An Abiding Question: Sinister or Stupid?

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

“Take a moment to imagine the feeding frenzy that would exist right now if, just two weeks after the election, the Clinton Foundation quietly told the IRS it broke the law.”

Steve Benen

The msnbc producer and blogger has a point. For all the scandalmongering about family foundations, we knew before the election that the Donald J. Trump Foundation had some skeletons in its closet.

We might, then, turn to the Washington Post and the incomparable David A. Fahrenthold:

President-elect Donald Trump’s charitable foundation has admitted to the IRS that it violated a legal prohibition against “self-dealing,” which bars nonprofit leaders from using their charity’s money to help themselves, their businesses or their families.

That admission was contained in the Donald J. Trump Foundation’s IRS tax filings for 2015, which were recently posted online at the nonprofit-tracking site GuideStar. A GuideStar spokesman said the forms were uploaded by the Trump Foundation’s law firm, Morgan, Lewis and Bockius ....

.... In one section of the form, the IRS asked if the Trump Foundation had transferred “income or assets to a disqualified person.” A disqualified person, in this context, might be Trump―the foundation’s president―or a member of his family, or a Trump-owned business.

The foundation checked “yes.”

Go ahead and say the obvious point is obvious. That is kind of the point, though, isn’t it? The obvious point is obviously obvious.

Call it the #trumpswindle, in which the great mystery is whether Trump voters are grifters or marks. While certain aspects of #WhatTheyVotedFor will inevitably disappoint them―and we ought not waste our time belaboring the idea that even this was pretty damn obvious―some others never rang true. The idea of lodging complaints about institutional and establishmentarian corruption by rallying around a notorious real estate developer whose post-capitalist Machiavellianism is a cornerstone of celebrity never really did make sense. Then again, neither did the Clinton Foundation scandalmongering, in which transparency compelled people to ask farcical versions of substantive questions while ignoring evidence of the accused behavior associated with other people. More directly, all that noise and fury really was about character assassination, as Majority Leader McCarthy said so well.

While it is obvious to many people that there are just some things Donald Trump cannot, as president, accomplish, there was no question before the election that the Republican candidate was corrupt. And for all that bluster and bawl about corruption, it turns out Trump voters are just fine with it.


No, seriously: Do they care?

This is not about corruption or entrenched interest or any of that. This is not about jobs or ethics or national security. Turning to a corrupt post-capitalist Machiavellian cult celebrity without a clue never made sense by such rationale. The real #trumpswindle is not that Kellyanne Conway can be heard announcing to the world that Donald Trump is “thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the President of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them”, right as the president-elect once again abandons his campaign position. The real #trumpswindle is that when everything else is accounted for, the only part of Donald Trump that will come true for his supporters is the alt-right bigotry and supremacism, and when we really stop to account for everything else those votes were supposed to be about―the things that were just that much more important that we must necessarily endure the dangerous persecutory tantrum―it seems likely that they knew. Just like they knew he was corrupt. Look, this is one of those sinister or stupid questions; it is actually impolite to presuppose the devastating ignorance required for these voters to say they really, truly didn’t know, so … right. We’ll see what they come up with, over the years.


Image note: Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016. (Detail of frame via YouTube)

Benen, Steve. “Trump Foundation acknowledges wrongdoing to IRS”. msnbc. 22 November 2016.

Fahrenthold, David A. “Trump Foundation admits to violating ban on ‘self-dealing,’ new filing to IRS shows”. The Washington Post. 22 November 2016.

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