The threat of Trump’s “long con” to American Democracy

The Cooperative Society Newsletter
August 2021, Issue 30
by E.G. Nadeau
, Ph.D.

A simple dictionary definition of a “long con” is: “An elaborate confidence game that develops in several stages over an extended period of time.” 

For a long con to work, there have to be gullible people susceptible to it. Sad to say, we have an overabundance of them in the United States today.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” Often attributed to P.T. Barnum of circus fame, the origin of this aphorism is disputed. But the meaning and usage are not. The phrase has long been used by confidence tricksters to explain their success in defrauding unwitting victims.

Most of you have already figured out where this article is headed. Donald Trump, the previous (and in his pronouncements, the current) president of the United States, is perpetrating one of the biggest and most dangerous long cons in history.

And, so far, it’s going very well for him. Looking at just one indicator, his political action committee has raised over $100 million since he started pretending that he won the election.

This is a very dangerous game. As many commentators have pointed out, our very democracy is at stake.

It’s one thing to fleece investors in Atlantic City casinos; undiscerning enrollees in Trump University; the victims of dozens of other scams perpetrated by Trump since the late 1960s; or, U.S. taxpayers as a result of his, allegedly, fraudulent avoidance of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax payments.

It’s quite another to falsely claim massive election fraud in November 2020, and, in pushing this bogus narrative, set the stage for actual, massive election fraud in the 2024 presidential election.

Here are the key elements of Trump’s long con:

  • “The big lie” about the stolen election
  • The repetition of this big lie ever since Trump’s loss in November 2020 – and, in fact, the teeing up of this lie with the mantra of “massive fraud” through much of 2020
  • More than 60 baseless legal challenges and other nefarious actions in states in which he lost the election by relatively small margins (e.g. trying to strong-arm the secretary of state of Georgia to “just find 11,780 votes,” and the over-the-top, prolonged, bogus audit of Maricopa County election returns in Arizona)
  • The attempted January 6 coup – an attack on the U.S. Capitol that has seen hundreds of arrests so far, is the subject of congressional hearings, and may result in criminal charges filed against legislators and members of the Trump White House
  • The legalization of “election subversion,” already on the books in Georgia and under consideration in other states, that attempts to give state legislatures the power to overturn “fraudulent” election results from their states and reassign them to the presidential candidate of their choice – potentially, the most dangerous of all the long con components
  • Gerrymandering, soon to come to your state or one near you using the 2020 census results as a pretext
  • And the financial part of the con mentioned above, the amassing of Trump’s and other right wing zealots’ political war chests, largely donated by low- and moderate-income dupes

We should remember that this anti-democratic long con is not just Trump’s creation. It is aided and abetted by other Republican federal, state, and local leaders, and various other right wing nut jobs.

For example, as I write this, there are at least three Republican governors who are eager to compete with Trump on the 2024 Republican presidential ticket – Ron DeSantis of Florida, Greg Abbott* of Texas, and Kristi Noem of South Dakota. In addition to flaunting their purported loyalty to Trump, they are also trying to outdo each other in their opposition to mask-wearing and their lackluster support for vaccines. They apparently see this championing of suffering and death as part of a strategy to win the White House.

Perhaps the best way to conclude this article is to cite another famous Barnum quote, this one really his. In order to accelerate the flow of people through his museum in New York (and money into his pockets), he had signs put up saying, “This way to the egress”. Egress is a fancy word for exit. And that’s exactly where we should be ushering Trump, his shills, enablers, and wannabes before their long con destroys our democracy.

* Governor Abbott recently tested positive for Covid-19.

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