Patricia Mazzei’s recent New York TImes story on Florida Panhandlers doubly victimized by Hurricane Michael and the government shutdown ended with a quote that left many readers cold — and coldly infuriated. Crystal Minton, a federal prison secretary, is already challenged by being the single mother of 7-year-old twins and the caretaker for disabled parents. She’s facing a complicated work schedule in February but don’t cry for her, Argentina.
“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of President Donald J. Trump and the shutdown. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”
Say what? Who, enraged posters wondered, are the people he needs to be hurting? Why does he need to be hurting anyone?
It used to be that the president of the United States was just that — president of all the states. President Barack Obama was fond of saying he was president of the people who voted for him — and those who didn’t. When President George W. Bush came to Ground Zero after 9/11, he drove up the West Side of Manhattan with then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who pointed out all the neighborhoods that didn’t vote for him for president. And yet, Bush came back to New York to throw out the first pitch of Game Three of the World Series between the New York Yankees and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Yankee Stadium, because, well, that’s what presidents do.
But Trumpet makes it clear that it’s an us-against-them mentality. It’s part of his narcissism. It’s a zero-sum game: Not only must he win but you must lose. So he doesn’t care about the shutdown, because he figures it affects a lot of people who didn’t vote for him.
And the Trumpettes reflect that indifference bordering on cruelty. Readers took Mazzei to task for not pressing Minton on whom she was referring to. But does it matter? Whether she was talking about blue state residents or 1-percenters, why wish harm on anyone? Why envy?
Perhaps Minton thinks identifying with Trump’s tribalism might make her a “winner” someday. It reminds me of the moment in the song “Cool, Cool, Considerate Men” from the brilliant musical “1776” when conservative Continental Congress member John Dickerson tells Congress President John Hancock that “most men with nothing would rather protect the possibility of being rich than face the reality of being poor and that is why they will follow us to the right, ever to the right.”