Huckster in Chief

Alan Zendell, January 21, 2019

One of my sons has held a number of sales jobs. He learned what was necessary to sell effectively, and he excelled at it. A successful salesperson needs good communication skills, a combination of eloquent command of the language, charm, and charisma. But that’s only one side of the equation. The other is personal ethics. The most successful salespeople know where their moral and ethical lines are and are careful not to cross them.

My son’s first sales job was for a home security company. He was required to convince people that whatever they were relying on for home security was inadequate, and they would only be protected if they purchased his product. Unfortunately, the company didn’t stop there. They targeted specific demographics.

If all they did was define groups who were their most likely potential customers, that would have been fine. But what they actually did was identify who was least informed and most vulnerable to a phony sales pitch that misrepresented both the customer’s needs and the value of their product. In the company’s view, a successful employee was one who could play the bait and switch game and sell people things they didn’t need.

The first time my young, naïve son closed a sale to an elderly woman who clearly did not understand what she was buying, he was so repulsed by what he had done, he quit and found another job. Good for him!

President Trump refined that sales process to an art form of misdirection and distraction, especially with respect the morass that resulted in the current government shutdown. He began his sales campaign three-and-a-half years ago by conflating immigration, border security, drug smuggling, and human trafficking into one neat package. Like the home security company my son worked for, he understood the hot buttons for a disaffected segment of our society. Bigotry, (latent or overt,) economic distress, and xenophobia based on fear of terrorism enabled him to form a base of support.

Illegal immigrants were equated to rapists and murderers, criminal gangs could not be distinguished from millions of oppressed and persecuted people who wanted to flee the hell in which they were raising their families, and innocent DACA kids were made to look no better than traffickers. Once Trump tapped into the raw visceral anger that he created with lies and fear-mongering, he moved on to the next phase of his vaunted sales acumen.

He floated proposals he had no intention of ever following through on. He dangled the fate of nearly a million young people covered by DACA in front of his political opposition, attempted to cut off immigration from Muslim countries, and in the face of all reason staked out a non-negotiable demand for a wall along our border with Mexico. And when a bipartisan majority in Congress accepted the deals he proposed, Trump pulled the rug out from under them.

He did that so often, and attempted to use so many innocent people as hostages to satisfy his base, only a fool would accept his promises without an iron-clad guarantee. The Reagan mantra of trust and verify was never more apt than it is when dealing with Donald Trump, who combines every sleazy tactic he learned from Roy Cohn and his corrupt friends in organized crime every time he speaks. His few attempts at appearing compassionate have been wooden and unconvincing, always scripted from a teleprompter.

When you add all the DACA families to those of the federal employees who have had their livelihoods interrupted, Trump is now holding in excess of five million hostages for his border wall, which has much less to do with border security and terrorism that it does with his fear of losing. I have little sympathy for Trump, but I can see that he has himself between a rock and a hard place. He desperately needs his base, and that base is controlled by the vilest elements of our society.

The country is now being held hostage by Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity because of Trump’s unwillingness and inability to govern honestly for the general good of all Americans. His disapproval far exceeds his approval among the general population, but he would have us believe that the uncompromising Opposition is to blame for the stalemate.

Mr. Trump should remember that America doesn’t negotiate with terrorists, and he is the worst kind of terrorist – the home-grown kind masquerading (not very convincingly) as a decent human being who cares about his country.

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