Presidential Campaign

Donald Trump: America’s populist con artist

Donald Trump’s supporters may forgive him for a cameo appearance in a porn movie. They may forgive him for mocking a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, because she gained weight. They may even forgive him for buying the cheap, foreclosed houses of people made homeless during the Great Recession.

But will they forgive him for an almost $1 billion write-off on his 1995 tax returns that allowed him to avoid federal taxes for decades?

{mosads}Given his base, the sad answer is they just might. Perhaps Trump has once again avoided being seen as the phony charlatan he is by his base voters.

But ducking federal taxes, which he so snidely said in the first debate “makes me smart,” just might not go unnoticed by the lower-middle to lower-income Americans who have thus far clung to Trump despite — or maybe because of — his many incendiary comments over the course of this awful campaign year.

For the first time during her campaign against Trump, Hillary Clinton just may have made a connection with Trump’s supporters when she responded to his thoughtless response. Clinton said, both during the debate and on the campaign trail for days after the event, “If that makes you so smart, Donald, what does that make the rest of us?”

Presumably, Clinton was referring to the 95 percent of voters who do pay their federal taxes. The hardest-hit taxpayers in our disgraceful tax system are those folks who pack Trump’s rallies especially in hard-hit Rust Belt states like Ohio and Michigan. These states have lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to an interconnected world economy where manufacturing companies seek out low-wage workers overseas at the expense of higher paid workers in the U.S.

Even for this shyster, Trump’s tax avoidance may be a bridge too far. Most of his supporters will stay with him, but their enthusiasm is bound to fade. What is certain after the past week is that Trump will have much more difficulty winning more voters than he already has in his base.

What undecided voter can in good conscience vote for this con man?

Trump has predicated his whole campaign on the unfairness of the playing field. Big corporations, rich donors, big media and trade deals that punish the little guy. “THE SYSTEM IS RIGGED AGAINST YOU!” Trump bellows.

Yet it is Trump, the ultimate con man, who has taken advantage of the unfair playing field. It is Trump who plays with the tax code to pay no taxes; it is Trump whose Trump-brand products are made overseas by cheap labor; it is Trump who hires undocumented workers from Poland to work on his projects, then refuses to pay them minimum wages.

It is Trump who stiffs subcontractors their last payment (known as the profit payment), causing several to go bankrupt and throwing thousands of workers out of jobs.

Trump is part of the reason you are suffering. Trump is the one playing on the not-so-level playing field where he wins and you lose.

In 1957, the famous actor best known as the sheriff of Mayberry, Andy Griffith, starred in a movie, “A Face in the Crowd.” In the film, Griffith plays an Arkansas drifter who becomes an overnight media sensation. His medium was radio, and he attracted thousands of followers.

One day, unaware that his microphone was still on, the now-famous drifter calls his supporters stupid idiots for buying into his B.S. and revealing how easy it was to fool people. “A Face in the Crowd” predated reality TV by 40 years, but the parallels to Donald Trump in the movie are perfect. The question is: Did Trump leave his microphone on this time?

I will give Trump some credit for grasping the anti-establishment sentiment rampant across the country this election year. By several accounts, Donald Trump is a hands-on developer. He goes to the sites of his various projects to track the progress of each. By most accounts, he also listens to his blue-collar employees. 

These workers were livid about their skills being replaced by illegal immigrants — mostly from Mexico — and unfair trade agreements that allow big corporations to ship U.S. jobs to countries with cheap labor.

It is likely that Trump forged his populist campaign message through the anger and fear he heard from his workers. He certainly didn’t learn the frustration at his cocktail parties at Mar-a-Lago, nor did he get turned on to the anger of American workers at his golf resorts worldwide.

Trump was smart enough to see the makings of an anti-establishment movement across the country and he co-opted it. There is nothing wrong with that; Bernie Sanders came to the same conclusions. The difference, of course, was that the Vermont senator did not co-opt the message, he internalized it, he believed it and he wanted to lend his voice to the cause.

Trump never really believed in the workers’ anger, nor did he feel it. Like so many other things in Donald Trump’s life, he stole it for his own selfish purposes.

I ask all you Trump supporters; for the sake of your kids and your country, expose this con man for what he is.

Bob Beckel is a political analyst for CNN, and a contributor for The Hill.

The views of Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill

Tags 2016 presidential election Bernie Sanders Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Make America Great Again Republican Party United States

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