What’s Next for Trumpism?

In November 1992, New York magazine did a fluff piece on Donald Trump written by Julie Baumgold, the self-described “historian of Trump’s comeback.” There’s plenty in this article that’s still of interest, including her observation that Trump had trouble mixing with the Manhattan jet set while limiting himself to “cranberry juice and Diet Coke and a steady diet of Tic Tacs.” There’s also a retelling of two episodes that are newsworthy in light of recent revelations. One is the time he poured a glass of wine down Vanity Fair reporter Marie Brenner’s back because he didn’t like her article. Typically, in his telling it was not a glass but a whole bottle. Also, typically, he denied that he ever told Brenner that “you have to treat women like shit” and claimed that she made it up because “The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks.”

The other relevant passage expands on (whether he said it or not) his philosophy that “you have to treat women like shit.”

His contempt for beautiful women who like to be abused is boundless, and he is full of stories about supermodels, women he might call twelves (not their dress size) clinging to a rock star’s legs and the rock star kicking them away. You have to treat them like shit…

…Women are of two types to him- those who are of use and those he beds, or “sacks,” and, of the two, the former probably get more of his heart.

Remember, this was supposed to be a flattering piece. It was written by his hand-picked “historian.”

Now, over at the Atlantic, Michelle Cottle is concerned about what will become of Trump’s most ardent supporters, the ones who have invested their hopes in him. She doesn’t see things going well for them, and she makes several prescient observations. But I don’t think Trump is going anywhere. As evidence, I am citing another fragment from the 1992 Baumgold fluff piece.

One night last summer the Trumps were in a car going to see Pavarotti at the arena in Atlantic City. Donald was talking about how the gamblers had fled his casinos when they thought he was in in trouble. Now, he said, they were back.

“Nothing succeeds…” began his mother, Mary Trump, who was mugged and badly beaten at 80, and survived.

“…like success,” said Donald and his sister, federal judge Maryanne Trump Barry.

“Like success,” said 86-year-old Fred Trump who still works every day and had gone to work so his brother could go to MIT. It was obvious that this was the bedrock of the house of Trump, and the harder ones, the ice portion of the family, both of whom were academically brilliant, lived by this. Failure was an intolerable condition, to be corrected as quickly as possible.

Trump’s comeback may have been stitched together with tax deferrals and loopholes, smoke, mirrors, duct tape, and an army of stiffed contractors and creditors, but no one can deny that he rebuilt his brand even if he left Atlantic City in ashes. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that nothing succeeds like the perception of success, which is one reason why a show like The Apprentice was perfect for Trump on so many levels. Reality television, after all, isn’t real at all. It succeeds by the audience being only half-invested in the fact that it’s completely made up. But it allowed a guy like Trump to pretend he is a billionaire (he’s not) and get people to send him $30,000 at a pop to learn his “secrets” for getting rich.

Trump is good at this sort of thing. We’ll find out exactly how good when he goes on trial in San Diego on November 28th for defrauding people with his Trump University scam. However that turns out (he faces only civil penalties), we can be sure that he’ll be looking to make another comeback. His ritzy, classy, high roller brand is destroyed, but he has a new loyal following and tens of millions of potential marks. And he’s already signaling how he’s going to bilk them. Yesterday, he might as well have put the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his teleprompter for all the subtlety he used in going after the media and international bankers. He will be the new Father Coughlin and he’ll make plenty of money.

The more pressing question is how this will manifest itself in our political life. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First we’re going to want to see what should be a doozy of a (non)-concession speech.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.