That soliloquy by CNN’s Victor Blackwell on Saturday will go down in history as one of the defining moments of the Trump presidency. If you haven’t watched it, you must. Note what happens at 1:50, when Blackwell finishes saying the words “the president says of that district,” referring to Elijah Cummings’ congressional district in Baltimore, and pauses for a full 10 seconds, an eternity on TV, before he starts back up. I won’t tell you what he says, because letters on a screen can’t convey the power of the visual moment.
The tweets about Cummings and Baltimore were disgusting, and Donald Trump is a racist psychopath. Seriously, literally. Look up “psychopath.” Check out this psychopathy quiz and imagine Trump’s answers. I rest my case.
He’s also an idiot. That, too, is not a news flash, I realize, but in the current case, I mean specifically that if you stack up all 435 congressional districts in this country and look at their poverty rates and so on, Cummings’ district, Maryland-07, isn’t anywhere near the worst.
But obviously he wasn’t basing his tweets on anything real. He saw something on Fox News. If you haven’t been reading the tweets of Matt Gertz of Media Matters for America, you should start, as I just did. Gertz tracks Trump’s tweets relentlessly, showing how many of them are based on segments he sees on Fox. So think about that, too: The President of the United States sits there watching Fox all day and hears some piece of bullshit hate propaganda and tweets about it. Again, this is the President of the United States.
As for congressional districts and poverty, there are of course people who keep track of such things, and the results, which are right here, might surprise you. Most people would probably assume that the poorest districts are all urban. Yes, some inner-city districts have high poverty rates. Indeed the highest-poverty district in the country, according to the Food Research & Action Center, is New York’s 15th, the South Bronx, represented by Jose Serrano, where 36 percent of people live in official poverty.
But most of the really poor districts are rural. Most people don’t know this, but it’s true. The poverty story of the 21st century is the story of jobs and opportunity just vaporizing in rural and small-town America. Some of these poor rural districts are mainly black or Latino, like the agricultural regions of central California, but plenty of them are mostly white.
The third-poorest district in the country, for example, is Kentucky’s 5th—eastern Kentucky, coal country, “Bloody Harlan” and all that. In this 97 percent white district, the poverty rate is 29 percent. The opioid crisis rages away there: Kentucky has 28 opioid deaths per 100,000 people, which is twice the national average, and it’s somewhat worse in the eastern part of the state, which is the poorest region. The unemployment rate is 8.4 percent, more than double the national average. The median household income is $31,731, about half the national figure.
There is however one solitary bright spot: About 94 percent of the people have health insurance. More than half of those with insurance have public coverage. Some of that is Medicare. But the rest… shall I tell you who gave them coverage? I think you know. Barack Obama, along with former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who did one of the best jobs of any governor in the country of turning the Affordable Care Act into reality in his state.
Of course, current Governor Matt Bevin, a right-wing Republican, has been moving heaven and earth to undo it, along with “Moscow Mitch” McConnell and virtually all of the state’s leading Republicans, who can’t stand the idea that hundreds of thousands of dirt-poor Kentuckians got health insurance for maybe the first time in their lives.
Hal Rogers is the congressman who presides over this little patch of paradise. He’s a typical right-winger. Obviously, he voted against Obamacare and has voted many times to repeal it. He used to have a lot of clout when the GOP was in the majority, and he used it well: Rolling Stone named him one of the country’s 10 worst congressman back then, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington once marked him out as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
In other words, looking at both Rogers the man and his district, there’s no lack of material for denigration if one were so inclined. But can you imagine if Barack Obama, while president, had called Kentucky’s 5th District, oh, let’s see, a low-intelligence area infested with rattlesnakes and inbred kids? God only knows what they’d have done to him. Yet Trump does exactly that. And some people defend it. And amoral cowards like McConnell refuse to denounce it.
So we have this propaganda channel polluting people’s brains on a daily basis—never forget that woman at that famous Justin Amash town hall who said she’d had no idea (!) that the Mueller Report had said anything negative about Trump—and this vicious idiot sitting in the residence of the White House watching it and gobbling it up and tweeting it out to his 62.4 million followers who lap it up like starving animals.
This is why Trump is going to be hard to beat. An entirely separate non-reality has been constructed in places like Kentucky-05, where most TVs are tuned to Fox and people vote every time for the politicians who want to yank away their health care coverage and take their tax money and give it to rich people. And where people literally think a person would have to be absolutely insane to want to live in or even visit a place like Baltimore and are happy to believe every asinine racist thing Trump tweets.
Don’t kid yourself. Beating that won’t be easy.