Donald Trump: The Candidate of Bankruptcy
How does he do it? How does this guy keep on dodging the bullets (even when there are no bullets to dodge?) I’d say that’s the wrong question. I’d say Trump owes the GOP and the voters clustered around it the most thanks for allowing him to get this far, and do this much damage. Without them, he couldn’t have done it.
Trump is a borrower, a speculator. His primary talents are in getting people to invest in him and his schemes despite their better judgment. Sometimes he does this by appealing to their insecurities. Sometimes he does this by throwing out formality and saying to people what they really want to hear, all that political incorrectness and such. Sometimes he does this by simply not being straight with people about what their upsides and downsides are with him. And sometimes he does this by promising that they'll see more damage inflicted on them for backing out than they would see for staying in the unfavorable deal.
In other words, he's an expert at manipulating people to get what he wants. But even that has his limitations. People get burned enough, and they learn, eventually.
The thing is, Trump didn't begin this con, he just stepped into it and swept away the amateurs who were either too scrupulous, too intelligent, or too stupid to do it half as well as Trump.
A con artist often works to isolated their subject from those who might persuade them to reject the con. The Republicans have done that through years of persuading Republicans and conservatives that the Conservative Media was the only place they could get fair and balanced information Trump kicked that into overdrive, even outFOXing FOXNews. He turned the whole media bias thing on its head by using the antipathy towards his adoptive party's establishment to lead people to reject whatever warnings other Conservatives were giving about Trump's character and lack of credentials.
Trump has constantly relied on the closed feedback loop of the Right Wing Media environment to get away with things, to claim that he didn't say things that he actually did, to claim that he accomplished things he actually didn't, to cover for his incredibly awful track record as a businessman and a human being, to normalize and define down the deviancy of his atrocious behavior and that of his followers.
A con artist often appeals to the forbidden impulses, telling us it's alright to feel and admit attitudes we hold back on to avoid negative consequences. It also puts on the defensive when we go to complain about how they screwed us.
The Republicans have been doing that for years, stoking racial anxieties through dogwhistles, coded phrases designed to secretly project support for otherwise forbidden bigotries. You don't say black people are lazy or stupid, you instead talk about welfare queens making an industry of having children so they can ride around in Cadillacs the working class voters can't afford, say that the Harvard-educated black man running the Oval Office must have been given his outstanding grades because of white guilt, rather than his own abilities. Trump excels at this kind of crassness, and takes it a step further by saying out loud what many Republicans wouldn't, allowing the wind that the previous Republican candidates had sown to be reaped as the whirlwind of controversial, often bigoted positions.
Trump's appeal to the Alt-Right has created a particularly vile and hateful phenomenon, where not only do we see the wrong people get more political influence, but we see their strain of extremism, paranoia, and intellectual dishonesty promoted. But this is nothing new for the GOP, just something that Trump has developed further. Reagan himself was not appealing to the brightest and the best in all of us when he spoke to people about States Rights. Nixon was far from doing that when he used the Southern Strategy to help the GOP take the Solid South, disillusioned by the Civil Rights Acts of the sixties, from the Democrats. For years, they had to keep this kind of politically motivated racism under the surface, but with Trump and his ties to that movement rising to prominence, the genie is out of the bottle.
A con artist definitely appeals to people's greed or need, dangling the possibility of gain without the need to do more to get it. Tax cuts require no further sacrifice on the part of those receiving them. Deficit spending, paired with that, allows them to get both the upside of federal spending and the upside of getting that money back. The Two Santa Theory of Politics. Republicans get to give with both hands. Well, guess what Trump is promising? He's promising somebody else will pay for that wall. He's promising a huge military buildup (or would that be yuge?) and great big tax cuts to boot. In essence, future generations will likely have to pay for his military build-up, but he gets to be both Santas, giving from both hands. That isn't the only thing he's promised.
The Republicans created this situation, this irresponsible model of economics. But why did they do that? There are a couple of ulterior motives that stand out, and both engage in a kind of deception meant to bypass people's informed consent. The first part is that the GOP keeps on promising these things to those who buy into these tax cuts: that they will improve the economy, that this improvement will make them budget neutral, and implicitly, with that second promise, the third promise being that what people really like from government, they won't see a reduction in.
But if you ask people like Grover Norquist what they're really up to, they'll say, starving the beast. In other words, creating fiscal shortfalls that force reductions people would not rather make. If this seems to contradict the two-santas theory... it doesn't really. Republicans can vilify some spending in the name of reducing the deficits they just created (social spending, spending on science, other stuff they don't like,) and on the other side, insist that things like money for the Pentagon, or money for things like the Medicare Drug benefit keep flowing in. Republicans are being selective in their interpretations.
