President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Friday, April 26, 2019. (AP/Michael Conroy)

The Divider-in-Chief

Donald Trump’s goal is, and has always been, division and disunion.


Robert Reich
May 15, 2019 10:30AM (UTC)
This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

Donald Trump’s goal is, and has always been, division and disunion. It’s how he keeps himself the center of attention, fuels his base and ensures that no matter what facts are revealed, his followers will stick by him.

But there’s another reason Trump aims to divide—and why he pours salt into the nation’s deepest wounds over ethnicity, immigration, race and gender.

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He wants to distract attention from the biggest and most threatening divide of all: the widening imbalance of wealth and power between the vast majority, who have little or none, and a tiny minority at the top who are accumulating just about all.

“Divide and conquer” is one of the oldest strategies in the demagogic playbook: keep the public angry at each other so they don’t unite against those who are running off with the goods.

Over the last four decades, the median wage has barely budged. But the incomes of the richest 0.1 percent have soared by more than 300 percent and the incomes of the top 0.001 percent – the 2,300 richest Americans – they have soard by more than 600 percent.

This enormous imbalance is undermining American democracy.

Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern concluded a few years ago that “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” After analyzing 1,799 policy issues that came before Congress, they found that lawmakers only respond to the demands of wealthy individuals and moneyed business interests.

No secret here. In fact, Trump campaigned as a populist—exploiting the public’s justifiable sense that the game is rigged against them. But he hasn’t done anything to fix the system. To the contrary, his divide-and-conquer strategy as president has disguised his efforts to reward his wealthy donors and funnel more wealth and power to those at the top.

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Trump’s tax cuts, his evisceration of labor laws, his filling his cabinet and sub-cabinet with corporate shills, his rollbacks of health, safety, environmental and financial regulations: all have made the super-rich far richer, at the expense of average Americans.

Meanwhile, he and his fellow Republicans continue to suppress votes. Senate Republicans have denounced Democratic proposals to increase turnout, even calling the idea of making election day a federal holiday “a power grab.” Of course, it’ s a power grab—for the people.

Trump and his enablers would rather opponents focus on the ethnic, racial and gender differences he uses to divide and conquer. Don’t fall for it. We must be united to take back our democracy.


Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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