From the moment he entered the presidential race, Trump has bragged about his great wealth. “I’m really rich,” said the real estate mogul and reality TV star the day he announced his presidential bid in the lobby of his swank Fifth Avenue Trump Tower.
While few financial experts believe Trump is as rich as he claims to be ($10 billion), there is no doubt he enjoys an opulent and glamorous lifestyle. He owns his own plane, helicopter, multiple homes, golf courses and his gilded Trump Tower penthouse – estimated worth $100 million – is rumored to have a gold crapper.
A look a Trump’s support base shows mostly white blue-collar Americans occupying the opposite end of the wealth chart. Back in December, a Washington Post analysis found that Trump’s support skews male, white, and poor. The male-female gap was 19 percentage points (47 percent support among men vs. 28 percent among women). He won a whopping 50 percent of voters making less than $50,000.
How did a very rich businessman, who may or may not do his business on a gold toilet, attract such strong support among low-income voters? What makes them think Trump is a “man of the people?” What causes them to believe a billionaire can not only relate to them, but also be their voice?
Ah, but therein lies the genius of the con man.
Playing mostly on people’s social fears and economic anxieties, Trump is offering the one commodity all great con men traffic in … hope. In this case it is not the hope that a secret elixir will cure your illness, but the hope of defeating what Trump calls a “rigged system.” It is the hope only a wealthy political outsider like Trump can offer.
Corporate greed has given us globalization that has taken away our jobs, says Trump. Illegal immigrants are scooping up work that should rightfully go to Americans, he tells his marks. Only an independently wealthy, successful businessman like himself, declares Trump, can reverse these trends thereby making America, and his supporters’ lives, great again.
Trump’s faux populism extends to “powerful corporations, media elites, and powerful dynasties,” who, as he said a few months ago in Pennsylvania while channeling his best Bernie Sanders, have “rigged the system for their benefit, will do anything and say anything to keep things exactly as they are.“
It doesn’t matter that Trump is himself an outsourcer of jobs. Most of the suits, ties and cuff links he peddles are made in China; his luxury line of furniture comes from Turkey; the crystal for his Trump Home line is produced in Slovenia. It also doesn’t matter that as a wealthy businessman he has personally benefited, and continues to benefit, from the very “rigged system” he rails against. His followers believe because they want to believe. They are blinded by the shiny bottle of magical potion Trump holds before them.
The con man Trump offers his elixir (hope) for a better tomorrow through a simple three-part narrative: America is losing; Donald Trump is a winner; and if Trump becomes president, America will become a winner, also.
George W. Bush, a man like Trump born into great wealth, also sold himself as a man who cared about the common folk. He was the kind of guy you wanted to have a beer with. But unlike Trump, at least Bush looked the part of an average Joe when he was clearing brush on his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Trump is more the kind of guy you might want to have champagne and finger sandwiches with. But, attesting to his great skills, the man who stiffs his workers as a matter of course has convinced a great many desperate Americans he is a “man of the people” who actually cares about their plight.
Photo | independent.co.uk