John Krull: Donald Trump and the art of the grift | Columns

So, the US House of Representatives Jan. 6 Select Committee has revealed that former President Donald Trump used his baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him to fleece his followers.




Who could have predicted that a man who built his business, such as it is, by slapping his name on everything but used tissues and then selling those products, such as they are, at inflated prices would resort to yet another con when he was under pressure?

Who would have thought that a guy who ran for president primarily to restore some luster to his fading brand wouldn’t leap at one more chance to bilk the faithful?

And who possibly could have seen that a fellow who spent at least a third of his time as both presidential candidate and president staying at Trump properties, thus lining his own pockets with taxpayer funds and campaign contributions, would not be able to resist one more grab at the cookie jar?

Clearly, such grasping chicanery on the part of the former president comes completely out of left field because, up until this point, nothing Donald Trump ever has done in his life would indicate that he is either greedy or mendacious.



When the history of this period is written — presuming the republic survives and Americans still are permitted to express themselves freely and honestly — one question will be at the center of all the studies and scholarship.

Why and how did so many Americans allow themselves to be gulled by a con artist who views them the way a rat does pieces of cheese?

I understand why so many working-class Americans turned to Trump in the first place. Their concerns weren’t being addressed by either political party.

Still aren’t, for that matter.

The traditional Republican Party always has favored the wishes of capital over the needs of labor, elevating the interests of the haves over those of the have-nots. The GOP also has a history of pitting working people against each other.

We’re seeing that again now.

After years of encouraging tensions and resentments between working-class US citizens and undocumented immigrants, some Republicans now have begun quietly arguing that relaxing immigration restrictions would help ease inflationary pressures.

By driving down cars.

Once again, in the GOP’s world view, the burden of solving an economic problem must fall on the shoulders of working people.

Not that the Democrats can’t be just as clueless. Their “solution” to the problems of the working class is to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

There are at least two problems with that.

The first is that the real minimum wage in this country now already is between $15 and $17 per hour — and it’s likely to climb higher than that as the worldwide labor shortage deepens in the coming years. Democrats want to close the barn door not just after the horse fled but at one of the few times in history when the horse might have some power to choose which barn it likes best and under what conditions.

The second problem with the Democrats’ minimum-wage policy is that it isn’t grounded in any recognizable reality.

How many of them would like to try to raise a family of four on $31,000 a year? That’s what 40 hours per week or $15 per hour pays for a year’s labor. How many Democrats in Congress and state legislatures across the country think they could build better lives for their own children and pursue the American dream on those wages?

Donald Trump became a force in America’s political life because neither party seemed to care or grasp the challenges millions of Americans faced.

In their desperation, they turned to a grifter who saw them as lemons to squeeze for the juice they might provide him.

Now, even as evidence overwhelmingly mounts that Trump has done little but use and abuse those who gave him their devotion, many, many Americans remain faithful to the man who has misled them at every turn.


Perhaps Mark Twain said it best.

“It’s easier to fool people,” Twain wrote, “than to convince them they have been fooled.”

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College.

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