The other ulterior motive? Well, here's the thing: these tax cuts put more and more of the burden of the tax code on the poor and middle class, so in essence, we're paying for what benefits the rich on our nation's credit card, while they get to reap the rewards. How does that happen? How do people get convinced to do something so radically opposed to their own interests?
That's really where the greed or need of the average American comes into play. They tell us we're getting a tax cut, too, though much smaller. They write the law so that we get these huge checks every year, rather than seeing the money stay in our paychecks, instead, a less visible, but more effective way to make tax cuts an economic plus. They use that, that big old bribe to sell us on a far, far, bigger set of windfalls for the rich. That, and the promise that the rich will hand us more jobs and higher wages if we do what they want.
Truth is, few people will intentionally do something to harm their own interests. You got to convince them that they have something to gain. And so, tax cuts that mainly, chiefly benefit the wealthy, get sold as largely beneficial to the employment, the wages, and the wealth of the poor and middle class, even where they're not. Otherwise, people would tell the rich to go screw themselves on getting out of paying their fair share.
How couldn't a rich guy like Trump like that? The Republicans will talk about liberty, they'll talk about how if environmental, labor, safety, and other regulatory requirements aren't relaxed, jobs will get shipped overseas. So, when we do everything they say, do the jobs stop going, or come back? Of course not. Why? Because the argument was never made in good faith. No intelligent person would like carcinogens, or endocrine disrupters, or other toxic chemicals released in their environment just for the hell of it. No intelligent person would willfully inhale asbestos particles, or silica, or coal, and doom themselves to a shortened lifetime filled with misery and suffering. None would knowingly put themselves in a position where their machines would be more likely to break their bones, cut their flesh, or maim their bodies. Not unless they were in the kind of position where they were having to weigh what would, in the near term, likely be a more horrible problem.
The arguments about jobs and regulation often hinge on just such a twisting of self-interest. There may be a point where some level of acceptable risk would have to be endured, but all too often, the problems are less matters of what can honestly be engineered, and more a matter of where businessmen and businesswomen want to cut a cost, where they make the gamble that it will be cheaper to be liable for the consequences in monetary terms, than responsible in real world terms.
But we still end up with pollution drawing its cost from society, with the degradation of the environment and climate change drawing their costs as well. We end up buying present prosperity for a few at the cost of the future prosperity of all, and inevitably, the bill comes due. I mean, raise your hands and tell me, who among you would accept the loss of trillions of dollars worth of property, commerce, and lost productivity, just so a few billionaires and millionaires can be comfortable now? Nobody in their right mind would accept that kind of loss unless they either felt that the risk was an illusion, or that the status quo was the best of all worlds that could actually work. Funny how so many of the so-called skeptical arguments about global climate change hinge on that kind of narrative?
Trump calls it a Chinese hoax. Funny how that works. like so many liars who get away with it, he lies often, and he appeals to various social loyalties to avoid those lies getting questioned, or the questioning taken to heart. Very recently, he boasted of dodging an assassination attempt. How brave of him! Except there was no attempt. There was no gun, only somebody calling out, "gun" after they beat up a protestor. A Hillary Protestor? No, a Never Trump protestor, a Republican.
Trump depends on people believing him who have no good reason to. He tells people that he'll pay them when they do work for him, that they'll make a profit when they buy up his debt, that his name will sell their product, that his deal will make them rich, given them a luxurious, wealthy lifestyle, so on and so forth. The carrot is held out, out there to motivate people to follow it, to go where he wants to. And when it turns out that he was full of it? Well, then he gets mean. He hangs out his contractors and workers to dry, making getting money out of him like pulling teeth out of a rabid Doberman Pinscher. He declares bankruptcy, tells his creditors to go soak their heads, or accept less money than they invested into things. He threatens to sue anybody who dares to tell the truth about him. He destroys evidence when the plaintiffs and prosecutors come calling.
How did such a man become the Republican nominee?
Because the system was rigged for him.
The opposition to what they saw as politically correct left them with few ways to reject Trump for his beyond the pale words and behavior. Like a permissive parent who insists their child must be free to be themselves, they could not impose many demands for more propriety on Trump without looking hypocritical themselves. His defenders would claim they were going politically correct on them.
The reliance on conspiracy theory and fringe-right support has long been building. It's fair to say that Trump sought out the support of the Alt-Right, especially in the way he didn't refute or denounce them the way that was standard. Part of this was political correctness, but another part for the GOP as a whole was building a base impervious to the appeals of the Democrats.
