Karen’s Dictionary.com “Word for the Day” was “flimflam.” According to Merriam-Webster “flimflam” involves “1. deceptive nonsense, 2. DECEPTION, FRAUD.” In turn, “Fraud” is, “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.” Wikipedia calls “flimflam . . . a confidence trick . . . an attempt to defraud a person or group after gaining their confidence used in the classical sense of trust (my emphasis), . . . . Confidence tricks exploit characteristics of the human psyche, such as greed, dishonesty, vanity, opportunism, lust, compassion, credulity, irresponsibility, desperation, and naivety.” Too much? For where we’re headed here it’s important to appreciate what we’re talking about.
The storied “traveling salesman,” the prototypical Flimflam Man, comes to mind. Purveying pots, pans and patent medicine from a horse-drawn van, these nineteenth century entrepreneurs went town-to-town leaving “good people” defrauded and farmers’ daughters deflowered.
One man’s flimflam it another man’s gospel. Nowhere is this more apparent that with Donald Trump and his Red-Baseball-Cap backdrop. Despite ranking among all-time best, and hauntingly reminiscent of a World Class Flimflam Man nearly a centry back, it is inaccurate and unfair to single out President Donald Trump. Like hucksters and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe, flimflam is politician’s currency and “suckers,” the “base,” their meal ticket.
No conservative ever won because of Liberal votes and no Liberal ever won because of Conservative votes. Compelled to preach to the choir, officeholders and candidates slog through verbal swamps, grasp at islets of fact to support their position or “fact”—think Kellyanne Conway—to support their flimflam.
And perhaps as well as any politician ever, Donald Trump knows his choir! Candidate Trump boasted he could shoot a person on a New York street and not loose a vote. This puzzled me. Now I get it. For the Red-Baseball-Cap crowd, a third of Americans, President Trump could rape little boys on the Whitehouse lawn and never loose a vote. Fox “News” would assure Right Wing acolytes it was a Leftwing setup.
The roots of Donald Trump’s flimflam are instructive. Immersed from birth in cutthroat, New York real estate, our President’s attorney and mentor became Roy Cohn–Google it. Apparently devoid of an ethical or moral compass Cohn became Chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s Communist Witch Hunt. Later disbarred for perjury, witness tampering, misappropriation of clients’ funds, lying on a bar application, pressuring a client to amend his will, and persecuting gay men, Cohn died of AIDS. His motto: Truth be damned! Win at any cost! If Donald Trump were caught over a prostate body with a bloody knife in hand, his attorney’s defense would be, “My client came upon this poor follow and pulled the knife out to begin resuscitation!” What does his say about a President who openly pines after a Roy Cohn clone?
The hymnal for Trump’s Conservative choir might be “Fight Change!” Keep things as they are, even rolling them back. To conserve means “to keep, preserve.” Conservative implies, “conserving or tending to conserve; preserve.” Much to Conservatives’ disquietude, however, change is the only constant, the only thing we can depend on, the only thing that never changes. Un-meddled with, the hands of a clock turn one direction. Resisting change is like holding back the Mississippi. Build as many dams and levees as high as you like; like that Ol’ River, Time presses relentlessly forward. “Ay, there’s the rub!”
In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump a woman is quoted, “I want my country back!” Her concern reaches back decades. On the heels of the Great Depression and WWII, Americans had a bellyful of pain and poverty. It was time for peace and plenty. Nineteen forty-five promised a bungalow for every family, a Ford or Chevy in every garage, a good job for Dad, an electric stove and refrigerator for Mom, and nice schools for their lily-white “Boomers.” The miracle of television brought “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver,” “Ozzy and Harriet,” “Mayberry RFD,” “Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” to every home.
Then, suddenly, the picture went out-of- focus. “The Graduate” introduced “plastic.” Hippies, Viet Nam, and Civil Rights erupted. The “coloring” of America began. It turns out Father didn’t necessarily know best, Gomer was gay, and even the Nelsons weren’t like “The Nelsons.”
Fighting change, Conservatives forget, or never knew, the good old days carried more than their share of suffering. A century back, the leading causes of death were disease, accidents, and childbirth. Given twentieth and twenty-first century medicine, better living conditions, and public safety, materially and physically if not ethically and morally, Americans today experience far less suffering than our parents and grandparents! Today, despite the nostalgia, who longs for the two-hole outhouse, doing laundry on a scrubbing board, traveling by horseback or wagon? Still, undeterred by facts and inevitable change, the Red-Baseball-Cap choir yearn for the “good ol’ days” and celebrate their Savior’s Flimflam.