Kentucky has become a favored dateline for many of President Donald Trump’s fervent critics. They collect evidence there of betrayal, such as the ABC News item featuring a coal truck driver, “one of the Trump faithful,” attached to a breathing tube and weeping over his expected loss of coverage for deadly black lung disease.
“Look what that mean man is doing to you,” the critics would seem to say.
But a more appropriate message would be, “Look at what you did to yourselves.” On that there’s no greater authority than Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney.
The president, Mulvaney said, “wrote a budget based upon his campaign promises … We took his words and turned them into numbers.”
Putting the onus back on Trump’s voters is not only more honest; it is less patronizing. Some undoubtedly approve of plans to defund economic development programs in Appalachia, the South and the Midwest. They see closing rural airports and slashing agriculture disaster funds as sensible. For these voters, the Trump budget delivered.
As for blue-collar whites who voted for Trump and are now having second thoughts, it’s not quite correct that they were “scammed,” as many Trump foes argue. Those who bought into his assurances – “I’m taking care of my people” – willingly ignored the piled-high evidence. This is a man who makes a sport of lying.
Most everyone was aware that Trump had gone bankrupt more than four times, cheated his creditors and stiffed his contractors. Those who had done business with him testified that his words mean zip.
Trump said he would repeal Obamacare a zillion times. And a zillion times he offered no ideas for a credible replacement.
Even as the rubber was hitting the road in the House plan to decimate Obamacare, Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt offered this astounding account of his decision to support it:
“I expressed to the president my concern around the treatment of older, poorer Americans in states like Alabama,” he wrote in a statement. “I reminded him that he received overwhelming support from Alabama’s voters.”
Aderholt went on: “The president looked me in the eye and said, ‘These are my people and I will not let them down. We will fix this for them.’”
That the cuts were there in legal black and white did not sway Aderholt from concluding, “After receiving the president’s word that these concerns will be addressed, I changed my vote to yes.”
Obviously, self-defeating voting patterns go well beyond Trump. Kentuckians elected Sen. Rand Paul, who bashed the House Obamacare-repeal bill for not cutting the taxes that pay for it fast enough.
In 2015, Kentucky elected a governor campaigning on a promise to kill Kynect, the popular state health insurance exchange created to work with Obamacare. Matt Bevin kept that vow, and he’s now going after the Medicaid expansion, so important to his low- and moderate-income constituents.
Over the border in Tennessee, Sen. Bob Corker is unhappy that Trump’s budget didn’t take a knife to Medicare and Social Security. For many older Americans, Social Security and Medicare are the last refuges against destitution.
All these policy positions have been sitting there right on the table, flashing neon. Perhaps some of the surprised faithful didn’t realize that when it comes to the flow of federal money, they’re on the receiving end. They might want to reconsider their sources of information.
Elections have consequences, my Trump-approving friends (and I have some) keep telling me. All I can say is, I couldn’t agree more. And we would also agree on this: Those who voted for Trump should own the consequences.
The writer is a syndicated columnist.