President Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd Oct. 3 at Calvary Chapel in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. (Evan Vucci/AP)
There is little about the life and times of the 45th president that brings to mind the word “consistency.” That is, except his almost monastic dedication to the low art of the needling insult and his long track record of poking at the nation’s festering racial wounds.
That lonely duo became apparent again Thursday morning with, what else, tweets from the previous 24 hours.
Add to the evidence pile a tweet dispatched by the president shortly after Hurricane Harvey flooded parts of Houston.
To review: Trump is thrilled to announce an ongoing and unending commitment to Texas and a $1 million “award” to Las Vegas after a man-made tragedy, while doubling down on his reluctant, some might say petulant, approach to the aid effort in a Puerto Rico ravaged by hurricanes. Also, while unmentioned on Twitter by the president, the White House has asked Congress to approve a $4.9 billion low-interest loan to Puerto Rico to keep cash on hand as the island works to recover from the Hurricane Maria. Las Vegas has what Trump described as first-responder overtime bills and, of course, a large emotional wound. Puerto Rico, which faced the storm in a state of serious public debt-laden peril, is a place where millions remain without power and, as a result, are reporting a growing list of waterborne and sanitation-related diseases. Note the differences.
[ Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort ]
“I don’t think anyone really knows if there is some strategic rational plan, if there is some effort, when he tweets, to say what he thinks the public wants,” said Nicholas Vargas, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida. “ . . . But I do think there is a point at which the growing list of these contradictions speaks for itself.”
For those unable to see why a goodly portion of the population regards Trump’s brain and much of his decision-making as littered with the refuse of racial animus, this conflicting round of tweets and pronouncements should be explored. Of course, Trump’s lack of concern with at least appearing unconcerned with whether the things he says or does offend people unlike himself is a part of his appeal to some voters. So the possibility that this all serves some larger strategic purpose remains. But so, too, does the possibility that Trump does and says things that repeatedly offend and insult nonwhite Americans because this is his nature, his way of operating that also happens to appeal to some of his voters.
The problem with this was illuminated in a 2016 book with a title likely to generate reactions that are themselves a litmus test — “The End of White Christian America.” In it the author, Robert P. Jones, points out that if current population trends hold, the next presidential election cycle — 2020 — will mark the last time that the share of the electorate that’s white, not Hispanic and Christian will have the majority, at 52 percent. By 2024 — seven years from now — the white, Christian voter will become the minority in need of political allies to dominate.