Will the New York Times’ Trump tax bombshell break the MAGA fever?

You’ve probably seen The New York Times’ bombshell report about Trump’s taxes by now. About how he’s been a complete financial wreck. About how, due to massive claimed financial losses — which may not be legitimate — he paid less in taxes in 2016 and 2017 than a kid working at Hardee’s does in a single year. How, in order to offset all of those losses, he’s leveraged to the hilt and is relying on businesses that are in direct conflict of interest with his duties as President of the United States.

The story is pretty damn thorough, and the Times promises more stories in the coming days and weeks, so I’m not going to attempt to break all of that down in detail, but I’ll offer my initial gut reaction: I feel that, perversely, this, more than any of Trump’s more objectively harmful failures — many of which have killed or immiserated hundreds of thousands — may actually cause a chunk of his core group of supporters to begin to abandon him for once.

People who support Trump are broken enough in their brains to be able to ignore the deaths of people they don’t know, even a quarter million of them, and to ignore the misery visited upon immigrants and other marginalized people. They’re also able to ignore run-of-the-mill governmental corruption, mostly because to them the very idea of government is corrupt in the first place.

But at least some of them, I suspect, will resent the fact that they had to pay taxes while Trump skated and will do so in a way that caused them to abandon him.  And resentment — as opposed to any potential law-breaking — is the key part of this, here. Resentment is the base element of the dilithium crystals which power the Starship MAGA’s Aggrievance Drive. And, for Trump, instilling resentment in his supporters over the perception that they’re supporting freeloaders is the equivalent of Captain Picard pointing his finger and saying “ENGAGE.” Now that he’s set up to be the target of that resentment, not its instigator, I can’t help but feel like that changes something.

I’ve been wrong about this kind of thing before — and this may very well look foolish in a very short period of time — but I feel like this tax thing will piss off at least some of the people whose cult-like devotion to Trump previously seemed unshakable.

UPDATE 9/28/20: Having slept on it overnight, and having listened to a lot of people’s responses, I probably shouldn’t have asked whether this will shake his base. They’re probably unshakable. But Trump was elected with more than his base, of course.

He got 60 million votes. A lot of those voters were mainline Republicans, as opposed MAGA hat-wearers, who would vote for a rabid hyena if it promised to cut their taxes and/or simply hated Hillary Clinton. People tend to gloss over just how many country club/suburban Republicans — as opposed to the MAGA hat True Believers — voted for him and are still considering doing it again. I guess I’m truly wondering if this will have a bigger peel-off factor than the previous scandals. And that peel-off factor matters. The 2016 election was decided by 70,000 votes across three states. It doesn’t take much.

Craig Calcaterra

Craig is the author of the daily baseball (and other things) newsletter, Cup of Coffee. He writes about other things at Craigcalcaterra.com. He lives in New Albany, Ohio with his wife, two kids, and many cats.