The Long Con and Donald Trump

The Long Con and Donald Trump

On a morning in November 2016, I woke to discover America had elected the most noxious, abhorrent, psychopathic individual ever to enter American politics. I was incredulous, and scared. We had just elected a person without values who flaunted his lack of them, but with infinite cynicism, he also claimed to have them. We’d put a known evil doer in charge of the country. It was like your mom got a divorce, went out to a bar, picked up a drunk, scam artist, and brought him home, saying, “Look kids, here’s your new daddy.”

Trump was working a “long con”–it starts with setting up the mark, which is an offer to enrich him at the expense of someone else, in this case, the Chinese, the Mexicans, NATO, Black Americans, poor people trying for a better life, and whoever else was on voters’ hate lists. Trump drew a bullseye on the larceny and hate coiled in American hearts and gave it benediction, mocking disabled people at “‘rallies,” chanting “lock her up,” and claiming that he alone could make America great again.

He hooked the mark. While looting the government (the People) and committing nepotism on a grand and breathtaking scale, he propagated the belief that he was “working hard for America,” and they believed it.

How could so many be taken?

He made it OK to hate again. Some heard their single issue addressed and pretended not to notice who was talking. Anti -abortion/ “pro-lifers,” gun-rights advocates, nationalists, xenophobes, those on the radical Right, the Qanon-conspiracy kooks, and evangelicals (I’ll never understand the twisted logic that led them to see Trump as their man), he took them all in, offering something for nothing if only they’d buy “the Con.”
His economics were the equivalent of you and me withdrawing all savings, checking, investments, home equity, and credit card advances, and then calling ourselves rich. His tariff “war” with China did nothing but lose our exporters’ profits and raise the price of imports. He insulted and demeaned our oldest, best allies and made us a laughing stock abroad. And then…there’s the travesty of COVID….

Recall this has happened before, and we fought a war to stamp it out. Give the people someone to hate, and you hook them every time. But Hitler committed suicide in a concrete bunker; Mussolini was dragged through the plaza and hanged upside down until dead. Dictators always come to a bad end, but not before wreaking havoc on their people.

Yet there still is something in the human heart that longs for a dictator to bless the dark thing within it. Have we learned our lesson? I doubt it. Hate never dies; it lives on in each of us. Trump, and all that he represents, will only recede from view for a while, only to return when our vigilance has slipped.

But for now…you know that feeling of joy when a headache fades? I am feeling that joy. A four-year headache is fading.

I am going to bask in that for a while.