Since May of 2009, Donald J. Trump has given Americans a plethora of outrageous, provocative, and often baffling Tweets to ponder. But when the president took to his favorite social media outlet the other week, he left his followers with what may have been one of his strangest posts yet.
When hurricanes Harvey and Irma devastated the continental (and red) states of Texas and Florida the president expressed his whole-hearted support of disaster recovery efforts on multiple occasions. Now that Hurricane Maria has devastated the island of Puerto Rico, however, FEMA apparently has more important matters on its hands. Generally, I have faith in the president’s ability to help the government properly allocate federal aid resources. But given that the majority Puerto Ricans are struggling to obtain basic survival items, such as medicine, food, and even clean water, I am simply at a loss as to what those more important matters are. So is the Republican-controlled House, which approved $36.5 billion in relief funds for Puerto Rico, among other hurricane-devastated areas, by a vote of 353-69. Such bi-partisan support of relief efforts in Puerto Rico begs the question, "Why is President Trump in such a hurry to move FEMA and first-responders elsewhere?"
A large portion of Donald Trump’s voter base, non-college educated, white Americans, feel that a recent influx of Hispanic immigrants from Mexico has enabled foreigners to steal “their” jobs. As a result, many of Trump’s ambitions as president, from ending DACA to building a border wall, have been largely focused on altering United States immigration laws in ways that would have large impacts on the country’s Hispanic population. Unfortunately, in addition to spurring widespread bias against Mexican-American immigrants, these efforts have also inspired prejudice against many law-abiding U.S. citizens of Hispanic backgrounds and strengthened nationalist movements in America. Puerto Rico’s lack of statehood and heavy Hispanic population cause many with such prejudices to view the island as a lesser part of the U.S. than any given state. Therefore, Trump’s motive to undercut relief efforts in Puerto Rico was likely the chance of solidifying the support of his base.
This motive seems even more probable considering his remarks during a trip to Puerto Rico earlier in the month. During the surprisingly brief visit, Trump trivialized the damage done to the island by comparing the death toll of Hurricane Maria to that of Hurricane Katrina. Because Maria’s death toll of 16 seems relatively low in comparison to Katrina’s 1,800+ fatalities, limiting federal aid to Puerto Rico may seem more reasonable. However, these numbers are misleading, since the damage done to Puerto Rico extends far beyond the lives lost to the storm. Yet again, Trump attempted to make his lackluster job performance seem exceptional and his lack of compassion acceptable.
For a number of reasons, the idea that the U.S. president values the support of potential voters over the lives of minority citizens should be deeply disturbing to Republicans and Democrats alike. All branches of the government are ultimately responsible for protecting and ensuring the well-being of all United States citizens. If the president is willing to compromise the health of some citizens to win the votes of others, the Executive Branch is corrupt. Furthermore, the president’s hasty decision-making demonstrates that he is easily manipulated by anyone on whom the longevity of his power and influence depends.
Penn State College