Trump’s con exposes ‘change-at-any-price’ delusions

“Change” is neither easy nor free and that makes Trumpism, without vetted programs, no more than empty rhetoric. Who but the Trumpster makes 282 unrealistic campaign pledges?

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Like slick hawkers touting gold coins, penny stocks, sports upsets, or their version of salvation, Trump’s audacious hustle guarantees change (never defined), then redemption (for winners), then greatness (pie-in-the-sky).  Trump voters champion change, and that’s what they’re getting: a sweeping, hard-right lurch from Obamaland. Anything but panaceas.

Not reforms that drain the Washington swamp of elites or special interests (au contraire). Not demolishing what allegedly “rigs” the “system,” whatever that means. Behold the opposite, or what qualifies as Trump chump change: empowering rule by billionaires and global bankers, rightwing generals and unelected, “alt-right” operatives, plus climate deniers, minority haters, anti-knowledge types, and anti-terrorist ideologues.

Contrary to his endless campaign howlers, Trump’s appointments look to entrench the very corruption his rhetoric assailed. Are any picks skilled at small-town job retraining or handcuffing Wall Street, big pharma or big oil profiteers? “Drill, baby, drill,” here we come, regulations  begone. That’s Trump “change,” plus scandalous, mafia-style cronyism between family, assets and government operations. Where’s that wall we really need, between Trump’s `crooked global corporatism and the White House power center?

How long will it take Trumpites sold a bill of goods to smell something rotten? Banished instantly are “presidential conflicts of interests,” booms Trump (and every wannabe autocrat), because what’s good for Trump must be good for America. Here’s monumental change and gall altogether: crass Trumpism indistinguishable from public and foreign affairs, let alone deal-making.

Consider Trump’s infrastructure gambit, offering huge corporate tax credits, not direct funding. That scam is less about job creation than privatized, construction-industry profiteering. Is he not a land developer? “In theory I could run my business perfectly,” brags Trump, “and then run the country perfectly.” “Perfectly” is the conman’s tell, imploding even the notions private interests can be in conflict with public ones. After all, why should his children not share the blessings after he won the lottery?

The Art of the Flip-flop

Two weeks into the morass and Trump reversals arrive on schedule, a parade of flip-flopping and backtracking on his greatest bait-and-switch ploys. Winning comes first, then let’s make a deal, then jam it down opponents’ throats. No changes on GOP dogma, however: “tax relief” for the wealthy and corporations, slash social benefits and deregulate far and wide. Bingo, open season for fat cats most adept at gaming a corrupt system even further.

Despite post-Brexit “populist” misgivings, how amazing that angry, anti-status quo, working-class Yanks ever swallowed Trumpery, hook, line and sinker. Low-information voters appear stunned by the most outrageous of big city slickers, despite dishing out one distortion after another: “outsourcing” Rust Belt factories happened not just by going overseas but to the non-unionized South. Or that dirty coal is doomed not by regulation but because natural gas is cheaper, easier to mine and ship, and burns cleaner. Per conservative Jennifer Rubin, “A mandate for unicorns, rainbows and pixie dust does not mean much in the real world.”

Trump Chump Change

Trump is not the first to pander to an old, tired myth: just switching presidents (and parties) will restore America to greatness. Whatever Trump’s change bluster, brace for a hard-right lurch on money and taxes, billions for infrastructure (growing behemoths, not job growth), blasting Obamacare (watch out, have-nots), and continued scapegoating of the wrong goats (low domestic prices reflect low immigrant labor).

So far, the biggest visible change is how Trump changed (and degraded) national campaigning. Trumpism marks the triumph of loose-lipped, loud-mouth, celebrity style over substance (like not one program to address Main St. misery). Now campaigns will be scored as entertainment; now contempt, even chronic lying, will be rewarded; now being a non-politician devoid of a voting record shields a candidate from accountability or attack. Now, hiding your tax returns is a winning ploy, especially covert overseas loans and deals.

