NJ: Once Crossroads of the American Revolution Now Just Trump’s Stomping Ground

Insider NJ's Fred Snowflack compares the Bedminster protests of President Donald Trump's visit after he told four Democratic Congresswomen to go back where they came from to chaotic and divisive decade of the 1960s. He concludes today's divide in the nation seems more pronounced and perhaps even more destructive than it was then.

While the entire nation fixates on the COVID status of President Trump, the New York Times reports that there are now 25 states where “new cases are higher and staying high” and 15 states where cases “were lower but going up.”

New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware and all of New England, with the exception of Maine, represent the majority of the 15 states in that second troubling category.

Several months into the pandemic, and the U.S. has recorded 210,000 COVID deaths, the world’s highest total. The United States is only 4.3 percent of the world’s population but is responsible for one-in-five of the world’s one million COVID deaths.

Rather than adopting for the unified and coordinated public health containment strategies of other nations, President Trump pitted the 50 states against each other based on their party affiliation.

He praised ‘red state’ Republican Governors for following his lead by opening schools and their economy by downplaying the seriousness of the virus. He unmercifully savaged ‘blue state’ Democratic Governors for their more cautious approach openly mocking the basic health messages they were trying to get out like the importance of wearing a mask.

Now, the whole nation is infected, irrespective of party affiliation, as is the President and an increasing circle of GOP luminaries including former Governor Chris Christie and Bill Stepien.

Bloomberg News reported that Trump opted to hold a fundraiser here in New Jersey at his Bedminster Country Club on Thursday Oct. 1, even after he had learned that campaign aide Hope Hicks, with whom he had traveled to and from Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland, had tested positive for the deadly virus.

Trump tweeted at 1 a.m. on Friday Oct. 2 that he and the first lady had tested positive for coronavirus.  On Friday he was hospitalized.

“In between learning the news of Hicks’ infection Thursday morning and announcing his own early Friday, Trump stuck to his prepared schedule,” according to Bloomberg News. “That decision would appear to contradict the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on COVID, which reads:

‘Even if you test negative for COVID-19 or feel healthy, you should stay home (quarantine) since symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus.’”

The Bedminster fundraiser, which included 100 people, reportedly raised $5 million.

Trump’s selfish behavior here in our state where the virus has now killed over 16,000, comes as the state has been losing ground containing the virus throughout September, according to NJ Advance Media on Sept. 30.

“The rate has been above the key benchmark of 1 since Sept. 4 and hit 1.15 for three days last week,” Matt Arco reported for NJ Advance. “Any number above 1 means each newly infected person, on average, is spreading the virus to at least one other person. Any number below 1 means the virus is decreasing.

Arco added that as of the day before Trump’s seven figure haul in Somerset County, our state had recorded 722 new cases, “the third time in the last five days at least 700 cases have been reported.”

So far, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy response was rather anodyne to Trump’s seeming breach of CDC’s guidance in his state that’s on the verge of a second wave of the deadly virus that has already killed so many first responders, health care professionals and essential workers.

“We urge everyone who attended yesterday’s event in Bedminster to take full precautions, including self-quarantine and getting tested for COVID-19,” Murphy tweeted Oct. 2.

Lucky for Trump, Bedminster is not east of the Hudson.

Here in New Jersey, we have always had a soft spot for Trump who over the years has masterfully played our state’s two-party duopoly an inner avarice.

As Politico’s Michael Kruse reported in November of last year in his article entitled The Five People Who Could Have Stopped Trump”, back in the early 1990’s the Casino Control Commission “had overwhelming reason to question” Trump’s “financial stature and overall fitness to continue. In addition to Trump’s dismal individual straits, the cash flow at his debt-riddled casinos wasn’t enough to make them profitable as the industry sagged in the throes of a recession.”

And yet, they opted to overlook the fact that Trump’s finances were “in serious peril” opting to “renew Trump’s licenses and hope his bottom line improved—or strip him of them and risk delivering a debilitating blow to Atlantic City’s wheezing economy.”

“They should have taken his license, given it to a trustee, and today we wouldn’t be dealing with Donald Trump in the White House,” David Cay Johnston, who covered Atlantic City for the Philadelphia Inquirer, told Kruse. “But ‘they could not bring themselves to go back and acknowledge that they got it completely wrong. They had to protect their position.’”

As Kruse rightly observed “Trump could not have survived without his casinos, and he could not have survived, either, without the casino regulators who let him keep going.”

Of course, we know how the brush with ‘the Donald’ left an army of  New Jersey trades people and small businesses.

In Atlantic City, corporate entities tied to Trump filed for bankruptcy four times since 1990, allowing the companies to shed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, but leaving a long list of businesses that did not get paid. The losers included small businesses and tradespeople, or just the kind of constituents Trump’s economic populism targeted.

When I interviewed him for CBS MoneyWatch in October of 2015, he made no apology for the economic misery he had caused.

“That’s part of the process,” he told me in a phone interview, while conceding that bankruptcy had real consequences for small businesses and other unsecured creditors. “I wanted to use the bankruptcy law to my own advantage. Should I have used it to somebody else’s advantage? These people may have gotten clipped at the end, but they made a lot of money along the way with me.”

“I did a great job there and got out seven years ago, and I got out great,” bragged Trump.

Yet, despite the kid glove treatment he got from New Jersey’s regulators, he took a parting shot at them anyway.

“Atlantic City is a very regulated place to do business, and the whole market had changed with gambling available in Maryland and Pennsylvania,” Trump said. “Now you’ve got so many places dying, with 90 percent of the hotels in Atlantic City in bankruptcy.”

“I don’t hardly know a contractor that didn’t get hurt by Trump,” carpet installer Bill Gamble, 69, of Absecon, told back in 2015.

Gamble said he carpeted the casino for Trump’s Castle Hotel and Casino, noting that the job took a crew of 10 workers three months to complete. “The carpet guy is always the last guy after the carpenters and electricians, so they push you and have you work double shifts, which runs up the overtime.”

But when the bill came due, Gamble said he had to go to court to collect. “I only got $13,000 of the $21,000 I was owed. I should have had a lawyer as my partner,” he said.

Rev. John Scotland, pastor at the Community Presbyterian Church in Brigantine, told me during the 2016 campaign he had seen firsthand over the years how Trump had “no regard for who he hurts. He’s devastated small businesses and tradespeople down here. He victimizes people and tells them he’s teaching them a lesson.”

We used to say that New Jersey was the “crossroads of the American Revolution”.

Perhaps in 2020, we are just Donald Trump’s doormat.

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