President Donald Trump has redefined what it means to make a political gaffe. He now has to say or do something truly bizarre for the moment to last past a day’s news cycle. A lot of errors big and small skate by. But this week he said something so truly goofy that it was ultimately revealing: He divulged that he doesn’t know how grocery stores work.
At a rally in Tampa on Tuesday night, Trump argued that an ID should be a requirement to vote. “We believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections, which is why the time has come for voter ID, like everything else. Voter ID,” he said. “You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture.”
Well, no. Shoppers don’t need to show a driver’s license or passport to buy bread and eggs. There are some minor exceptions at the Publix or Safeway or Kroger, like if you’re buying alcohol or certain cough suppressants, but no. Showing a picture on a card is not a regular part of the errand.
Of the 559 days of the Trump administration, many bring a viral moment, from the silliness of covfefe to the utter seriousness of him threatening the president of Iran in all caps on Twitter. Here, with the grocery stores, is a moment in the middle: when Trump took off his mask for a moment and revealed Lucille Bluth.
In one of the most memorable moments of the TV show Arrested Development, the Bluth family matriarch, who has been wealthy for years, wondered aloud about bananas.
The joke is that she’s extremely disconnected from the basic reality of buying food at a store. It’s mind-blowing but less funny to realize that Donald Trump, a millionaire for most of his life who until recently lived in a gold-plated tower in the sky, also isn’t aware of how food is purchased.
Trump’s branding and message, throughout his campaign and into his administration, is that he’s different from the elites, particularly the political elites. “All of the people telling you that you can’t have the country you want are the same people telling you that I wouldn’t be standing here tonight. No longer can we rely on those elites in media and politics, who will say anything to keep a rigged system in place,” he said at the GOP convention in 2016.
Of course, Trump is no everyman. He was born rich, attended an Ivy League school and, when he graduated, he said his father lent him $1 million to start his career. The loan itself is a touchstone of his distance from 99% of Americans: He has downplayed the loan as small, dismissed its role in his ultimate success and insisted that he’s self-made, as if everyone’s parents lend them seven figures when they graduate. How much does a banana cost, a million dollars?
Trump’s wealth is not a flaw, but it is an accessory that he wields differently depending on the scenario. And sometimes it’s an obstacle that keeps him from the reality of his citizens and their everyday lives, as glimpsed here. How can someone govern people he doesn’t understand in this basic way?
While some Trump blunders only last a few hours, the weirdness of his grocery store comments have stretched on for days. On Wednesday, thousands of users on his favorite social medium posted jokes riffing off #TrumpGroceryStores. Citizens may not forget this moment so easily.