Skip to main content

The Con Man and His Marks

We don’t need Trump’s tax records to know he’s a con man.

It's no secret that he’s a scam-artist, bamboozler, swindler, hustler, bunco artist, flimflam man.

All his life, he has cheated, duped, rooked, squeezed, milked, hoodwinked, bilked, and hornswoggled gullible marks all over the world. Some of them banks. Some of them governments.

The language of grift is almost as colorful as the language of money. Or sex. The number of synonyms for a word tends to be a leading indicator of our cultural fascination with the subject.

And our fascination with fraudulent behavior goes back centuries. How many grifters, embezzlers, and other reprehensible types have we turned into Hollywood heroes? How many handsome actors have talked old ladies out of their life savings?

Like all good con men, Trump puts on a beautiful presentation. He paints an enticing picture of a good life, a better life, a life you’d have made for yourself if only those other people hadn’t rigged everything against you. But now you’re in good hands. You’re with the best people. People like you.

The con man carefully cultivates your need to believe in him. Just listen to the confidence in that voice. You bask in that confidence. You know he can make all your problems go away. All you have to do is believe him. And just do him this one little favor.

This has worked for Trump all his life. Ask Michael Cohen. Ask Mary Trump. So why should he think it will be any different now?

Because it doesn’t just work on his base. It works on us.

He thinks he can smooth-talk his way out of this mess. And he might be right. He’s throwing up a mountain of bullshit, in hopes of paralyzing us, of freezing us into inaction, of convincing us not to vote in what he assures us is a futile cause.

When he says mail-in ballots will rig the election against him, we know it’s not true. We know he’s the one rigging the election. But since he’s completely out front about it, we just assume he can make it happen. We give him the benefit of so many doubts. We talk ourselves into buying what he’s selling.

Guess what that makes us? The mark.

We know we can’t believe anything he says. So why do we keep believing anything he says?

We have to remember that stealing an election isn’t the same thing as saying you’re stealing an election. One is a monumentally difficult thing to do. The other is a con man scamming a sucker.

If Trump could do even half the sinister things he talks about doing, he’d be doing them instead of talking about them. Yes, he’s a master grifter, but he’s incompetent at everything else. He’s not convincing as a dictator, a mob boss, or an evil genius. There is nothing in his past to indicate he has either the temperament or the management skills to pull off something as complex as an election theft. Of course, he’ll try. And he’ll talk the entire Republican party into going down that road with him. But that’s only because he has no choice.

The real problem is us. We bite every time. We cede him the narrative. Every time we respond to his lies, we play on his turf. We cringe. We go into a defensive crouch. We give him super-human powers. It’s as if we’re the ones ten points behind and staring at the wrong end of a wave election.

And yes, he’ll keep on coming. He’ll make the longest of longshots sound like sure things. He’ll convince us that the fix is in, that there’s no point in even trying. He’ll plant just enough doubt, that maybe we’ll think twice about our ballots.

Oh wait, he did that already. I’m already torn between mail-in and in-person. I’m not sure which is the safer activity. Or which is the safer vote. Or whether the postal service can be trusted. And I live in Michigan, where a confluence of shenanigans is likely.

My confidence in the voting process — a simple thing I’ve done all my life — has taken a hit.

I know he’s blowing smoke. I know I’m listening to a con man. I know he’s playing a really weak hand. Still, everything about this election has me on edge and cranky.

That’s how a good con works.

 


Comments

  1. When there is dog s
    hit on your shoe you scrape it off. You have to do it or you stink the place out. It isn't fun, but it must be done. That is what voting is this time around. Scrape that shit OFF!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I personally listen to none of it. I just helped lead a project in my little community, where we sent about 20,000 out of 15 million letters to unlikely democratic voters in swing states (mostly Michigan since that is my original home state) begging them to get out and vote. I believe it will be a landslide for the democrats. I believe in my country. The day dump was elected, I proposed “the great American Ignorathon”. I figured if we ignored him, he would go away. But even I have been caught in the drama.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Because Things Just Aren’t Scary Enough

There’s been considerable buzz in the last week around an op-ed column in the Washington Post that purports to scare the shit out of you, but is a must-read nonetheless. It was written by Robert Kagan, an establishment policy expert, long associated with Republican administrations. Now divorced from the GOP, he has become an outspoken never-Trumper. The piece is both a dead-on analysis of our current moment in history and a dire warning for the very near future. While I don’t subscribe to all its assumptions, I find its basic premise disturbingly plausible, maybe even likely. The essay envisions a dystopian nightmare enveloping the 2024 presidential election, the culmination of a constitutional crisis that is clearly already in motion. As things stand now, Kagan says, the groundwork is almost in place for Trump to steal that election. Kagan insists that Trump will indeed be the candidate, that he will challenge the results if they don’t fall his way, and that this time he has

I’d Rather Not Be So Partisan

Since moving to my modest suburb outside Detroit, my interest in local politics has been marginal. I personally don’t have much skin in the game — no school-age children, no business interests to advocate for, no history in the community. I’m generally content to pay my taxes and enjoy the benefits of living in a relatively well-run town. Even so, as a citizen I feel responsible for knowing something about the people who run things. So while I don’t follow the workings of the city council, I do pay attention when its members are running for office, which happens in off-year elections every two years.  So this is the year, and, as expected, the front yards are abloom with lawn signs. I get to vote for three of the six candidates. The unspoken rule is that the election process is kept strictly non-partisan, so these candidates do not publicly divulge their party affiliations. Which almost makes sense. After all, the upkeep of our roads, sewers, power lines and other infrastructur

Inflation and the Supply Chain are Joined at the Hip

Back in the early eighties, inflation was on everyone’s mind. Prices on everything had been going up since the Vietnam War, and the country was caught in a vicious spiral of people and businesses getting rocked by higher prices, expecting them to go even higher, and raising prices in anticipation of them going still higher. Rinse and repeat. The expectation of higher prices drove prices higher. It was an eye-opening experience. The candy bar that cost a dime when I was a kid was suddenly 75 cents. My first mortgage carried a 12-percent interest rate adjustable every year, which meant it could’ve escalated to 18 percent in six years, a terrifying prospect. Luckily, interest rates peaked before that could happen, and the so-called Great Inflation of the seventies and eighties finally subsided. But ever since that time, big business has been obsessively paranoid about anything that smacks of inflation. Inflation cuts into their precious purchasing power. It degrades the value of t