Birtherism — n. the belief that only “white,” “Christian” males and their wives deserve the basic presumption and dignities of citizenship
Two events this week barely received the attention they deserved in the midst of the Fecal Fantasia of the Trump presidency, now with extra Comey.
More than six months after Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico, the island suffered a total blackout that extended into days. Amidst a criminally poor recovery that has prioritized Shock Doctrine transfers of wealth from the people to corporations, this was just another outrage. And, perhaps, the biggest outrage is how little of outrage this generated. The Trump administration, too busy with its constant obstruction of justice, wasn’t even forced to answer for another disaster for the people of Puerto Rico in any significant way.
Meanwhile, the deadline for filing your 2017 taxes passed. President Trump, of course, got an extension for his returns that will sum up his gains from his first year in office, which has seen him fail to divest from his businesses, though he has spent more than a quarter of his time literally collecting fees from anyone who wants to sway this eminently sway-able man, at least when it comes to policy.
One thing Trump will never be swayed to do is release his tax returns and explain to the American people three things we need to know now:
Likely, Trump is giving himself tens of millions over the next decade for no particular reason while Puerto Rico gets loans to deal with overwhelming devastation, where every penny must be justified.
This is the DNA of Trump’s political philosophy: Birtherism.
And it’s what united Donald Trump and Paul Ryan.
Birtherism means Obama has to produce a document America had already seen and Trump doesn’t have to produce a document we desperately need to see. Birtherism says Trump can mock Obama for golfing and then spend much of his presidency collecting bribes on his golf course. Birtherism justifies “work requirements” for poor people while the rich, white president thinks his job is to watch TV.
Let’s give it a big “B” because the little racist stunt of demanding Obama’s birth certificate that launched his career in Republican politics has now been exposed as a genuine governing philosophy.
Puerto Ricans are Americans, Americans who are living out the deadly consequences of being disenfranchised. The island’s lack of electoral votes or Members of Congress or U.S. Senators — despite having a larger population than 20 states — means its suffering is almost unquestioned in Washington DC.
This reveals both Trump’s general embrace and the consequences of Birtherism — his belief only “white,” “Christian” males deserve the basic presumption and privileges of citizenship. And it also reveals that Trump’s philosophy is nothing new — it’s just never been embraced so shamelessly.
As you know, Puerto Rico’s troubles and disenfranchisement began long before Trump even decided to birther Obama.
Likewise, the GOP’s attack on the safety net under the guise of “welfare reform” has been around for decades, subsumed in the racist and false assumption that most of the beneficiaries of these programs like food stamps aren’t white. It’s the philosophy that demands pee tests for the food and health care necessary to survive while lavishing tax breaks for private jets and expense accounts on rich kids who can now inherit about 135 times what most Americans earn in their life tax-free without working a day in their lives.
There was a time Republicans squealed with horror when we suggested birtherism typified their party, despite polling that constantly showed most Republicans refusing to accept that Obama was born in Hawaii, which shouldn’t even matter because no one doubts his mom was a citizen, because she’s white.
Now, these same Republicans — many of them bold #NeverTrumpers who will do anything to stop Trump, except vote for Democrats who could beat him — will likely bristle when I suggest that Trump’s Birtherism is the same as Scott Walker’s attack on workers and the safety net or Paul Ryan’s debt fearmongering.
These Republicans probably don’t feel the same racial animus Trump and many of Trump’s avid supporters do. They just happen to back policies that — mysteriously — have the same or similar victims.
There is a lot tsuris over Paul Ryan and where he fits into a Republican Party that doesn’t like to advertise its agenda to privilege “white,” “Christian” males over everyone else. And the thing is, he fits in perfectly. He was thrilled to get a chance to implement Trump’s fiscal agenda because he knew it was his fiscal agenda. He just didn’t want to have to admit that you needed a racist carnival barker who pretended to want to save Medicare to actually get a clean shot at Medicare.
Now, Paul Ryan sees that there’s no clean shot for cuts no one, except — coincidentally! — Republicans in the whitest districts in America, wants to run on. Ryan says Trump did not run him out of politics and I believe it. He only resisted Trump when he thought could cost him his agenda. When the opposite happened he was glowing.
“Welcome to the dawn of a new unified Republican government,” he said.
But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Birtherism.