President Donald Trump’s supporters have been the subject of countless stories just since November on the fact that they seemingly “vote against their economic interests.” But few stories note that they voted against their existential interests as well.
Trump’s refusal to accept the scientific consensus on the reality and urgency of climate change poses a serious threat to communities across the U.S. currently grappling with its effects. The latest example involves a tiny island that voted overwhelmingly for the president and its mayor, a vocal Trump supporter.
Last week, CNN aired a story about Tangier, an island in the Chesapeake Bay so low-lying that a mere 83 acres can support its inhabitants.
The story had three key points: First, the island is vanishing so rapidly that “the Army Corps of Engineers tells CNN that erosion and sea level rise alone will make this historic crabbing community uninhabitable in as little as 20 years.”
Second, the residents are desperate for government help, like an expensive seawall, which they believe could save their vanishing island if it came quickly enough. Mayor James Eskridge made this on-air plea: “We’re saveable, right now. Donald Trump, if you see this, whatever you can do, we welcome any help you can give us.”
Third, the island voted 87 percent for Trump, and the mayor told CNN, “I love Trump as much as any family member I got.”
Trump viewed the CNN story after staffers brought it to his attention, DelMarva Now reported. Trump called a shocked Eskridge, who said the president explained he “had to call” such a strong supporter. Trump added, “You’ve got one heck of an island there.”
“This is a Trump island; we really love you down here,” Eskridge replied. “The stuff you are doing is just commonsense… I believe you came along for such a time as this.”
The subject of the call then turned to the island’s fate. Trump “said not to worry about sea-level rise,” Eskridge explained. “He said, ‘Your island has been there for hundreds of years, and I believe your island will be there for hundreds more.’”
The Army Corps says the island will be uninhabitable in perhaps 20 years — or much sooner if it gets struck directly by a major storm — but the president dismissed the primary cause, rising seas.
“Like the president, I’m not concerned about sea level rise,” Eskridge told the Washington Post. “I’m on the water daily, and I just don’t see it.” According to Eskridge, it’s just erosion that is destroying Tangier.
Also, “it doesn’t bother” residents that Trump pulled out of the Paris climate deal, CNN explains: “The residents on Tangier look at the decision as more money it will free up to help them build the infrastructure they need to save their island.”
In reality, Trump’s proposed budget would end federal support of the Chesapeake Bay Program and zero out NOAA’s major coastal protection and adaptation program.
Reflecting on the call, mayor Eskridge said, “So, Donald Trump knows about Tangier Island — that’s going to be the peak of my career.”