(Getty/Chip Somodevilla/Orion Pictures)

The butcher's bill keeps coming due: Donald Trump's Hannibal Lecter budget cannibalizes his own supporters

The president's proposed 2018 budget serves up a rich feast to the wealthy. His supporters are the main course


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Chauncey DeVega
March 16, 2017 7:40PM (UTC)

Hannibal Lecter is one of the most popular villains in the history of Hollywood movies. Most notably portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins, Dr. Lecter is a psychiatrist and psychopathic cannibal who has appeared in at least five movies.

In the 2001 film "Hannibal," Hannibal Lecter feasts on Mason Verger, one of his lovers, after drugging him. As he does so, with Verger hanging suspended from the ceiling like a piece of meat. Lecter gives his doomed lover a piece of broken glass and tells him to cut the flesh from his own face. The man eagerly complies, wanting nothing more than to please his tormentor. The sadistic doctor continues to encourage Verger to mutilate himself, while feeding the flesh to an eager dog who wags his tail in anticipation of the tasty treats.

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Donald Trump is the Hannibal Lecter of American politics. But Trump lacks Lecter's wit, charm, intelligence or cultured manner. Donald Trump's voters, like Mason Verger in "Hannibal," have also been drugged — in their case, all too willingly.

Trump's proposed 2018 budget is another illustration of how the butcher's bill has come due. It can fairly be described as political cannibalism when it comes to Trump's most ardent supporters.

Instead of hallucinogens from a pharmacy, Donald Trump and the right-wing media gave his voters the political drugs of racism, white supremacy, xenophobia and bigotry. Trump has simultaneously numbed and excited members of his public; they beg for more even as he makes them suffer.

Consider the following:

Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget will cut funding for programs that predominantly helps older Americans such as the anti-hunger program Meals on Wheels. Older (white) voters were key to Trump's presidential victory.

The president's proposed 2018 budget will severely harm rural communities. For example, while Trump was lying about helping coal miners and bringing back that dying industry, "his proposed budget will slash funds for the Appalachian Regional Commission, a federal-state agency founded in 1965 to promote economic development and infrastructure in some of the poorest parts of the United States,"as The New York Times has reported. These rural voters in red-state America were among Trump's strongest supporters.

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As a key part of his overall budget priorities, Donald Trump's proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act will take insurance away from tens of millions of Americans; punish poor, elderly and other needy Americans by devastating Medicare; give billionaires and millionaires a tax cut; hurt rural America; and force more Americans into bankruptcy as well as premature deaths from lack of access to both preventive, long-term and emergency health care.

In total, Trump's 2018 budget proposes hundreds of billions of dollars in cutbacks. As part of that plan, Trump and the Republican Party will take monies from the poor and other vulnerable populations and give them to the rich, the already bloated military and big corporations. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised his supporters he would "drain the swamp," which was understood to mean driving lobbyists and special interests out of Washington. Instead, he is overflowing those fetid waters with financial payoffs for Wall Street and other gangster capitalists at the expense of the American people.

I have kept an ongoing tally of Donald Trump's butcher's bill. This is my third entry in that political ledger. How much bandwidth will this require? Trump's butcher's bill will be very long by the time he finally leaves the White House.

As I have shared on Salon and elsewhere, I will continue to watch with great satisfaction while Donald Trump betrays his voters and public — especially the so-called white working-class voters — who helped (along with Vladimir Putin and his spies) to install this demagogue and fascist in the White House. I make no apology for how it feels to see Trump's most stalwart supporters encounter karmic justice for their decision in November to hurt their fellow Americans and undermine the democracy of the United States.

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At the same time, I am saddened by the way that the large majority of Americans who did not vote for Trump will have their lives damaged, or in some cases ruined, by his policies. I have deep empathy and sympathy for the direct victims and human collateral damage of Trump and the Republican Party's political suicide mission. My feelings are exactly the opposite for those Republicans and other Trump supporters — and yes, third-party voters — who helped lob the grenades that brought down his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

But what happens when Trump and the Republican Party are done feasting on the "white working class" and their other supporters? When the bones are picked clean, to whom will they turn for a meal? People of conscience know the answer even if it terrifies them.

If a budget is a kind of moral document and a statement of priorities, Trump has shown that he is an enemy of the American people and the common good — including his most stalwart supporters. If Trump is willing to betray them, all others should quake in fear at what he plans for his enemies in the process of "making America great again."

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Resistance must be total across all parts of American social and political life. I worry it may be too late: Donald Trump, America's Hannibal Lecter, is hosting a dinner and we the people are his not-so-honored guests. Unfortunately, too many of Trump's supporters still believe they will have a seat at the table. They don't yet understand that they will be served as the main course.


Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at Chaunceydevega.com. He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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