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Smear And Boasting On The Campaign Trail

Why altering reality can win you support in America.

18/10/2016 5:31 AM AEDT | Updated 18/10/2016 5:31 AM AEDT
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Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Trump's supporters are fully aware that he's an incorrigible bully; they just believe he's on their side.

When President Roosevelt invited the dictatorial Nicaraguan President Somoza to the White House in 1952, he reportedly assuaged his advisors' concerns with the following missive: "He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch".

The apocryphal story is a good one to keep in mind when trying to figure out the Donald Trump phenomenon.

Much of the fecal garbage inferno that is the 2016 US Presidential election has been devoted to the left, the centre, the right, and the not-insane portions of the far-right wondering just what the hell Donald Trump has to do before his followers cotton on to the fact that he is a gigantic fraud.

The type of scandals that usually sink a Presidential campaign bounce off him like refugee Skittles. He's not immune: the landslide defeat he appears to be heading towards is the cumulative effect of a thousand different world-beating disasters. But the fact that no single controversy -- such as the leaked "grab them by the pussy" tape, or the fact that he'd refused to rent apartments to African American tenants, or telling 14-year-olds he'll be dating them 'in a couple of years' -- has diminished the fervour of his base tells us that all bets are off.

When you launch your campaign by claiming that all Mexican immigrants are rapists and thieves, you've pretty much inoculated yourself against any potential controversy.

So why are they still with him? How is this serial liar still polling at anything above a statistical margin of error? Why don't they see him for the bully that he is?

They do.

Trump's supporters are fully aware that he's an incorrigible bully; they just believe he's on their side. People tend to mind bullies less when they're beating up kids on your behalf.

The perception of Trump is that of a man who will do anything to achieve success. Supporters sight buildings with his name in gold, TV shows that depict him powerfully firing superstars like Gary Busey, oversized planes and gold-plated butlers, strong hints that he's worth billions, and they believe what he's promising is the same. It's a gigantic ponzi scheme.

These supporters might include contractors who bristle at the concept of a rich man who refuses to pay them for their work because he knows they'll never dare take him to court, but they are tempted that he would pull a similar scheme for America. Default on the national debt. Defend NATO allies once they pay their fair share. Make Mexico build that wall.

Even the behaviour of his campaign can't persuade them otherwise. Because Trump doesn't just lie to achieve success; he lies to disguise his failures. When he sniffs a lot during a debate, it's the microphone's fault. When he failed to reject an endorsement from Ku Klux Klansman's David Duke, it was CNN's faulty earpiece. When facing electoral defeat he tells everyone the system is rigged against him and there's fraud at the voting booths.

It's clear that Trump cares only about Team Trump, but the belief has been that once he becomes President, Team Trump will be expanded to include America and her concerns. It will be in Trump's best interest to ensure that jobs return and the economy soars. His bad behaviour is forgivable if we're going to benefit from it.

The problem is trying to find the water's edge. No matter his position or what happens on election day, it's painfully obvious that Team Trump will forever consist of Trump and Trump alone. He may be all about altering reality, but President Trump won't alter reality to bring jobs back; he'll alter reality so that the figures show he definitely brought jobs back. He cherry picks facts that suit him, usually inventing them out of whole cloth. Within Trump's first 100 days, he will produce evidence that everyone in the country is employed and wealthy, even if he's producing that evidence to a wasteland of the destitute and homeless.

The vision that Trump supporters have of Trump is the same one you have: a lecherous, shady bully who will do and say anything to get what he wants. The difference is that they're hoping that their allegiance means some scraps will fall from the table.

Trump may be a son of a bitch, but he's not even your son of a bitch.

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Lee Zachariah's Double Dissolution: Heartbreak and Chaos on the Campaign Trail is out now through Echo Publishing, $29.99.

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