What is it with casinos and the presidency these days? I'm thinking, of course, about the version of casino capitalism being played out in American politics at the moment by two men who made fortunes in the casino business. One is running for president on the Republican ticket as the Billionaire Populist, while the other, a fervent supporter of Israel, in a typical twenty-first-century move of the ultra-wealthy recently added his hometown newspaper to his holdings. He's evidently planning to support his fellow billionaire's presidential campaign with an investment -- and such things always are investments -- that may exceed $100 million. I hardly need mention that their names are Donald Trump and Sheldon Adelson.
And mind you, that may be the least bizarre thing about billionaires and this election. How about, for instance, the Koch brothers, those dark money champs, whom every Republican candidate -- except the one who took the nomination -- seemed to pay homage to in person last year? Now, they find themselves on the sidelines in frustration, their presidential investments having come up as empty as a hole in a doughnut. (What if you could return to the Supreme Court of 2010 and argue before the justices that their future Citizens United decision would not only send a tidal wave of 1% money into American politics but, within half a decade, help loose the strangest, least filtered billionaire on Earth into the ring?)
I'm still only scratching the loony surface of big-money politics in this country. I mean, here we are in our second gilded age, an era so ripe for the 1% (or maybe the .001%) that even the billionaires underestimated their potential power and appeal. Until The Donald came along, they assumed that, like so many puppeteers, they would have to manage things from backstage. Now, we know that, in our unique historical moment, a billionaire can be both puppeteer and puppet, that he no longer needs to take a backseat to anyone. Of course, it took a particular shape-shifting billionaire, whose fortune -- $10 billion? $4.5 billion? $3.72 billion? None of the above? -- has a spectral quality to it, and who for years had turned Americans into abused apprentices, to make that point. Add in this irony, if such a word even applies: the man who made out like a bandit in this era is now leading a movement of white guys who think they lost out to the billionaires, the rest of the 1%, and the political system in those same years (as indeed they did).
When thinking about the future, keep in mind that the 2016 election would be even more of a billionaires' derby had Michael Bloomberg run for president, possibly on a third-party ticket, as at one point he threatened to do. On the other hand, consider what TomDispatch regular Ann Jones has to say about why the only billionaire in the running may not, in fact, make it to the White House. It's something so basic that the media have ignored it, so essential that even Sheldon Adelson's fortune is unlikely to make a dent in it. Some people out there already know just who Donald Trump is and what kind of a deal he's offering Americans, and they're likely to enter the voting booths in surprising numbers in November with payback on their minds. Tom
The Tyranny of Trump
Millions of Women See Through Him, Even If the Media Don't
By Ann Jones
Last fall, when presidential wannabe Donald Trump famously boasted on CNN that he would "be the best thing that ever happened to women," some may have fallen for it. Millions of women, however, reacted with laughter, irritation, disgust, and no little nausea. For while the media generate a daily fog of Trumpisms, speculating upon the meaning and implications of the man's every incoherent utterance, a great many women, schooled by experience, can see right through the petty tyrant and his nasty bag of tricks.- Advertisement -
By March, the often hard-earned wisdom of such women was reflected in a raft of public opinion polls in which an extraordinary number of female voters registered an "unfavorable" or "negative" impression of the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. Reporting on Trump's "rock-bottom ratings" with prospective women voters, Politico termed the unfavorable poll numbers -- 67% (Fox News), 67% (Quinnipiac University), 70% (NBC/Wall Street Journal), 73% (ABC/Washington Post) -- "staggering." In April, the Daily Wire labeled similar results in a Bloomberg poll of married women likely to vote in the general election "amazing." Seventy percent of them stated that they would not vote for Trump.
His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, seemed untroubled by such polls, claiming that "women don't vote based on gender" but on "competency," apparently convinced that it was only a matter of time before female voters awoke to the dazzling competency of his candidate.
Think again, Mr. Lewandowski. Since at least the 1970s, women have been voting on the basis of gender -- not that of the presidential candidates (all men), but their own. Historically, women and children have been more likely than men to benefit from the sorts of social welfare programs generally backed by Democrats, including Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Even after, in the 1990s, both parties connived to scale back or shut down such programs, a majority of women stayed with Democrats who advocated positions like equal pay for equal work, reproductive rights, improved early childhood education, affordable health care, universal child care, and paid parental leave -- programs of special interest to families of all ethnic groups and, with rare exceptions, opposed by Republicans.
A majority of women have remained quite consistent since the 1970s in the policies (and party) they support. (Among women, loyalty to the Republican Party seems to have fallen chiefly to white Christian evangelicals.) It's men who have generally been the fickle flip-floppers, switching parties, often well behind the economic curve, to repeatedly vote for "change" unlike the change they voted for last time. The result is a gender gap that widens with each presidential election.
Still, the 2016 version of that gap is a doozy, wider than it's ever been and growing. Add in another factor: huge numbers of women with "negative" opinions of Donald Trump don't simply dislike him, but loathe him in visceral ways. In other words, something unusual is going on here beyond party or policy or even politics -- something so obvious that most pundits, busy fielding Trump's calls and reporting his bluster on a daily basis, haven't stepped back and taken it in.
Even Hillary Clinton, when she comes out swinging, politely refrains from spelling it out. In her recent speech on foreign policy, she declared Trump temperamentally unfit to be president: too thin-skinned, too angry, too quick to employ such "tools" as "bragging, mocking, and sending nasty tweets." Admittedly, she did conjure up a scary, futuristic image of an erratic bully with a thumb on the nuclear button, describing as well his apparent fascination with and attraction to autocrats like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un. But she stopped short of connecting the Trumpian dots when she concluded: "I will leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants."- Advertisement -
In truth, most women don't need psychiatrists to explain the peculiar admiration of an aspiring autocrat for his role models. Every woman who has ever had to deal with a Trump-style-tyrant in her own home or at her job already has Trump's number. We recognize him as a bloated specimen of the common garden variety Controlling Man, a familiar type of Household Hitler.
In fact, Donald J. Trump perfectly fits the profile of an ordinary wife abuser -- with one additional twist. Expansive fellow that he is, Trump has not confined his controlling tactics to his own home(s). For seven years, he practiced them openly for all the world to see on The Apprentice, his very own reality show, and now applies them on a national stage, commanding constant attention while alternately insulting, cajoling, demeaning, embracing, patronizing, and verbally beating up anyone (including a "Mexican" judge) who stands in the way of his coronation.
Let me be clear. I'm not suggesting that Donald Trump beats his wife (or wives). I'm only observing that this year the enormous gender gap among voters can be partially explained by the fact that, thanks to their own personal experience, millions of American women know a tyrant when they see one.