Trump and the Art of the Con


W.J. Astore

The ink hasn’t yet dried on Trump’s victory and we’re already hearing about how his campaign promises are being “modified,” i.e. reneged on.  Trump’s infamous wall along the border with Mexico is already becoming more virtual than real, with admissions that Mexico will not pay for it. Trump himself has suggested he favors certain features of Obamacare (no denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions, and coverage extended to “children” until the age of 26), so there’ll be no wholesale “repeal and replace,” as he promised.  He also promised to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Hillary Clinton, to “lock her up,” as his followers chanted, but he’s backtracked on that as well.  Talk about draining the swamps of government, of bringing in fresh faces and new ideas, has produced tired old faces like Pence, Gingrich, Giuliani, and Christie.  In a classic case of nepotism, the “fresh” faces are those in his own family, his two sons and daughter Ivanka (she seems to be the one with the most smarts).

Many Trump voters appear to have voted for him because he represented “change,” a rejection of the usual suspects in the establishment.  Yes, the Clintons and their fellow travelers are out, but the hardline Republican establishment is back in, complete with the usual corporate hacks and think tanks.  And if you think these “conservatives” are going to start embracing the working classes and helping them financially with higher wages and better job prospects, I have a Chris Christie bridge for you that’s named after our first president.

These events are hardly surprising.  Trump is a con man.  For him, “the art of the deal” is basically the art of the con.  Consider his promise of bringing back American jobs.  How is that supposed to happen?  Simply through higher tariffs against foreign goods?  Who’s going to replace those with American-made goods at an affordable price to the working classes?

Here’s an example.  I got dressed this morning with no thought about using my clothes as an illustration for this article.  My jeans are made in Mexico (of fabric from the USA, so why weren’t they made here?).  My shirt is from Thailand.  My leather belt is from China, and so too are my shoes.  We all know why.  Labor costs in those countries are much cheaper than those in the USA.  Profits to corporations are thus much higher.  How is Trump going to change this dynamic?

I actually try to buy clothes that are made in America.  I got a nice pair of shoes that are made in Maine.  I got them on sale for a great price, but they retail for over $300.  If they were made in China, they’d probably retail for about $100.  How many members of the working classes are able to spend roughly triple the price for the privilege of wearing shoes and clothes “Made in the USA”?

Here’s one thing Trump could do: Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour so that Americans can afford the up-charge for domestic goods.  Any chance that Trump’s regime is going to do this?

It’s great to talk about bringing back American manufacturing jobs that pay well.  It’s possible to raise barriers to foreign trade to make American goods more competitive.  But who’s going to build the new factories?  And where are the skilled workers with the requisite knowledge base?  With the right advanced tools and technologies?

Speaking of technology, there’s an ever greater push in America to automate everything, even long-haul driving jobs, a job that provides a decent living for many Americans.  Is Trump going to reverse this push?  Is he going to preserve American blue-collar jobs against the pressure applied by multinational corporations to cut costs and maximize profits, workers be damned?  Given Trump’s own record of using cheaper foreign labor and goods, this doesn’t seem bloody likely.

Believe me, I hope I’m wrong, but the early signs are that America’s working classes, along with a lot of Trump enthusiasts, are already getting conned.


12 thoughts on “Trump and the Art of the Con

  1. Bill, The talking points mentioned are all essentially fabrications of the Democratic party billion dollar machine of distortion and smears. The mainstream press has been an unreliable source of factual and accurate information not only for the presidential campaign but also domestic news. I watched “Meet the Press” this morning and the show was really, ” What did Democrats do wrong to create the wrong election outcome?” They never covered the violence and intolerance of Democrats and Democratic supporters against the results of the election. The negligence of President Obama and Hillary Clinton by not condemning political violence is deafening.

    Criticizing President Obama’s irresponsible immigration policies is not racism, Islamophobia, etc. Hillary Clinton and Democrats calling Trump racist, etc. was a campaign ploy to win an election. There is no doubt there are many people like me who voted for Barack Obama once changed their views based on his real lack of leadership and accomplishments.

    The greatest irony is that the Democrats led by Hillary Clinton said or implied that a Trump loss would end in violence by disgruntled losers when all along it was Democrats who showed their political intolerance by being violent losers. Not accepting the election results shows intolerance.

    If Trump is as bad as his opponents say why don’t they trust Congress to check him? Is the system so weak it cannot deal with a potentially rogue president? On the other hand, a President Trump may well be an effective president far beyond our previous three failures or mediocre presidents: Clinton, Bush43 and now Obama, the great divider.


    1. Henry, you dismissed the content of the post in your first sentence, then you mentioned Meet the Press, then the rest of your comment was three paragraphs of regargled trumpspeak. Did you even read the post, or did you just want to do a drive-by?


      1. Protests are part of democracy, but violent protests are violations of law and order. People have a right to assemble and to make their voices heard, but they should do so in a manner that is respectful of the rights of others, conducive to the rule of law.

        I called Trump a sore loser because he was complaining about a rigged election even before he’d lost. Those who are leading unlawful protests in the streets are also sore losers. Not only that, they’re wasting their energy. Even worse, they’re acting like Trump implied he would if he’d lost.


