Tuesday, November 5, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He warned Virginia voters that he figured they owed him for military spending in the state.

There are three major elections today: gubernatorial races in the deep-red states of Kentucky and Mississippi, and legislative races in Virginia that will determine control of both houses of that state's legislature. Trump held rallies in Mississippi and Kentucky, but shied away from active campaigning in Virginia, where his deep unpopularity meant he'd likely be a liability.

He did, however, target the state with an Election Day tweet first thing this morning:

There are two problems here. First, it wasn't Trump who "brought" defense contracts or military spending to Virginia. That's a function of legislative appropriations, where the contractors happen to be located, and the recommendations of the service branches themselves. Presidents can lobby Congress, but Trump himself has virtually no direct authority. 

The other problem is that even if Trump were telling the truth, there's no way to take it as anything other than a promise to punish Virginia with less "defense and other work" if Democrats win control. In another context, the demand that Virginia do Trump a political favor in exchange for promised military money would be called a quid pro quo.

It's not even the first time this week Trump has threatened a state whose political choices he doesn't like. 

As for Virginia voters, if they even noticed Trump's veiled threat, it doesn't seem to have made much of an impression. As of the time of this post, Democrats are projected to gain control of both chambers. (Also, Democrat Andy Beshear is the apparent winner of the Kentucky governor's race. Trump had made himself the focus of that race: he appeared in Lexington last night, capping earlier visits from Vice-President Pence and his son Donald Jr.)

Why should I care about this?

  • Collective punishment of entire regions for electing the "wrong" candidates is what happens in dictatorships and dystopian young adult novels, not a democracy.
  • It's wrong to take credit for decisions you didn't make.
  • Voters may not like being threatened.