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The Trumps’ cynical request that supporters donate ‘if they can afford to’

In the snippet of video that roamed around social media this week, Lara Trump — daughter-in-law of the former president and co-chair of the Republican National Committee, in that order — appeals for people to contribute to the party.

“If you can’t afford a donation today,” she says, sitting in a stylishly appointed room, “I ask that you would save it for a later date. But even if you could donate even as much as $5, it will go a long way.”

Picked up by the liberal “PatriotTakes” account on X, several critics of the former president and his politics criticized Lara Trump’s suggestion that people give what little they could. In part, this was a function of PatriotTakes misrepresenting Trump’s ask; she wasn’t asking people to save up to give $5 but, instead, to save any donation until later. In part, the criticism was a function of the incongruity of a member of a very wealthy family asking people if they could spare five bucks.

This is a misread of what’s really happening, though. That little patter about not being able to afford a contribution is, instead, political rhetoric aimed at bolstering the idea that Americans are suffering inordinately under the Biden administration.

This is more explicitly demonstrated in ads featuring Donald Trump himself. In ads that have run on Facebook, you can see the “if you can afford to” bit in context.

“DO NOT DONATE IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO!” one says. “Joe Biden has destroyed our country, so if you can’t afford to chip in, don’t even think about it!”

“Joe Biden has destroyed our country,” says another, “so if you can’t afford to chip in, don’t even think about it!”

That’s the point. It’s not that Lara Trump and her father-in-law are greedily asking poor Americans to send in whatever they can scrape together. It’s that they want to reinforce the idea that there are millions of people who have been thrust into economic insecurity thanks to the policies of Trump’s general election opponent. And that idea, they obviously hope, might prompt some wavering donors to chip in — to make up the difference for those rendered unable to do so by Bidenomics.

You know how you can tell that Trump isn’t really worried about the economic position of his supporters? Because this is the same person who last month pitched his supporters on buying a Bible with public-domain text for $60, a portion of which goes into his pocket. This is the guy who, earlier this week, insisted that the stock for his social media company — which increased his fortune dramatically when it shot up after the company went public — was worth the investment. This is the guy who is pitching $400 sneakers and Trump-branded cologne. Who has tried to get people to buy $99 NFTs, including a promotion in which buyers got a piece of the suit he wore in his mug shot.

This is the capitalist buffet of an inveterate hustler who would unquestionably take your last dollar if you wanted to offer it to him and maybe if you really didn’t. (His 2020 campaign, you might recall, had to refund a huge amount of money to people who inadvertently signed up for recurring donations.) If Donald Trump suggests you keep your money in your pocket, it’s probably either because he wants something else from you — like a vote — or if he thinks that’s a way to get more money out of you later.

All of this aside, there is utility in Lara Trump’s ask for people to give $5, and not just that maybe they’ll accidentally agree to giving $5 a month indefinitely. Political campaigns want your small-dollar donations because they come with your contact information and an indication that you’re willing to give them something. They go from having potentially no information about you to having a way to ask you for another $5 or $10 or $3,000 over the next six months.

In YouGov’s most recent poll, incidentally, the lowest-income respondents were more likely to indicate support for Biden than for Trump. Trump had the advantage among those in the middle range of incomes, who would presumably be less likely to be merely scraping by.

And heck, when you’re done giving that $5 to the RNC, why not pick up a few shares of Trump Media?

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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