  2. Some improvement, Henry. You only wrote one sentence this time, but still off-topic. Here’s a starter for you: “No surprise, people get angry when promises are broken, and . . . “


      1. Henry, you write as if you’re trying really, really hard to sound smart but are falling a little short. Take a step back and simplify yourself, maybe do some reevaluating of yourself, then try again poor dear.


    1. I wouldn’t dream of speaking for Henry, nor would he wish me to do so, obviously, but apropos of the “con man” theme, it appears to me that we have two sorts of con men here: one who believes his own bullshit and one who can keep that separate from what he actually believes and intends to do. By way of illustrating my point, I would like to quote at some length from Thomas Frank’s new book, Listen, Liberal: or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?

      “I clung to the ‘hope’ for a little while longer than [more cynical observers]. I can remember the exact moment when I finally gave it up — it was the first time I heard the phrase ‘grand bargain,’ Barack Obama’s pet term for his proposed deficit and tax deal with the Republicans. In a split second I understood the whole thing: that big compromises like this were real to the president, but ‘change’ was not. I had known that Obama had a passion for centrist talk; everyone did. Bipartisan conciliation was the theme of Obama’s famous keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. It was one of the themes of his 2008 stump speech, when he talked so inspiringly about ‘the politics of addition, not the politics of division.'”

      What was shocking about all this was to realize that Obama believed these cliches. Consensus, bipartisanship, the ‘center’: those were the things this admirable and intelligent man was serious about — the kind of stale, empty verbiage favored by beltway charlatans on Sunday talk shows. The other things Obama used to say — like when he connected deregulation, corruption, and income inequality in his Cooper Union speech in 2008 — those things were just to reel in the suckers. The suckers being the people who could hear the pillars of their middle-class world snapping. The suckers being the people who could see that the system was crumbling and thought that maybe we ought to do something about it.”

      “What I realized in the instant when I heard that phrase was that this man, in whom I and so many others had placed such faith, was in fact another ordinary consensus Democrat with ordinary consensus ideas. He believed the same tired partisan-deploring platitudes as everyone else. Nothing could budge our leadership class from this illusion. Unemployment could hit 50 percent, foreclosures could sweep through entire states, there could be riots in every city in the land, and the TV hosts would still be moaning about how dreadful it is that Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on things.”

      It seems clear to me that Donald Trump, like all good professional actors, con men, real estate agents, and carnival barkers, knows the difference between the role that he projects for a carefully targeted audience and what he personally believes but keeps to himself. President Barack Obama, as Thomas Frank has written, can’t tell the difference and actually believes the vapid, insipid “bipartisan” hot air and wimpy rhetorical tropes that he has dutifully memorized and exhales on cue. In this most recent farce of an “election,” some six-million voters stayed home who had previously voted for Barack Obama twice. Who could blame them, since his chosen successor sounded just as convinced by her own bullshit as he did with his? Who, after all, wants to go to war for empty slogans and discredited rhetoric, recycled relentlessly by a “champion” afflicted with “Centrist Democrat Disease,” otherwise known as:

      Congenital Stockholm Syndrome

      He started by giving up quickly,
      Surrendering early his case.
      He offered to kiss their asses.
      Replying, they pissed in his face.

      Their urine, he thought, tasted strangely;
      Yet not at all bad to his taste.
      He’d gotten so used to it, plainly.
      Why let such a drink go to waste?

      The people who voted in favor
      Of him and his promise of “change”
      Now see in his many betrayals
      A poodle afflicted with mange.

      Each time that the surly and crazy
      Republicans out for his skin
      Condemn him for living and breathing,
      He graciously helps them to win.

      He’ll turn on his base in an instant
      With threats and disdain and neglect
      While bombing some Muslims so Cheney
      Might thrill to the lives that he’s wrecked.

      A black man in love with apartheid
      He offers his stalwart support
      To Zionists and their extortion
      With “More, please!” his only retort.

      A masochist begging for beatings
      Obama takes joy in abuse
      Receiving just what he has asked for
      Which makes him of no earthly use

      The little brown men that he’s murdered
      In homes far away from our land
      Bring profits obscene to his backers
      Who give him the back of their hand.

      Obama seeks praise from the vicious
      Republicans, no matter what.
      He suffers, apparently, nothing
      So much as his need to kiss butt.

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011


      1. Great point about the differences in con-men. Trump knows better than to believe his own con. He has a lot of practice at it.

        Obama was profoundly disappointing, especially in 2009. Here was a man with a huge mandate and a “super majority” in Congress, yet he kowtowed to a disgraced minority party in the name of bipartisanship.

        You could argue the Democrats started to lose the election of 2016 in 2009. That’s not to say Obama didn’t do some good things. But he has lacked fire and conviction, at least from my (progressive) perspective.


    2. Lowell, the recent election was also a vote of against the double standard of our Justice Department towards Hillary Clinton’s handling of national security documents and the commingling of State Department business and Clinton Foundation when Hillary Clinton was our Secretary of State. The Justice Department under President Obama shielded Hillary Clinton by denying Grand Jury formation to subpoena documents to fully investigate is not justice. Many actions taken in the investigation of Clinton by Justice Department and FBI were abnormal like giving immunity to the people surrounding Clinton without indictments. Also, what kind of investigation is it when no one is under oath? It is a sham because lying to the FBI under oath is a crime.


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