When I gaze at the current administration, I see two things: money and lies about money. Given that we live in a capitalistic society, that’s not surprising. What does seem surprising at first glance, though, is the supporters who constantly apologize for all of Trump’s glaring faults and mistakes. His base will not budge. To make sense of why they are so loyal, glance back up to the opening sentence of this op-ed.
It’s no coincidence that Trump’s monotone message to his followers is “Look at the economy,” or “Hey, what about that stock market?” Most of the Trump supporters that I know, a number that is dwindling simply because I will not pay attention to their cult incantations anymore, basically tell me off the record that they support Trump “because he is making me money.”
It matters not that Trump’s supposed “economy unlike anything the world has ever seen” is as much a lie as his boast that he is a self-made man. His predecessor, Barack Obama, began the roll the current economy was on, pre-COVID-19. Likewise, Donny’s father set him up in business with a $100 million nest egg of untaxed funds. There is a reason, too, that the infamous Deutsche Bank was the only lender Donny could get loans from after he squandered his inheritance on slimy get-richer-quick schemes.
This is not news to the MAGA cult; they simply do not care. No amount of pipeline oil spilled on Native American land or Gulf of Mexico waters will affect their fealty to the snake-oil salesman they adore. To them Trump’s schtick is just entertainment. Those who had money before 2016 are making bundles more thanks to the Republicans’ tax cuts for the rich. Those who drank the orange Kool Aid without having a savings account, sit back with their mouths open waiting for money to trickle down into their gullets from a leaking heavenly faucet. They don’t seem to mind the fact that they will die of thirst before that happens.
The Russian influence on American politics ramped up when Trump threw his hat into the ring. Why? Because Donny thought that he would lose the electoral battle but win the branding war. Putin had prior knowledge of his fawning friend’s greed and self-indulgence and worked to prop up a compromised Trump in the U.S. presidency for his own nefarious uses. Money laundering (refer to Deutsche Bank and the stiff fines it received for this illegal banking practice a few years back) was one of the first whispers after Trump began his public love affair with a nation who was a supposed adversary. For four years Russia hasn’t been able to do anything wrong, to hear Trump, Putin’s puppet, describe it. Trump’s reluctance to share his tax and financial information is completely logical given the scenario where Putin is blackmailing him. It seems logical since that is how the little ex-KGB officer operates and thrives in his own corrupt oligarchy.
So, what of Trump’s supporters? Most are as easily scared as they are amenable to being herded like cattle. Remember the horrific “caravan invasion?” Just Trump’s hysteria flavor of the month. This past summer he fomented violence by warning the suburbs that the Democrats were sending “thugs” to take their guns, something Obama kept forgetting to do during the eight years of his presidency.
Why isn’t Trump’s ice cream cone melting in an orange puddle at the feet of his base? Fear. Fear of many things. But mostly it is simply fear of losing their money. Today no good political argument lasts 60 seconds before a Wall Street reference is swung for a supposed knockout. Don’t take my word for it, try it. All Trump’s dog whistles to white supremacists and his claxons about the horrors of socialism and Antifa fizzle before the volatility of a dystopian, equally uncaring stock market.
I need to be fair, though. CNN and MSNBC over-cover Trump’s political gaffes for the same reason Fox News dotes over him: ratings equal money. Standup comics love Trump because he gives them such great material, which equals money. Religion cornered the market on fear ages ago, but today’s telemarketing evangelicals have finessed guilt and going to church into their own tax-free money laundering operations. God equals money. Who isn’t feeding at the Trump trough?
The supporters I truly worry about most are the people who have little or nothing, but still vote against their own self-interests simply because they are in love with the idea of being wealthy. The poorest states are also the most ravaged by drugs, but they are also automatic votes for Trump because hunger for money is just as addicting as opioids and fentanyl. Money supposedly can’t make you happy, but many of Trump’s voters didn’t get, or read, that memo.