Trump is a snake oil salesman. It’s not a new political strategy but it is surprising how well it works for him even after he openly reveals his tendency to flip-flop on slogans and values. One of the first glimpses we had into the nature of Trump as a slimy politician was a strange moment of unusual honesty about his unstable relationship with seemingly impassioned statements. It occurred in May just after he won the nomination. Without any shame or concern that he was outing himself for manipulating people he said to a cheering crowd in Charleston, West Virginia, “you’ve been hearing me say that it’s a rigged system, but now I don’t say it anymore because I won. Okay, it’s true. You know, now I don’t care, I don’t care.” For his supporters who enjoyed the “he tells it like it is” style this should have been an important moment. It showed concretely that you can’t trust that his statements are a reflection of a coherent set of beliefs and values. Instead, he says whatever he thinks will get him where he wants to be depending on the audience and the circumstances of the moment. He repeated a variation of this at other events, adding that Republicans used the same rigging as Democrats “but it’s less obvious so it’s a smarter system.” He repeats that he won so it doesn’t matter now saying, “we don’t care anymore, it’s rigged, let somebody else worry about it.” He resumed talk of rigged elections when it suited him and I assume that anytime he doesn’t get his way or needs to make excuses for not making America great again as President it will be a standard response.
For all those people who wanted a political outsider to “drain the swamp” in Washington and create ethics reforms it seems like they have chosen the perfectly wrong candidate. He admitted in front of another crowd of supporters in Des Moines, Iowa that he didn’t like the “drain the swamp” slogan when it was given to him but it got such a good reaction that he kept saying it, liked he meant it. What an odd thing to admit to a crowd that actually expects you to drain the swamp. Then his advisor, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, says of the slogan “I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore.” Cute is what you call a puppy, not a core campaign promise which convinced people to vote for him.
In another appearance during his “thank you tour” Trump outed his deceptions again when responding to a crowd that began to chant his slogan “lock her up” about Hillary Clinton. He said, “That plays great before the election. Now we don’t care.” Imagine Obama on a thank you tour in 2008 saying “Oh that Hope slogan was just something I said to win the votes. I’m just gonna do the same thing as all the other guys.” The public and political reaction would have been terminal. Not so for Trump, who tells it like it is even when he’s telling you how he conned you to vote for him.
I can’t diagnose millions of people but I’m guessing that if you live in a state of cognitive dissonance bolstered by confirmation bias then your reaction to awkwardly revealing Trump truths would be to ignore them and continue to dream that this narcissistic sociopath will make your life better with the help of Republican congresspeople who want to take away your healthcare, pay you less, and remove all ethical oversight of their behavior (what will happen to Trump’s plan to strengthen ethical regulations?).
I just keep wondering how many more of these we will see over the next 4 years and if there is a threshold of bullshit that makes people stop cheering for him and the party that doesn’t care about them.
I’m guessing many of his supporters will feel like the mother of a crying baby at one of his rallies last year. He told her not to worry only to then say moments later, “actually I was only kidding, you can get the baby out of here. I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking.” Even if it meant as an off the cuff joke, it speaks to the thought process he goes through as he presents himself one way and then reveals that he thinks something completely opposite. It’s like a hypocritical hiccup that he can’t control because his ego is too big to censor the thing that any other slimebag would think but not actually say.
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