Like Televangelist Prosperity Pimps, the Secular Trump ‘Guarantees’ Epic, Future Blessings
No single aspect of his disruptive “charm offensive” explains the Rise of Trumpery, nor which matters most. There’s still debate whether Trump is the ultimate, celebrity narcissist or an undisciplined, ignorant joke out of his depth, a fascist-sounding demagogue or a devious conspiracy nut dishing out insupportable nonsense. Or just another slick, power broker with racist pandering — thus unqualified for anything above reality TV. Defenders boast he’s a fiery maverick who tells it like they think “it” is, beholden only to one billionaire know-it-all: himself. Why can’t all of the above apply?
Here’s one special Trump merger that explains his surprise liftoff, plus for us skeptical millions his inevitable short circuit:
- his cult-like, fundamentalist confirmation of America’s moral, political and spiritual collapse — corralling cynical conspiracy addicts, fear-drenched born-agains, or NRA-type militants— meshed with
- evangelical wealth pimping —adore Trump and the lost middle class will rise again.
Religiosity pitches fold into rightwing McCarthyite scapegoating — calling all racist, anti-immigration, insecure white folks. Time to fully appreciate how Trumpism leverages our dark cultural underbelly somehow for fans lightened by his stand-up “entertainment,” riveted with shock value, belligerence, and promotion of violence.
Whether the result of calculation or a career of selling, Trump’s attention-grabbing package of dark and light explains how his national prominence surpasses an array of highly-skilled evangelical crooks, most obscuring years of false prophesy, monetary malfeasance or sexual hypocrisy. Yet what publicity hounds, other than Biblical hustlers, match Trump for his righteous tone and absurdly inflated promises? What better context puts the lie to Trump’s favorite, if meaningless claim, “I guarantee you”? Let’s all thank Trump for obliterating the line between crooked TV church scams and his crooked political scams.
Like arrogant televangelists, Trump doesn’t propose workable or testable ideas but rushes to certified, often intangible outcomes, whatever the problem. Equal in sanctimony, Trumpery parades his sleazy career as the universe’s top wheeler-dealer, then insists this single skill-set can solve terrorism, wars, imperialism, crime, economic woes, gender conflicts, foreign affairs, trade agreements, and job growth, while enhancing American exceptionalism and pacifying aggrieved white males.
Trump’s Lifetime Guarantees
Thus Trump guarantees he’ll be the greatest job-creator in history, devoid of details, plan or party consensus. He guarantees Mexicans will pay for his fantasy wall. He guarantees low-paid border agents will magically profile Muslims, flawlessly barring menaces. Trump even one-upped the coarsest televangelists, defending his penis size with “I guarantee it”?
At such points, crudity aside, anyone not turned off has shifted from “trust me” tunnel vision to blind faith. When Trump promises the impossible, cost-free to supporters (or rally lawbreakers), behold the big con of “something for nothing.” Behold also Elmer Gantry, Hollywood’s merciless indictment of just how low dishonest preachers will go, using God and salvation to rip off poor, sick, or desperate victims. Gantry, the slick, irreligious, fast-talking salesman, triumphs by simply switching the product from, say, vacuum cleaners to selling religious belief, promising invisible “payoffs” like happiness, health or salvation.
Though Trump scoffs at all political correctness, he shamelessly channels the worst of “evangelical correctness.” That comes, of course with implicit commandments: 1) never question the emphatic truths from the prophet-candidate; 2) take on faith-alone his good faith, sacrifice, and benevolence; plus 3) idealize his command as master of the universe (even business wealth guarantees great governance). Do Trump’s jaw-dropping fables and conspiracies not secularize the hyperbolic bottom dwellers in the evangelical Hall of Shame (spanning Bakkers, Swaggerts, Falwells and Robertsons)?
Crossbreeding McCarthyism with fundamentalist-style sales pitches, laced with entertainment for the hungry masses, allows Trump to sell snake oil — great jobs, safety from terrorism, bad trade deals, or illegitimate oppressors. Racial and tribal profiling fits the same unhinged mindset. If Trump appears a freak show, that’s because we’ve observed similar theatrics honed by evangelical circus performers.
David vs. Goliath Storyline
Underlining Trump’s fantasy package are moralistic narratives, not unlike good guy/bad guy westerns or crime morality plays where good always conquers evil. Chronic lying makes him a dishonest storyteller, like all devious propagandists.
- First off, Trump predicts a nightmare collapse unless America returns to its wealth-driven, white, Christian, paternalistic purity. Note the clear beginning, middle and end: the lost, past golden age, now jeopardized by false idols and corrupt elitism, resolvable only with a new order run by a great, destined leader. One, two, three, like a childhood fable with a happy Trump-produced ending.
- Pack the melodrama with good vs. evil characters and dichotomies, just like the Bible. Blame all painful changes on nefarious power brokers. Make war on shadow terrorists, stereotype foreigners and minorities, castigate outsourcing CEOs (but not Trump’s billionaire buddies, ruthless hard-asses who get things done). Attribute bad faith, stupidity or paralysis to illegitimate rivals.
- Above all, anoint the messianic prophet with special sight and extraordinary talents, with singular power and will to enforce ultimate solutions. With rightwing correctness, reduce complexity to false, simplistic choices: either America the chosen dominates the globe or disaster looms.
Thus do Trump congregants race from the discredited GOP establishment church into the arms of the rogue Trump church, convinced their hero, too rich to be bribed, is “their” sacrificial redeemer. And Trump’s offer of family enrichment and tribal freedom without begged donations contrasts with money-grubbing televangelist brethren.
Trump’s cudgel of tribal demagoguery (as “one of us”) explains why otherwise moralistic “good Christians” don’t gag at his blatantly irreligious New York-style egotism or life of utter self-indulgence. If apocalypse looms, all bets are off and believers must cling to the most visible messiah. Does not Trump share with televangelist the same righteous tone and hard glare, the same absolutist convictions, and the same “disgust” with evil foes?
Prophet of Profits
What Trump’s devilish package proves is he can pander with the best (or worst) of the holier-than-thou preachers. Since fundamentalist awareness today is debased with bigotry and economic dread, Trump the pied-piper need only take the stage, crow about his fabulous wealth, strut his like-minded intolerance, and dominate by ridiculing foes as deficient losers. Who cares that Donald’s indulgent life never once found public service?
Behold the new David against a myriad of planetary Goliaths. Trump is so conspicuously unqualified he’s a sure thing for any Audacity Hall of Fame. His looming nomination, in the end, makes me recall Clarence Darrow’s prescient speech from Inherit the Wind, how “fanaticism and ignorance” are “forever busy and need feeding. And soon, with banners flying and with drums beating we’ll be marching backward . . . when bigots burned a man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind.” If anything goes now in politics, anything can be crushed or banished or outlawed.