President Donald Trump’s Thursday press conference was a cascade of lies, contradictions, and non sequiturs — so it might have been easy to miss, slipped into a dig at pro–Affordable Care Act protesters, a line that inadvertently reveals how Trump sees politics and government as a whole:
We’ve begun preparing to repeal and replace Obamacare. Obamacare is a disaster, folks. It’s a disaster. You can say, “Oh, Obamacare!” — They fill up our rallies with people that, you wonder how they get there, but they’re not the Republican people that the representatives are representing.
Trump’s purpose, presumably, was to hint (as other Republicans have asserted) that the protesters currently filling up town halls of Republican members of Congress to urge them to keep the Affordable Care Act don’t actually live in those members’ districts; that they’re bused in and possibly paid.
But that’s not what he said. He said that “they’re not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.” He said that Republican members of Congress aren’t elected to represent the people who live in their districts, or even the citizens of their districts — they’re elected to represent the people who voted for them, and free to ignore everybody else.
On some level, this isn’t wrong — nothing forces any elected official to care about the opinions of people who didn’t vote for him, as long as he maintains a majority in the next election. But that doesn’t mean the official hasn’t been elected to represent everyone — that the people who voted for someone else, or didn’t vote, or couldn’t vote, simply fall out of the polity.
Usually, politicians make a gesture of reaching out to those who didn’t support them, promising to represent citizens from both parties. President Trump, while he promised to represent “all Americans” in his inauguration speech, made it difficult to tell when he was talking about all Americans and when he was talking about Americans who voted for Donald Trump:
January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
This is in Trump’s intellectual DNA. In his 2007 book Think Big and Kick Ass (co-authored with Bill Zanker), he wrote, “You hear lots of people say that a great deal is when both sides win. That is a bunch of crap. In a great deal you win — not the other side. You crush the opponent and come away with something better for yourself."
In a great election, Trump’s saying today, you win, not the other side. And the other side shouldn’t even bother to show up at your town halls.