Further trying to bolster that appeal, Republicans went to political war against Obama and the new progressives. This political war is chief among the causes of our political paralysis, a deliberate strategic move, rather than a response to being offended by Obama trying to push forward a mandate after two straight wave elections. This business of essentially rejecting Obama and the Democrats right to operate, according to the Constitutional powers given to them, required Republicans to raise the rhetoric to psychotic levels. It's not for nothing that the Republican Candidate is being praised by Alex Jones, a man who claims you can smell the brimstone on Hillary and Obama. It's one thing to figuratively demonize your opponents, but literally demonizing them, alleging demonic position goes a tad too far.
Another element to this is that the Republican Party has never truly recovered from the Bush Administration and the 2006 loss. It's tried to supercharge its old Demographics, with midterm successes, but without a good, working coalition for the future, the Republicans were at a loss to get that crucial top position. The insecurity bred by the losses, though, have made this current generation of Republican Majorities much, much less effective as negotiators than their predecessors. When you can't pass anything without compromising with the President, and your Tea Party Caucus won't let you pass anything but complete wins for the GOP, your ability to bargain and therefore to push your position in a way that will actually bind that President is itself compromised.
That's the irony, really. Paul Ryan and John Boehner before him were't forced to fold because they were weak. They were forced to fold because they would never get a damn thing done if they were forced to wait for the agreement from their rigid Right Wing. No deals, no debt ceiling increase to avoid a sovereign debt crisis, no ending government shutdowns that would cripple operations people actually want up and working, with the GOP held as much to blame in both cases as anybody else.
Governing by Sophie's choice, by hostage taking and strong-arm tactics is no way to win in a contest with a man (or woman, as the potential arises) who can tell them no all by himself. Not when Congress is configured in a way that allows end-runs around that Partisan barrier.
But that's what the Republicans did, and in the process of this long bout of stupidity, they've managed to cede much power to the President, despite their best intentions. They could have used the power of the purse, or restrictive legislation to force Obama, as the executor of Congress's laws, to do what they want, but when the Tea Party Caucus insists on getting whatever it wants, pure as the driven snow, the party ends up having to do continuing resolutions in order to keep the government running, and those just generally say, ":what we did before, and more of the same"
Obama, meanwhile, has had the executive branch's prerogative of deciding how the laws are going to be carried out, using the power already handed to him by the enabling acts of different agencies, and the laws governing regulatory authority. Without a functional majority, Republicans have been unable to change those laws in bills that Obama would actually have to pass, with the budgetary authority to hold over his head to prevent him from getting too out of control.
This has fed an ironic level of disgust with the Republican Establishment among the very people electing and promoting that dysfunctional caucus of representatives.
Make no mistake: The Republican establishment likely considered the Tea Party a throwaway movement, a way to drum up quick support for an insecurity-busting rush back to the majority The irony is, that rush borrowed on the discontent with the Washington establishment, and those Republican voters were not all in on the joke that the Tea Party was to their leaders. They actually took the message of reform seriously, the reform being no more deal-making, no more flexibility, just 24/7 insistence on the GOP getting their way. In other words, the quick loan of eighty new Republican leaders came with some rather hefty finance charges, the cost being the Republican majority's ability to actually bargain with the President, with the Senate Democrats, with the voters, to get a workable solution to promoting the GOP's agenda.
The best this Congress has been able to do, really, is throw red meat at the wall, and all that has done is borrow expectations that voters want them to pay back. But without a winning Republican candidate, how can they repay the loan of power? How can they rewrite the laws and gut the regulations if they don't have a President to rubberstamp their policies?
Another angle is the ideological one. Conformity might seem like a perfect way to get a party that's disciplined and strong, but it's actually a borrowing of consensus through unquestioning belief that ultimately brings with it the interest charges of extreme dogmatism. Without a robust policy debate with the GOP, it's stuck with the policy ideas of the past, stuck having its leaders say the same things, over and over again, to maintain the loyalty of voters, unable to adjust to the new attitudes of younger voters, or those older voters disillusioned by policy failures. The insistence on conformity also leads to the many Republican voters looking to just a few people for their cues as to what is politically correct thinking, rather than figuring it out for themselves.
Without all those people thinking for themselves, the GOP doesn't innovate, it doesn't adjust to the times, it doesn't adapt to changing demographic trends. Trump stepped into that, and used the insistence on conformity and authority to toxic effect, creating a Emperor's New Clothes situation with one of the most atrociously un-self-conscious candidates of modern times.
People often agree, or go along with things just to avoid trouble with those at the top. Republicans looking to avoid an all out civil war in their party went with the Trump Candidacy, hoping it was better to have him in the tent peeing out rather than outside peeing in. Only problem, as it turns out, is that he's got the aim of a three year old, so it's pretty much been collateral damage all around.
The Republicans will see the bill come due for his candidacy, one way or another, and I can't decide which will be the more painful result: Trump winning, or Trump losing?Posted by Stephen Daugherty at November 7, 2016 9:36 AM