BY RICHARD C. GROSS
When I was in high school in the Bronx, there were round colored spots on the floor of the gym that showed us where to stand. The bigger, older kids would demand we pay a quarter for the spot, for which the school charged nothing. That’s what’s called a scam or a con, a racket.
Dwight David Eisenhower, or Ike, was president then, a Republican and a former general who led the war against Hitler. He played golf, had a heart attack that scared everybody, built the Interstate and warned us of the military-industrial complex. No scams, no cons; he played by the rules.
More than half a century later blew in a tornado named Donald Trump, wrecking the country and its institutions. And with him came the scams, the confidence games — the Dark Side.
Trump has raised $495 million in donations since mid-October for an election fund and another one for himself in something called the Save America PAC, according to The Washington Post. The many appeals for money were all based on a series of lies about a fraudulent election that wasn’t a fraud.
“Trump has discovered that running around claiming the sky is falling is a money-making proposition,” wrote Timothy L. O’Brien in a column at Bloomberg.com.
Most of the money came from small-dollar donations in response to such emailed pleas as “We cannot afford a Joe Biden presidency. We must FIGHT for the future the American people TRULY support: FOUR MORE YEARS OF PRESIDENT TRUMP,” the Post reported. And, “Will you allow the CORRUPT Democrats to try to steal this Election and impart their RADICAL agenda on our country? Or will you step UP and DEFEND your Country?”
One way to defend the country is to ignore these appeals.
Fully 75 percent of the donations will go to Save America, which Trump can use as he pleases. Trust a guy who was fined $2 million for illegally using his family foundation? Trust someone who was forced to make a $25 million settlement for duped Trump University students? His business partner paid it.
And Trump still is raking it in from his campaign and related committees, the Post said Friday. They spent more than $1.1 million at his properties in the final weeks of the campaign and “has converted $6.7 million from his campaign donors into revenue for his businesses since taking office, new campaign finance filings show,” it reported.
Taxpayers have paid Trump’s businesses more than $900,000 since he took office, as of Aug. 27, the Post reported then. At least $570,00 of the total resulted from his travel, it said. Tacky, eh?
He’s still bellyaching, whining and throwing tantrums over his loss to Joe Biden. And he’s firing people, spitting on them and the country for wronging him and stirring up a maelstrom with a 46-minute video ranting that he would have won the election if not for “massive” voter fraud.
“I very easily win in all states,” he said in the video. It marked the biggest of his more than the 23,000 lies the Post has tracked over four years.
We know Trump’s obsession with his defeat has gone too far in the face of certifications that Biden won 81 million votes to the president’s 74 million and 306 electoral votes to the incumbent’s 232. And Attorney General William Barr ruled out massive election fraud, verifying the results, thus contradicting his boss.
Yet just 27 of the 249 Republicans in the House and Senate acknowledge that Biden beat Trump, according to a Post survey published Saturday. Two said Trump won and another 220 won’t say who won, it reported.
That’s the shame of Trump’s power.
The danger beneath Trump’s unceasing claims of a fraudulent and rigged election is that he is undermining and delegitimizing Biden’s victory and sowing doubt on the electoral process, the cornerstone of our democracy.
And creating a shadow government is precisely what Trump intends to do, his former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, told New York magazine’s Intelligencer. Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison but is serving it at home because of pandemic concerns in prison.
He said the Save America PAC “will be the base from which he establishes an entire parallel system of government. I call it the Republic of MAGAstan.” Its capital will be Trump’s Florida estate of Mar-a-Lago, he said.
A new Jefferson Davis in the South, Biden as Lincoln in the North?
Cohen acknowledged Trump “cannot accept losing” and that “in his mind, the only way Biden could have won is through fraud.” But he said the show Trump has been putting on since the election is “all a shameless con job.
“He sees his claims of fraud as driving up donations — there’s nothing behind it but greed. Trump is using the moment to raise money.”
“This money is not going to his Election Defense Fund; it’s to keep him relevant in the GOP and launch his media brand. It’s all about money and power, and you need one to get the other.”
The battle for the soul of America — which I interpret as the vision of making a more perfect union with everyone truly equal — is far from over. With Trump probably vying with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McDonnell of Kentucky for control of the Republican party while slamming and mocking Biden from the peanut gallery, it’s going to be a rough four years ahead.
Life at the school gym? Of course, if another guy approached demanding a quarter for your gym spot, there was no way to prove you already bought it. These guys didn’t give receipts.
Richard C. Gross, correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun. This piece first appeared at Counterpunch.org Dec. 8, 2020.