Donald Trump’s lukewarm response to Puerto Rico was pretty predictable. Here’s why.

Andrew Reeves, associate professor of political science in Arts & Sciences


Many have criticized the Trump administration for responding slowly to Puerto Rico’s devastation from Hurricane Maria. Critics note that Trump has devoted more tweets to the NFL controversy than to Puerto Rico and its 3.4 million residents.

What explains the Trump administration’s lukewarm reaction? Is it part of the generally unusual nature of the Trump presidency, or a response to Americans’ general ignorance that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens? Perhaps. But more generally, presidents tend to respond in proportion to an affected place’s partisan loyalty to the president’s party in previous elections and its political clout in the next presidential election.

In theory, the U.S. president is, as Woodrow Wilson put it, “the representative of no constituency, but of the whole people.” This image is often contrasted with that of members of Congress, who are often accused (and sometimes accuse one another) of putting their districts ahead of the nation.

But in practice, Trump, like presidents before him, may be discriminating among citizens based on their political significance, a behavior known as presidential particularism.

Read the full piece in the Washington Post.

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