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.