Donald Trump our president too?
The question is worth asking, given the fact that he seems to care only about the states he won in last year’s election.
And boy, does he care about them. More than five months after his victory, he remains fixated on the election with an intensity that borders on derangement. In an interview with three Reuters reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump broke off a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping to hand out copies of the 2016 electoral map with final vote totals.
“It’s pretty good, right?” he asked the reporters. “The red is obviously us.”
Obviously. And the red appears to be all that matters to Trump as he goes about the business of governing. Previous presidents tried to unify the country after elections. They softened their rhetoric, made a point of visiting states that did not support them, strove for unity.
Not Trump. At a press conference in January, he suggested that he would take particular care of states that voted for him, warning companies against moving jobs to other countries and firing workers “from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won.”
His inauguration speech offered more of the same. “The forgotten men and women of this country will be forgotten no longer,” he warned, and it was clear he meant his own voters, who had “become part of a historic movement,” rather than the men and women living in the urban hellscape he’d conjured during the campaign.
“In this administration, far more than in previous ones, there is a focus on seeing [his] voters, and the base, as part of a ‘Team Trump’ that they’re looking out for,” says Dan Mahaffee, senior vice president and director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency.
Last week brought yet more evidence of the outsized role Trump’s base plays in policy-making in this White House. After loudly promisingto withdraw from NAFTA on the trail, Trump suddenly reversed himself after Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue showed him a map illustrating the areas that would be hardest hit by losses in agriculture and manufacturing. Many of those communities were in “Trump Country,” the president told The Washington Post.
“It shows that I do have a very big farmer base, which is good,” Trump said. “They like Trump, but I like them, and I’m going to help them.” And that was that.
Massachusetts, it goes without saying, doesn’t count for much in that “big farmer base.”
But we do show up, loud and blue, in another map illustrating the uneven impact of Trump’s mega mega tax cut plan, unveiled Wednesday with great fanfare but less supporting detail than a toddler puts into a wish list for Santa.
The proposal calls for the repeal of the federal deduction for state and local taxes. This, naturally, has its greatest effect in the states with the highest tax rates -- places like New York, New Jersey, California and, of course, Massachusetts, all of which also share the distinction of having roundly rejected Trump in November.
Don’t expect him to pass that map around the room, or to learn from it. And don’t expect him to shed any tears for Massachusetts research workers impacted by his proposal to slash funding to the National Institutes of Health, which sends about $1.7 billion a year to this state. It’s not like they’re coal miners or anything.
Some of Trump’s proposals, including his nonsensical tax plan, hurt the very red state voters who backed him, but they don’t seem to mind. Polls show they’re still in love with him despite his readiness to slash social programs, further enrich the rich, and threaten the health insurance they, like the rest of us, depend on. But at least he sees them, and counts them among his own.
Luckily, blue states have some protection here. First, Trump has proved to be breathtakingly inept so far at bringing his destructive proposals to pass. Second, we’re all connected: Eventually, the policies that hurt or ignore people who rejected him will hurt some Trump voters, too — and one day, we can pray, they will notice.
“We are not alone, that is one good thing,” says Congressman Mike Capuano, a Somerville Democrat. “There’s no way he can single us out without hurting other people — though I’m sure he would if he could.”Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeAbraham.