I’ve heard it remarked repeatedly that what Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have in common is both are “populists.” This is absurd.
Bernie Sanders was and is a true populist. He really cares about the plight of the common man, has spent decades working hard to help working class people in America. His sincerity is beyond question.
As for Donald Trump, his is a phony populism. A pampered plutocrat, he could not possibly care less about everyday people. His relation to the common man is that of a con artist to his mark.
What proof have I of this claim? Consider the Republican tax cuts. Prior to the tax bill coming to a vote, Trump protested long and hard that these cuts would benefit working- and middle-class Americans, that he and his fellow fatcats would be left out in the cold.
“It’s going to cost me a fortune, this thing. Believe me… . This is not good for me. Me. It’s not so – I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me, but that’s okay,” he said.
An outright lie. Every reputable analyst has stated unequivocally that the tax cut will overwhelmingly favor the filthy rich, that the middle class will be tossed a little pocket change — and that little will be withdrawn after a few years. The billions in cuts for the one percenters, these are permanent.
After the tax bill passed into law, Trump celebrated with some very wealthy friends at his Mar-a-Lago resort. “You all just got a lot richer,” he is reported to have trumpeted to his guests over dinner.
What’s astonishing is that, even after this outrageous betrayal, Trump’s working-class supporters still stand by their man. It’s as if, after having been poisoned by the snake oil they’d been sold, the victims still insist on its healthful effects.
“Dr. Mountebank wouldn’t have lied. He’s a very stable genius who genuinely cares about us. He told us so,” they seem to say.
Trump is a familiar type to students of literature. Among the cast of grotesque characters in Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is a carpetbag-toting con man named “the King.” At one point in the narrative, he poses as the long-lost brother of a dead man, Peter Wilkes — this in order to beat the innocent young Wilkes’ daughters out of their rightful inheritance. The local doctor, an educated man, immediately sees through the fraud and attempts to warn the daughters:
“I was your father’s friend, and I’m your friend; and I warn you as a friend, and an honest one, that wants to protect you and keep you out of harm and trouble, to turn your backs on that scoundrel and have nothing to do with him,” Twain wrote. “He is the thinnest kind of imposter … has come here with a lot of empty names and facts which he has picked up somewhere, and you take them for proofs. … Now listen to me; turn this pitiful rascal out – I beg you to do it. Will you?”
The good doctor might as well have been exhorting working-class Trump supporters to turn out their gilded champion. And like Peter Wilkes’ orphaned daughters, they will not listen.
Kelly Anspaugh lives in Ada. His opinion does not necessarily represent the views of The Lima News or its owner, AIM Media.