While the nation mourns the victims of three mass murders in the space of a week and ponders the extent to which Donald J. Trump’s offensive language may have influenced the gunmen, it’s important that Marylanders not miss the significance of Trump’s verbal attack on Baltimore City and its likely intended effect on the residents of our state.
Anyone watching recent events should know by now that Trump’s snobbish, racialized, and dehumanizing language is more than just mean-spirited. His depraved utterances give those who are susceptible permission to justify their preexisting biases —whether they realize they hold them or not — about the inferiority of the people or places he’s referencing.
We can no longer deny that Trump’s verbal cluster bombs have given license to susceptible people to act upon their biases in ways that bring harm to the targets of his ire.
It is important to understand that this harm does not just manifest in hate-filled violent acts like we saw this past week; it may also take the form of antagonistic interpersonal interactions, avoidance of certain people or places, and/or a decision to excise certain people or places from the body politic. As Donald Trump and his Republican Party understand, it can also lead to votes for their party and support for exclusionary policies or practices that diminish resources and opportunities for those whom they have managed to define as undeserving.
Ironically, Trump’s tactic isn’t new to Maryland. Using Baltimore City as the foil, Larry Hogan has used it – although in a less vitriolic fashion – to justify and gain support for punitive actions toward the city such as withholding essential resources, cancelling vital transit programs, or delaying important development projects.
Acknowledgment of these manipulative tactics doesn’t ignore the fact that Baltimore has very real problems. Yet, while it is true that the city has deep challenges when it comes to drug use, poverty, and crime, it would be a lie to pretend that these challenges don’t exist at varying levels elsewhere in our state or nation.
With plenty of good news to point to, it would also be wrong to believe that Baltimore and its residents have nothing positive going for it. With world class universities, hospitals, and a median income for African Americans that is higher than all but three other major U.S. cities, Baltimore City has a lot of assets that can be better leveraged to drive positive and widespread transformation across the city.
But it’s not just about Baltimore City – it’s about all of Maryland. When the city does well, its residents and businesses will generate more tax revenue with benefits that will also accrue to the entire state.
Will Marylanders fall for Trump’s trap, what former President Obama called the “old okey doke,” or will we defy convention by recognizing that we are all in this together and focusing on what unites us instead of what divides us?
There should be no question that the only solution Trump is offering is snake oil. His toxic brand of racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia is driving a disturbing increase in hate crimes in our state and is an existential threat to Maryland’s many and wondrously diverse residents. His erratic leadership style – exemplified by the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States – has proven to be a danger to Maryland’s economy and its many civil servants, government contractors and subcontractors. And, his overestimation of his negotiating skills has led to an ill-advised trade war resulting in China’s unprecedented divestment in U.S. farm products to the detriment of Maryland’s breadbasket counties that disproportionately rely on revenue generated by farm exports.
Finally, Trump’s anti-science posture and aggressive moves to roll back fuel efficiency standards for automobiles retards efforts to reverse the effects of climate change and threatens to undermine Maryland’s rich environmental ecosystem.
There should be no question that our nation’s redemption and the greatest opportunity for all our state’s residents is rooted in a collective effort to build a better, stronger Maryland. One that embraces the understanding that every county has needs and challenges and that recognizes Marylanders are best when we make a collective effort to help each other out; whether that help takes the form of alleviating crowded roads or addressing opioid addiction, homelessness, violence, outdated school buildings or any of the many taxpayer-funded priorities needed across the state.
Given the unique threat Trump poses to our state, coming together to vote him out of office would also be a major win-win for Maryland’s people, economy and environment.
— MAYA ROCKEYMOORE CUMMINGS
The writer is chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party, CEO of Global Policy Solutions LLC, and spouse to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.