For the longest time, I was under the impression that Donald Trump saw the world in strict terms of us vs. them.
I believed that in his limited imagination, there were clear lines — Black vs. white, rich vs. poor, Republican vs. Democrat.
But in the days since Trump’s sparsely attended political rally in Tulsa, Okla., I am convinced that there is no “us” in Trump’s vision of the world. There is only Trump. Everyone else is a tool to be used for Trump’s own personal gain. How else to explain Trump’s attempt to put thousands of his most staunch supporters into an enclosed arena where they could contract and spread a deadly virus that’s already killed upwards of 120,000 Americans?
In my view, that’s a frightening reflection of Trump’s actual persona. If he could risk the very lives of his most loyal followers by using them as extras in his attempt to mount a political comeback, what would he do to the rest of us for his own personal gain?
The answer, I suppose, is that Trump would do anything he could imagine. That’s why I need Trump’s right-wing, working-class supporters to stop for a moment and think about this question: Suppose Trump is just using racism as a means to gain your political support? This is not to say he wholeheartedly embraces Black and brown people. His record of racial bias goes back to the 1970s, when the Justice Department sued him for refusing to rent to Black people.
But what if Trump is using racism to convince his working-class white supporters that they are somehow just like him? That their white skin connects them to his businesses, his power, and his success? Suppose all of it is a con game meant to make his followers believe they’re something they’re not?
I am convinced that Trump, in trying to convince his followers that a potentially fatal disease is not real, has shown his true feelings for them. I don’t believe Trump is any more concerned for white people than he is for Black people, Latinos, or Asians. I think that when he says African countries are s—holes, or that Mexico sends us rapists and criminals, or that the novel coronavirus is “kung flu,” he is stating his true sentiments, but more than that, he is seeking a connection with other white people.
However, that connection can’t be real. If it were, he wouldn’t risk his followers’ lives by bringing them into a place where they could contract a life-threatening disease. He wouldn’t ask them to sign waivers saying they wouldn’t sue Trump or his campaign if they did contract the disease. He wouldn’t pretend that there is no risk in gathering in such a large group.
I believe that when Trump pretends to care about his white followers, he is engaging in the same behavior as any con man. He is attempting to disarm them. He is trying to make them let their guard down. He is setting them up for the con.
Donald Trump doesn’t care about his white followers any more than he cares for his Black detractors. They are simply a means to an end, and when he’s through with them, he will dispose of them in the same way he disposes of anyone for whom he has no further use.
Ask former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, or former national security adviser John Bolton, or former fixer Michael Cohen, or any of the former Mrs. Trumps.