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An American con job

Melvin B. Miller | 10/19/2017, 6 a.m.
Donald Trump’s demeanor and mendacity caused blacks to view him as a huckster. Only 9 percent of blacks who voted ...
“Looks like this is gonna be my lucky day!”

America has produced a number of confident men whose skill is to make their prospective victims believe that the most unlikely outcome is readily possible for them. Hundreds of thousands of working-class voters have come to believe that Donald Trump, a billionaire who enjoys a lavish lifestyle, really intends to improve the standard of living of the average man. That is the political hype, but voters had better pay close attention to determine whether they really benefit from Trump’s strategies to “Make America Great Again.”

The way the hype works is to convince the working class voters of his empathy. Trump has to convince them that he is one of the boys. It is flattering for them to believe that a man who has amassed sufficient wealth to travel in his own plane really identifies with the working class. Trump is a master at understanding the mores of this group. We saw that recently in his condemnation of football players protesting police brutality against blacks during the national anthem ceremony before professional football games.

Trump is undoubtedly the least patriotic of any president in recent memory. As a young man he was a serial draft dodger. During his election campaign Trump ridiculed Sen. John McCain, one of the nation’s leading heroes in the Vietnam War. Trump indicated that he disrespected McCain, whose plane was shot down over enemy territory, for being taken prisoner. And several times Trump denigrated America’s president, Barack Obama, as being inferior as a leader to Vladimir Putin, the despotic president of Russia, a nation hostile to America.

This is hardly the conduct of a person who is considered to be patriotic. But Trump knows that working-class men and women serve in the military and risk their lives for the country. By attacking the football game protest, Trump gets a twofer. He adroitly attacks black football players, in keeping with his Alt-right influences, and he gains the confidence of his base by inducing them to believe that he shares their patriotism.

In most con games, the objective is to relieve the victim of his or her funds. Trump’s con is much more subtle than that. He wants to assure his supporters so profoundly that their concerns are of such primary importance to him that they will not even bother to evaluate his performance.

But it seems to be working. Trump supported a health care revision that would cause thousands of low-income citizens to lose health insurance. And he just signed an executive order to deny payment to cover the cost of insurance for older Americans who are more likely to have health problems. While making these changes, Trump deceptively claims to be helping the working class. However, most measures that he supports benefit business interests.

It is wise for voters to assess the performance of every politician they support to determine whether he or she really aids their objectives. After many generations of suffering from racial discrimination, African Americans have become leery of political promises. Trump’s demeanor and mendacity caused blacks to view him as a huckster. Only 9 percent of blacks who voted in the 2016 election voted for Trump. What will it take for the majority of the electorate to come to that awareness?