While Donald Trump launched his usual salvos in the last debate against "Democrat cities" — home to millions of Americans whom this president dismisses as less than American — Joe Biden reiterated his commitment to leading one nation. With the administration threatening funding to cities and states based on whether they support Trump, this is more than just a philosophical distinction. It's one that voters from all places should keep in mind.
Many presidents in America's history have been divisive figures, but Trump stands out as, arguably, the only president who has intentionally, consistently fostered those divisions for political gain. He openly writes off whole regions of the country with public insults and policy-based attacks. The strategy is to torque up enthusiasm in his base by villainizing the parts of America he knows won't support him anyway. It's a terrible thing for a president to do to an already-divided nation, but as always with Trump, his own needs come first.
Trump, a born-and-bred New Yorker, has enthusiastically adopted and expanded the anti-urban mindset that has come to define the modern Republican Party. In 2015, then-candidate Trump, eager to validate his anti-immigrant campaign themes, made the ridiculous claim that the unrest in Ferguson was caused by "gangs ... of illegal immigrants." As president, he has called Baltimore a "rodent infested mess," and threatened to send busloads of undocumented immigrants to self-proclaimed "sanctuary cities," derailing serious immigration-reform talks.
Early in the pandemic, instead of providing leadership, he publicly savaged blue-state governors and conditioned White House help with ventilators on whether they "treat us well." Trump initially declined to grant California an emergency declaration for the unprecedented destruction of its wildfires. Having stoked racial divisions that have spawned protests in cities, Trump is now threatening to cut off federal funding to those cities for failing to rein in the violence that he personally helped incite. New York, Seattle and Portland last week were forced to file a lawsuit to prevent that devastating threat from being realized.
No president this side of the Civil War has treated so much of the country as enemy territory. Even during last week's debate — probably Trump's last chance to woo Americans beyond his base — he couldn't help himself. He inaccurately savaged New York as a "ghost town" and derided the House's recent passage of desperately needed pandemic relief as really "a big bailout for badly run Democrat cities and states."
This was more nonsense, given that citizens in virtually every state right now need that help. Biden's response was a refreshing reminder of what a president is supposed to sound like: "If I get elected ... I'm gonna be an American president. I don't see red states and blue states. What I see is American United States."
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