When style trumps substance, “change” is totally fabricated by the beholder (or media hustler par excellence). Bush-Cheney changed how we make lawless wars— bingo, fiasco. Bill Clinton approved trade, welfare, banking and sentencing changes, many  discredited, without reversing growing inequality started by Reagan. Obamacare delivered well-intentioned change, mortally wounded by contradictions (favoring drug, hospital and insurance firms), plus handing Republicans an electoral bludgeon.

Trump is not the first, simply the least qualified of the anti-Washington “outsiders” heaping scorn on the elusive “status quo.” Except for H.W. Bush, every president since Carter won by campaigning against some version of the D.C. swamp. Compare Gore, Kerry, McCain, and Hillary—all losers with impressive Washington resumes, anchored with establishment chains.

Rule of the Know-Nothings

Trump, in fact, advances this slippery slope, by which ignorance, trust your gut arrogance, and inexperience are obscured by charisma (give Donald the Oscar for his performance as genuine, straight-talking insurgent). Trump took maverick bleating to new heights (step aside, McCain), wielding poisonous daggers to shred rival personalities, not positions. By railing against the “establishment” (or the equally vacuous “rigged system”), Trump reversed logic and common sense, making expertise, skill-sets and knowledge disqualifying negatives. Trump hornswoggled enough voters to think that manipulation he targeted as crony elitism was awful, whereas his coarse, know-nothing elitism was never manipulative, indeed redemptive. “What do you have to lose”?

Though logic withered, this election did highlight the core American contradiction. Only a virtuous, knowledgeable outsider can fix a totally rigged system but Trump is none of these, thus already buttressing the swamp, not draining it. Trump voters overcame high cognitive dissonance by electing an insurgent promising change while reinforcing an entrenched rightwing Congress. This electoral “solution” ends up glorifying the power of the presidency to produce miracles. What a double scam: Trump the billionaire, icon of lordly dominance over serfs, takes office alongside inequality-driven, GOP dinosaurs who created serfs galore. That Hillary took the popular vote while losing only dramatizes gaping anti-democratic ironies. Any generic Democrat, even Hillary, offered far more deliverables for anxious workers.

In short, the least qualified, dubiously“populist” (first super-rich) president is now in charge, with autocratic disruption looming for both executive branch and judiciary. One isn’t so much astonished at the “anything goes” Trump for being Trump but at gullible Rust Belt thousands buying into this craven character as their messiah. Welcome to America, the land of “change-at-any-price” — with a discount for billionaires.

Trump is the ultimate rogue capitalist, the amoral modern Robber Baron, whose idea of disrupting “the system” is taking command, by whatever means necessary. Do supporters really think Trump will do far more for blue-collar folks than for billionaires, thanks to subsidies, tax cuts or loopholes? There will be high, staggering ultimate human costs paid by economic “losers.”

Trump now commands enough leverage to outdo the unprecedented Dubya Demolition — while delivering only token PR wins. Apparently, not enough Americans learned the hard lessons from Bush-Cheney, so here’s another dose of unfeeling, rightwing ideology, with a cruder if more entertaining ringleader. One wonders how much misery ordinary folks must experience before they stop worshiping celebrity flash and then voting against their interests. Now that would be change worth celebrating. 

Here is a list of 282 of Donald Trump’s campaign promises. 

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For over a decade, Robert S. Becker's independent, rebel-rousing essays on politics and culture analyze overall trends, history, implications, messaging and frameworks. He has been published widely, aside from Nation of Change and RSN, with extensive credits from OpEdNews (as senior editor), Alternet, Salon, Truthdig, Smirking Chimp, Dandelion Salad, Beyond Chron, and the SF Chronicle. Educated at Rutgers College, N.J. (B.A. English) and U.C. Berkeley (Ph.D. English), Becker left university teaching (Northwestern, then U. Chicago) for business, founding SOTA Industries, a top American high end audio company he ran from '80 to '92. From '92-02, he was an anti-gravel mining activist while doing marketing, business and writing consulting. Since then, he seeks out insight, even wit in the shadows, without ideology or righteousness across the current mayhem of American politics.

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