Trump, as Melville’s “Confidence Man,” echoes spookily for another observer

Trump flag

“If you buy this old flag from me cheap I’ve got a lovely beachfront property for you, in hell.” nytimes.com

Because I believe that the lessons of Herman Melville’s extraordinary post-modern novel The Confidence-Man (published in 1857!) resonate so prophetically and urgently today with the improbable rise and persistent spectre of Donald Trump, I’m happy to report I’m not alone. So, I’m reprising a my recent blog on the subject along with a complementary column by Rana Foroohar,  who drew a similar analogy to Melville’s novel in her TIME magazine economics column,

Trump is an old figure, creepy and very dangerous, risen from Melville’s “Confidence-Man.”

The Curious Capitalist, from April 18. At the time, I read it with great interest, underlined a few passages, and then set it aside. I stumbled upon it today while digging through my magazine stack. Here ’tis.

Donald Trump’s Confidence Game Has Been Years In the Making

I have to confess the urgency arises partly from the disappointing news about Hillary Clinton’s failures in managing and properly securing of her own email server, and failing to be fully upfront about it. I guess we’re lucky her carelessness caused no apparent security breach. But at least she’d admitted her wrong, something Trump, who lies 92 per cent of the time according to Politifact, never does. Still, I’m sure Clinton’s problems have a lot to do with Trump pulling even with her in the swing state polls.

I still think Clinton will win. This should be her low water mark, as there appear no other controversies about her on the horizon. By contrast, Trump figures to continue alienating moderate and undecided voters with the scattershot hyper-demagoguery he seems to eat for breakfast like corn flakes on steroids.

Nevertheless, I think such voters — concerned about their economic interests and contemplating voting for con-man Trump — should read Foroohar’s analysis.  As her column title indicates, she hardly writes from the left.

We have two considerably flawed candidates, but it’s quite clear which one is the lesser of the two evils. Many of Bernie Sanders’ idealistic supporters understandably didn’t want to have to make such a choice, but the reality is, in most every presidential election, we almost invariably need to do that. If a candidate gets successful enough to run for president in either major party, he or she has surely sinned more than a few times.
This time, we know that the guy we might dub Saint Bernie Sanders changed the game quite a lot, and helped to redeem Hillary Clinton leftward. Now, he’s made it clear we need to elect Clinton.

So, as Foroohar notes, American voters will likely find themselves in the position to decide in whom they are more safe placing their confidence.

 

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