The Universal Notebook: The Trumping of America

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Donald Trump embodies some of the worst aspects of the American character: the worship of celebrity and wealth, a knee-jerk nationalism, a prejudice against the poor, the nativist fear of foreigners, the objectification of women, and the hypocrisy of me-first capitalism.

No wonder simple folks love him.

Trump leads the braying pack of wild Republican primary wannabes by double digits, so either the Republican base consists largely of sexists, xenophobes, bozos and billionaires, or the GOP is really pulling a fast one on us. They must know an elitist appealing to populism can’t possibly win. I think they may well be toying with the pollsters.

Trump is sucking all the air out of the GOP presidential race by saying the sort of stupid, boorish things that appeal to the frightened few. If I hadn’t seen it work here in Maine for Paul LePage, I wouldn’t believe John and Jane Q. Public could mistake bull and bluster for candor and honesty, tough talk for workable public policy.

How does a man like Trump get away with questioning whether Sen. John McCain, a former POW, is a hero, and then playing the military card, saying he could beat up ISIS if elected? No, he couldn’t. If it were that easy, we would have done it by now. And if The Donald were really such a gung-ho warrior, why was he out clubbing and chasing skirts while John McCain was being shot down, captured and tortured?

Simple folks like simple answers though, so “Make America Great Again” jingoism and anti-immigrant “Build a Wall” make sense to them. Send all the immigrants back, build a wall, make Mexico pay for it, repeal the 14th Amendment and do away with birthright citizenship, a bedrock principle of American democracy. I swear Trump’s 25 percent of the GOP are people who would scrap half the Constitution in favor of an oligarchy of the rich and famous if it made them feel safe.

While I’m no great fan of Megyn Kelly, Trump’s veiled remark suggesting the Fox News host and GOP primary debate moderator might have been menstruating when she clobbered him with a question about his history of sexist and misogyny tells you a lot about the man. Trump is a guy who made some of his fortune marketing babes in bathing suits with his Miss USA and Miss Universe contests. Forget “The Apprentice,” his employees-are-beggars game show, Trump once tried to sell a show called “Lady or a Tramp?” in which he proposed to transform harlots into proper ladies. Thank goodness, no network bought that sick-o project.

Trump is a classic example of the rich boy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple. (Credit: football coach Barry Switzer.) Big Daddy Fred Trump gave Little Donnie a huge leg up with a $250 million inheritance. And while Republicans like to portray taxes and government as evil, Papa Trump made his millions building federally subsidized housing with Federal Housing Administration financing. Now Sonny Boy Trump makes his billions building luxury hotels, casinos and golf courses with state and federal tax breaks.

Trump’s first big project, for example, was a hotel near Grand Central Station for which he managed to get a 40-year full property tax abatement from New York City and state. Trump’s modus operandi everywhere has been to profit at taxpayer expense, but try to tell that to the simple folk who love him even as he fleeces them.

In Las Vegas, he hired the former chairman of the county tax board to get him a 95 percent reduction in the valuation of Trump International Hotel and Tower, down from $180 million to a mere $8.6 million. Taxpayers in Nevada are apparently happy to pay Trump’s taxes for him.

And when things don’t work out, bankruptcy is standard operating procedure. The first of Trump’s four bankruptcies was the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He used junk bonds to finance it, ended up $3 billion in debt, and sought Chapter 11, making investors pay for his mistakes.

Since then, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, and Trump Entertainment Resorts have all gone through bankruptcy. He may be “very, very rich,” but that doesn’t make him a good businessman and it sure as shootin’ does not qualify him to be president of the United States.

Neither the conservative wing nor the mainstream of the Republican Party support Trump. Conservatives realize he is not one of them, and mainstream Republicans realize Trump would destroy the party if his brand of birther blather, pseudo-populist poppycock, elitist egoism, politically incorrect misogyny and nasty nativism came to define the GOP.

Go, Donald! You’re fired!

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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