Even though the chaos seems to be increasing as we enter the third year of Trump’s presidency, the last Congressional elections are likely to provide some relief. The newly elected House of Representatives, now under Democratic control, will serve as a brake on the President’s worst impulses and will take concrete action toward a more balanced and humane American government. As Winston Churchill once said: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they have tried everything else.”
The House Democrats have announced an agenda that will include strengthening voting rights, reforming campaign finance laws, and setting new ethical standards in government—including the mandatory release of presidential tax returns. Everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, should welcome new ethical standards after the sorry parade of forced resignations from Trump’s administration.
At the midpoint of Trump’s presidency, a critical question—beside those being explored by the Special Counsel—is still in need of an answer: What does Trump’s fabled “base” see in this flawed man that others, including increasing numbers of Independents and traditional Republicans, cannot see? What is there in him that inspires such apparent devotion from a sizable swath of Americans, but profoundly different reactions from the rest of us? (Bear in mind that Trump won the presidency with a minority of the popular vote—almost 73 million Americans voted for someone else.)
For one thing, the President’s supporters admire him for disrupting the status quo. But how have his disruptions benefited Americans? The answer to this question, if there is one, should be easy to find on the Eastern Shore. Not only did the Shore vote decisively for Trump in 2016, but voters followed up last November by electing Andy Harris—who enthusiastically supports Trump—to another term in the House of Representatives.
One early effect of Trump’s policies on the Eastern Shore was the steep drop-off in H-2B visas available for temporary workers. This cut, which stemmed from his fixation on immigration, makes it impossible to hire enough crab pickers and other seasonal workers to meet the demands of local businesses. Harris himself recognizes that “Maryland’s seafood processing industry and other seasonal industries are suffering without the temporary workers who come to the U.S. through the H-2B visa program.” To date, there is no reason to believe the situation will be any better next summer.
Trump’s foreign policy has resulted in tariffs on soybeans and other agricultural crops from the Shore. Federal payments to farmers to offset their losses will fall far short of the actual value of those crops. In addition, if the government shutdown persists, even more harm will follow, including missed paychecks for federal workers and cuts in federal funding for food stamps, which benefit 17 percent of rural and small-town Maryland residents. If Trump, with Harris’s enthusiastic help, succeeds in abolishing the Affordable Care Act, nearly 30,000 Eastern Shore residents will lose their health care insurance.
It is hard to see how these disruptions benefit residents of the Eastern Shore.
Bob Potter is a former vice president and a current member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum. He writes from Easton